Buying Supplements Local, the Pros and Cons

Buying Supplements Local, the Pros and Cons

Buying Locally: Local Health Food Stores and Corporations

Most people purchase their supplements online nowadays because of the ease of use. They buy their supplements from online retailers and receive their purchase on their doorstep the next day. I order my supplements online on occasion because sometimes, specialized supplements are hard to find in my area. If at all possible, I buy my supplements at the local health food store to help the local economy. It might cost a few more dollars for my supplements monthly, but I feel that in the long run it is a better way that I can give back to the businesses in my local community.

When you buy online, you might not know the quality of the supplement ordered. Buying locally is important because your sales help maintain your local economy by supplying jobs, revenue, and tax revenue for your local municipality / state. When you buy supplements locally, you can see the condition of the supplement bottle and expiration date of the supplement before purchasing. You can also ask the store employees for advice on supplements. I believe that buying locally sourced products at all times is one of the best things you can do personally to give back to your community.

Local health food store

Pros:

  • Specialized selection.
  • Generally offers locally sourced food, products, and supplements.
  • Most workers at the local store are usually very knowledgeable about supplements.
  • Very passionate workers.
  • One can truly support the local economy by shopping at a local health food store.

Cons:

  • Specialized selection may mean less choice.
  • Sometimes workers may be the least knowledgeable due to limited training on supplements.
  • Local supplement stores may be more expensive.

I love shopping at The Apple Crate, my local health food store. The Apple Crate is a very nice store that sales specialized supplements from different brands and health food products as well. Most people that work at the store are very knowledgeable, which is very important to me. One of the biggest things I despise in the natural health industry is misinformation. They also have a loyalty program where I can earn $10 back for every $100 I spend at the store, which is a great concept.

Most local health food stores have a wide selection of brands, supplements, and foods. This specialized selection of supplements can be a double-edged sword because the store can either carry the best brands for a supplement or off brands of particular supplements that are not worth purchasing. Shopping at a local health store can be a gamble sometimes. Sometimes a supplement will be top tier, and other times you must go somewhere else for the brands you might like. Most local health food store employees are very knowledgeable because they are very passionate about health. Most store owners work regular store hours and also have a personal investment in being both knowledgeable and passionate about natural health.

Sometimes, you will encounter an employee might only have basic knowledge at your local health food store because there is no systemic training program like at the bigger chains. Finally, local health food stores can be more expensive than large franchises and on-line companies, but I believe in paying slightly higher prices to help my local economy directly.

Vitamin Shoppe

Pros:

  • Great overall selections.
  • Most employees at the store usually have average knowledge of supplements.
  • Some employees may have a passion for healthy living.
  • You can support the local economy by shopping here.
  • Competitive pricing.
  • All employees receive training on supplements.
  • Employees do not receive a commission (therefore no pressure to make sales).

Cons:

  • Less specialized selection of supplements.
  • Some stores have less knowledgeable employees than others.
  • Employee’s passion for health usually is not as high as local health food stores.
  • The Vitamin Shoppe house brand has spotty quality.

I will be honest with you I have great respect for the Vitamin Shoppe, which is my prior employer. The Vitamin Shoppe, for the most part, respects their employees, which is rare for a modern corporation and was a great place to work.

The Vitamin Shoppe does have a few advantages over the local health food stores and other corporate supplement stores. Vitamin Shoppe carries the best overall selection of supplements than all other supplement retailers. The only problem with this generalized selection is that niche supplements and high tier supplements might not be found at the Vitamin Shoppe. Employees at the Vitamin Shoppe do receive education and information on supplements. This knowledge can help increase their ability to help customers. Sadly, this education can only go so far for some employees if they lack a passion and treat their employment as “just another job.” Employees are not paid by commission so they are not pressured to make sale pitches recommending supplements that might not be needed to improve your health.

Finally, Vitamin Shoppe does not produce its house brand of supplements. Supplement manufacturing is done by other supplement companies, so the quality of an individual Vitamin Shoppe brand supplement depend on each supplement and can be spotty at times.

GNC

Pros:

  • Most employees at GNC have average knowledge of supplements.
  • Some employees can have a passion for healthy living.
  • Can support the local economy by shopping here.
  • Competitive pricing.
  • All employees receive training on supplements.
  • More locations then any supplement store.
  • GNC offers the gold card discount.

Cons:

  • Small selection of supplements.
  • Some stores have less knowledgeable employees than others.
  • Passion for health usually is not as high as local health food stores.
  • GNC house brand has spotty quality.
  • GNC employees received paid commission.

Most small cities will at least have a GNC store and sometimes it is the only supplement store in town. GNC usually has a small assortment of supplements, and in the past only to carried their house brand of supplements. GNC currently carries supplements from more nationally recognized brands (Nordic Naturals, Nature’s Way, and Now). Most employees working for GNC are educated in supplement use, knowledge, and can make general supplement recommendations to improve your health. GNC has a frequent buyer’s gold card discount that costs $15 a year and can help you save up to 50% on supplement purchases at GNC.

