100 Years of Innovation


The year was 1915. Woodrow Wilson was President of the US. The Great War (what we would eventually call World War I) was raging in Europe, though the US had not yet officially entered the war. The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was still 5 years away; congress voted down a bill that would have made the amendment unnecessary. Babe Ruth (then a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox) hit his first home run. And a young chiropractor named Dr. Forrest C. Shaklee (left) created one of the first multivitamin supplements in the world.

For many years (exactly how many is a bit fuzzy) scientists had known that there were things—compounds—in the food we ate. But what they were and how they functioned were still mysteries. They were on the cusp of a shift in the understanding of how nutrition works. In fact, they were creating the science that we today call nutrition. It wasn't the beet, per se, that helped people be healthier—it was the microscopic compounds in the beet. And there were a lot of compounds. And they seemed to do a lot of different things.

Dr. Shaklee was one of those scientists who were examining food and the body's needs to try to understand how the two interacted. But while most of the scientists were interested in the theoretical aspects of these compounds (what is the chemical structure?, how are they related?, can we isolate them?, and so on), Dr. Shaklee was taking a practical approach—how can what we're seeing here help improve the health, and lives, of my patients?

With the creation of his Vitalized Minerals, he helped usher in the age of supplementation, which today is touching the lives of billions of people. But almost no one noticed. He created a liquid tonic that contained many of those compounds that he was observing (different from the magic elixirs and snake oil of the past because it was created using real science), but if you weren't one of his patients, you probably never heard of it and weren't fortunate enough to use it. But with that one first step, Dr. Shaklee helped pioneer the natural health movement, which today is growing all over the world.

It is worth noting that the first vitamin—Vitamin A—would not be isolated for another 2 years, and it wouldn't be named for another 2 years after its isolation. While it would be fun to report that the word vitamin was coined as a compression of Dr. Shaklee's Vitalized Minerals creation, it's just not true. The word is actually a compression of vital amines, since amines (a class of molecule) are strung together to form the larger vitamin molecules.

It is also worth noting that we have no knowledge of any multivitamin supplement that pre-dates Vitalized Minerals. We (and Shaklee) say "one of the first" in case there was maybe some other pioneer who was pushing nutritional science and got there first and is now anonymous. So maybe we should say that Vitalized Minerals was the first that we know about.

Regardless, Dr. Shaklee continued his chiropractic practice for many more years, and Vitalized Minerals were a part of it. He continued to innovate and help move science forward. And finally, as he was nearing retirement, he had a very disturbing thought—when he was done with chiropractic, how would his patients get the nutritional support they needed? So, in his 60's, he founded the Shaklee Corporation to produce (and market more widely) the groundbreaking products he innovated.

With the company's founding, he created an entity that would seize on his personal history of innovation and move it forward with increasing speed and complexity—particularly as nutritional science matured and our understanding of how nutrition actually works broadened and deepened (some of that due to Shaklee scientists). Under Dr. Shaklee's continued guidance for many years, the drive toward scientific health-related innovation became a philosophical cornerstone for the company, and that cornerstone hasn't wavered since.

A few historic innovative highlights: Vita Lea in 1957. Basic H, the first biodegradable, non-toxic household cleaner in 1960. Instant Protein, one of the first soy protein isolate supplements (maybe the first…) in 1961. Basic L, "one of the first" biodegradable, phosphate-free laundry powders (over) in 1972. Sustained Release Vita-C, the first plant-based, sustained-release vitamin C product in 1981. Performance, created to power the flight of the Daedelus, which shattered the record for human-powered flight in 1988. Basic D, the first phosphate-free (and chlorine-free) biodegradable auto dishwashing powder in 1991. Enfuselle, the skin care line with an unheard-of 8 patents in 1998. Nutriferon, a globally-patented immune system enhancer in 2005. The Landmark Study, which proved that people who take an array of Shaklee supplements over the long haul enjoy better health than those who don't—whether or not they take another brand of supplement… followed by Vitalizer, which combined the
primary nutrients consumed by those in the study into a convenient multi-patented daily strip, in 2007. Vivix, the world's foremost cellular anti-aging tonic in 2009. Mindworks, which is setting new standards for brain health and function, in 2014. And that's a partial list.

The innovative legacy of Dr. Shaklee lives on. This year, as we who love Shaklee celebrate 100 years of innovation, and every year, we are privileged to participate in and benefit from this amazing heritage each and every day by taking small, simple steps that add up to a very big result—for us, and for the planet.