This post is sponsored by Fitfluential on behalf of NOW Foods. All opinions are my own.
As we climbed aboard the shuttle bus post workout, we were each handed a cold shaker bottle full of a protein smoothie. Being one of the first to board the shuttle, I happily grabbed mine, sat down, and started chugging without second thought. It was delicious, as is almost any food or drink that I don’t have to make myself. But as the other bloggers began to board the bus, seemingly every single one of them defensively questioned the smoothie they were handed. Is this gluten free? How about GMO’s? What kind of milk base is used in here? Is the protein whey or plant? Is the fruit organic?
I looked back down at the shaker cup in my hand, the one I had sipped from in blind faith, and for the first time that weekend had the realization that I was completely and utterly out of place.
But let’s back up a bit.
I was invited to attend a blogger immersion event at NOW Foods in Bloomingdale, IL, just outside of Chicago. I admittedly knew nothing about the company at the time (and unabashedly shared that fact with Jim Emme, CEO of the NOW company, over dinner) but after doing a little digging on the internet, decided that I wanted to learn more.
You see, I’m not a foodie. The extent of my kitchen skills pretty much ends at boiling water. But all of that said, I do have my own personal set of ethics and beliefs when it comes to the food industry, even though my execution from said ethics and beliefs is far from perfect. I am a work in progress.
But one thing is for certain: I do love to eat.
And what appealed to me immediately during my internet search about NOW foods was their apparent commitment to quality. We hear it all of the time: people believe that the supplement industry is unregulated. A Wild West of creatine and glucosamine pills, a constant game of Russian Roulette with the actual contents we are ingesting. And while this statement of a supposed unregulated world isn’t entirely true, as a consumer, it is still frustrating and frankly, kind of scary, to blindly trust that the supplements and foods you purchase and consume truly are what they say they are, and do what they claim to do.
So long story short, off to Chicago I flew, to see if NOW could convert this skeptical consumer over to their products.
And I spent a fantastic and incredibly informative 24 hours with many representatives of NOW foods, touring their facilities and learning about their products. I could give you a run down of every little thing we did – from a HIIT class at Life Time Fitness…
But instead of giving you the blow-by-blow of what I ate for lunch, or how I learned that shoving kale and baby spinach into one of those “mason jar” salads is much more difficult than it looks, I want to tell you what I truly learned about NOW foods.
A quick little background:
NOW was founded by Elwood Richard in 1968 with the goal of making healthy and quality products accessible and affordable for everyone. Forty-eight years later and still owned by the Richard family today, NOW remains committed to their mission of providing value in products and services that empower people to lead healthier lives. NOW is one of the largest independent manufacturers of natural products in the U.S. health food store channel, offering more than 1,400 high-quality, natural and affordable products, from nutrient-rich foods and supplements to personal care and sports nutrition items.
I’m an optimist in almost every sense of the word, but I also hardly believe a single thing I read without doing more research. So having the opportunity to see first hand the process and the people behind NOW was a very satisfying and eye opening experience for me.
One of the first things that stood out to me was how quick NOW was to remind us that the “natural foods” movement is not all that it is cracked up to be. “Natural” is a label that essentially anyone is free to use. And that we as the consumers need to constantly question and challenge the meaning of natural (read more on NOW’s stance on “natural” labeling and claims.)
The second impression I got from NOW foods was their commitment to science. Yes, science. You see, labels like “natural” and “organic” and “GMO free” are often associated with alternative lifestyles, rarely backed by what we consider the reputable world of scientists, doctors, and higher education. The NOW factory includes a 40 million dollar laboratory, where they not only test and quality control their raw ingredients as they come in, their finished products to again ensure quality and effectiveness, but they regularly test competitors products as well. What does that mean for the consumer? It means that the NOW products they say are GMO free are GMO free. That the foods they say are organic are indeed organic. And so on. Nothing is contaminated, diluted, or full of unnecessary fillers.
Further, research is constantly being carried out by a team of scientists (real ones, with PhD’s and everything, for the naysayers reading this) to try and create new products, as well as better and more effective versions of their current line.
I loved hearing about the values behind this family owned company. How they strive to make their employees happy, and their customers satisfied, without caving to many of the trends in the current food, supplement, and marketing world. For example, NOW does not endorse or sponsor any professional athletes. They believe in their products, and have many pros that use them…but would rather stay away from multi million dollar contracts in order to keep their products affordable.
Also, if we’re talking about things I enjoyed, I’d be amiss in not mentioning that the inner kid in me got a kick out of seeing all of the tiny pills make their way methodically into the bottles. It was reminiscent of the sketch on Sesame Street where they show you how crayons are made (tell me I’m not the only 30+ year old who remembers this!). It was really cool to see the production line in person.
So let’s bring this full circle, shall we?
If you recall, I’m on the shuttle, blindly chugging my protein shake among a sea of food bloggers who actually care about what they consume (and rightfully so) and not just saying that they do (like me). I think this is a perfect analogy for so many of us in the fitness industry. We blindly follow these large companies that mass produce protein shakes and supplements and oils all believing that we are doing so in the name of what is “healthy”. But is it healthy? Do these companies actually care about our health…or their bottom line?
I’m still not certain why I was chosen to represent Fitfluential at NOW foods; there are countless of passionate healthy food bloggers out there who can honestly spout off the reasons why they live organic/paleo/gluten free/GMO free/etc. lives, while I’m over here shouting “I LOVE RUNNING ULTRAS FOR THE PIZZA AND SODA!”
But I can and will tell you that in a “the Universe works in mysterious ways” situation, this trip was a HUGE eye opener for me. A reminder that I *should* care. That I should pay more attention to the labels I read and the companies I support. And that as consumers, even if we don’t eat perfectly all of the time, we should still be our own #1 advocates when it comes to being aware of what we eat.
Kind of like my fellow bloggers on the shuttle.
NOW’s commitment to quality is unlike anything else I’ve seen in this industry…yet NOW doesn’t make any unrealistic or artificial claims about what their products supposedly do. (See: Do Supplements Work?) And even though I have still never taken a NOW supplement (my shipment is en-route now, and I’m anxiously awaiting it’s arrival), I left this immersion event feeling incredibly confident in their products. I did not feel they had invited me there to “woo” me, or give me bags full of free product in exchange for a blog post where I rave about their offerings. Instead, it felt as if they said “Hey, you’ve probably never heard of us, be we 100% believe in our product, and here’s why…” and then left me to make my own decisions.
And my decision? I’m 100% absolutely going to give NOW foods a try, without hesitation.
And the good news is…YOU CAN TOO.
NOW Foods is giving one of my lucky readers the exact same bag of goodies the bloggers were given this past weekend at the immersion event (see picture above!). You’ll get to sample a little bit of everything from the NOW sports line, to supplements, to cooking oils, essential oils, skin care products, and more.
To enter: use the rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Open to U.S. residents only. Contest ends 6/16/16 at 12:00 am.
AND… if you are interested in learning more about NOW foods, join myself and the other bloggers of the 2016 NOW Foods Blogger Immersion Event for a Twitter Party, Thursday June 16 at 9PM EST. Use the hashtag #NOWGetFit to follow along.
Hope to see (tweet at) you there!
This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of NOW Foods.