When a consumer goes into a GNC store, it is better for them to be self-informed before entering the store. GNC pays their employees sales commissions on supplements. Some employee’s at GNC might use your supplement nativity to their advantage and convince you to purchase expensive supplements that you do not need or work.

Vitamin World

Pros:

  • Most employees at vitamin world have average knowledge of supplements.
  • Some employees can have a passion for healthy living.
  • Can support the local economy by shopping here.
  • Lowest pricing on supplements for brick and mortar supplement stores.
  • All employees receive training on supplements.

Cons:

  • Small selection of supplements.
  • Some stores have less knowledgeable employees than others.
  • Passion for health usually is not as high as local health food stores.
  • Vitamin World house brand is the least expensive: but lower quality can also come at a lower price.
  • Vitamin World employees receive paid commission.

Vitamin World is the third largest supplement retailer in the United States. Vitamin World usually has a very small assortment of supplements in their stores mostly carries its house brand of supplements. They offer a few nationally recognized brands (Source Naturals, USP Labs, and Now).

Most employees working for Vitamin World are educated in supplement use and knowledge and make general recommendations to improve your health. When a customer visits a Vitamin World, like GNC, it is good for them to be self-informed. Vitamin World pays their employees sales commissions on supplement purchases. Some employees of Vitamin World might use your supplement nativity to their advantage and convince you to purchase expensive supplements that you would not normally use or purchase.

Whole Foods

Pros:

  • Wide selection of supplements and natural food products.
  • Most employees at whole foods have average knowledge of supplements.
  • Passion for healthy living is usually higher than most corporate supplement stores.
  • You can support the local economy by shopping here.
  • Employees that work in the supplement section receive training on supplements.

Cons:

  • Whole Foods as not a lot of stores in the U.S.
  • Some stores have less knowledgeable employees than others.
  • Whole Foods house supplement brand is average tier at best.
  • Supplements can be almost as expensive as local health food stores.

Who does not love shopping at Whole Foods? You can purchase your grass fed beef, MCT Oil, cleaning supplies, and supplements, all at one convenient store!

Whole Foods has a good selection of supplements for a grocery store. In some Whole Foods stores, the supplement area of the store is larger than GNC, or Vitamin World stores. Most of the employees who work for Whole Foods have more passion for healthy living than any of the other corporate supplement stores in the country. The increased employee passion might have to do with the majority of Whole Foods stores being in college towns and affluent cities in the country where natural medicine might be more accepted.

The only cons for getting your supplements at Whole Foods is that there are not a lot of Whole Food stores in the country, so it might be hard to find one in your area.  In addition, most supplements at Whole Foods are more expensive than your local health food store.

Big Box Pharmacy Stores (CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid)

Pros:

  • Big box pharmacy locations are everywhere.
  • Price of supplements is lower.
  • Pharmacies can carry well-known brands like Nordic Naturals and Renew Life, and Rite Aid also carries GNC.

Cons:

  • Pharmacists have very little knowledge of supplements.
  • House brands of big box supplements are garbage.
  • Big box pharmacies have very limited supplement selection.

I do not recommend that you buy your supplements from big box pharmacy stores if all possible. The supplement selection at a big box pharmacy usually is very small. Supplement quality is spotty at best unless the supplement is made from a well-known national brand. Most pharmacists are not knowledgeable about supplements, and usually give inaccurate information by accident. The only advantage of shopping at a big box pharmacy store is that they are located almost everywhere in the country.

Local Compounding Pharmacy

Pros:

  • Supplements are usually of high quality.
  • Pharmacists usually have knowledge of supplements and can provide decent recommendations.
  • Can compound lesser known supplements and hormones.
  • Compound pharmacies can make supplements for g-tubes.

Cons:

  • Supplements may be expensive.
  • Compounding pharmacies may have very limited supplement selection.

Your local compounding pharmacy is a lot better place to buy supplements then a big box pharmacy. Most local compounding pharmacies either will have an average assortment of different supplements or locally made compounded supplements. Compounding pharmacies also compound rare supplements, bio-identical hormonal creams, and supplements that can be used for patients fed through gastrostomy tubes.

Most pharmacists that work for your local compounding pharmacy have average supplement knowledge and make recommendations to improve your health. The only disadvantages of a local compounding pharmacy are that the supplements can be expensive, and the pharmacy can have limited selection depending on the size of the pharmacy.

Big Box Store (Wal-Mart, Sams Club, Costco, BJ’s Warehouse Club)

Pros:

  • Everywhere

Cons:

  • Everything

Do not buy your supplements at any big box store ever, unless they are trusted brands, and you have no other alternative to buy them elsewhere.

2 Comments
  1. Hi there. I work at a Health Food Store in Canada. I just stumbled onto your article about health stores & corporations. Really appreciate the stats/observations/comparisons & was wondering if it would be possible to use some of them in our monthly newsletter? We would naturally include you as the source via name & website. Thanks for your consideration. Cheers…Brad

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