Elwood Richard: September 17, 1931 – April 7, 2017

Industry pays tribute to NOW founder Elwood Richard

Industry pays tribute to NOW founder Elwood Richard

Tributes are flowing in for the late Elwood Richard, founder of natural products industry leader NOW Foods, for his significant impact on the health food channel through the decades. Elwood passed away last week after a lengthy battle with cancer. 

“His passion in defending consumer choice in the industry with logic and with scientific knowledge he had as a physical chemist came through many, many times,” said Jim Emme, NOW CEO. “One of the legacies he left is the Golden Rule, treating others as you want to be treated. He lived that every day that I knew him.”

“El was a truly great man and a great entrepreneur.  He was always passionate about the health food industry, and the success of the NOW brand is a testimony to his vision, leadership, and dedication to our mission and our industry,” said Al Powers, who succeeded Elwood as CEO after the founder’s retirement in 2005. “He will always be remembered for his love, generosity, and kindness that touched the lives of everyone at NOW.  He was the heart and soul of NOW Foods.”

1968: NOW Foods

Elwood’s introduction to natural foods began in 1960 when, with input from his brothers Bill and Lou, he stepped in to run Fearn Soya after the death of his father Paul Richard. Fearn had developed the industry’s first protein supplement product.

In 1962 Elwood opened his first natural health food store, the Health House, and today the suburban Chicago retail chain, renamed The Fruitful Yield, operates 13 stores. In 1968 Elwood founded NOW Foods. His brother Lou would later join the company full time, and he and Elwood together worked to start the NNFA (NPA) Standards Committee.

Elwood led NOW through decades of growth, expanding product lines and manufacturing facilities, yet never wavered from his original belief that good health should be available to everyone, not just the affluent. He also ensured that the company’s mission of empowering people to lead healthier lives would never be compromised by short-term profit demands. Through his legacy planning and gifting of shares to family members, NOW currently has about 40 Richard family member owners and is well positioned for future generations. 

After his retirement from the CEO chair in 2005, Elwood stayed very much involved in the business and the industry as NOW Board of Directors Chair, and a member of the NOW Advocacy Team, the NOW Strategy Team and the NOW Environmental Team. He was also on the Managing Board of the Natural Health Research Institute, an organization he founded that is committed to informing consumers, scientists, the media, policymakers and legislators about scientific evidence on the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of diet, supplements and a healthy lifestyle to improve health and wellness.

“A true pioneer”

His impact on the industry can be seen from the tributes. Dr Dan Fabricant, Executive Director and CEO of the Natural Products Association (NPA), told us: "Elwood was a visionary. He started NOW Foods in 1968 with the goal of expanding accessibility without compromising on quality. He did so much for the industry, and was recognized with NPA's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014

"One of the things that was so remarkable was that he hired good people and got out of the way. He looked to others to add strength, and so many business owners could learn from that. NOW is still going strong under the leadership of Jim Emme, who embodies a lot of what Elwood was about. Elwood's legacy lives on everyday."

Steve Mister, President & CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), said: “We were saddened to learn about the passing of NOW Foods founder Elwood Richard. He was a true pioneer in the dietary supplement industry and a strong advocate for supplement consumers. His record of involvement in the supplement industry is a long one and his passion for ‘empowering people to lead healthier lives’ came across in every conversation, every communication, and to everyone who had the opportunity to know and work with him.

“His legacy for our industry will live on for many years. We send condolences to his family and to those who worked closely with him.”

AHPA President Michael McGuffin said: "Elwood was a pioneer who founded and then led NOW through decades of growth, without ever wavering from his original belief that good health should be available to everyone, not just the affluent. He ensured that the company’s mission of empowering people to lead healthier lives would never be compromised for short-term profits. Even in retirement, Elwood was active and relentless in pursuing this mission, managing the board of the Natural Health Research Institute, an organization he founded to inform consumers, scientists, the media, policymakers and legislators about scientific evidence on the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of diet, supplements and a healthy lifestyle to improve health and wellness.

"I was honored to acknowledge Elwood with the AHPA Visionary Award earlier this year, adding to the already impressive list of awards and honors bestowed on him by the natural products industry. Personally, I have always valued our frequent conversations when he would share new ideas or identify emerging concerns. His sincere and lifelong commitment to public health greatly benefited the industry and the public. He will be sorely missed, but his rich legacy makes Elwood impossible to forget.”

Loren Israelsen, President of the United Natural Products Alliance, said: “We note with sadness the passing of one of the industry’s true legends, who, as much as anyone in living memory, has shaped the modern natural foods and dietary supplement industries. Elwood combined extraordinary tenacity with a very clear focus on and vision for what he was hoping to accomplish: combining value and quality in his company’s products and to continually invest in his business. He was a force of nature, and his passion created immense benefit for millions of consumers, while contributing to at least three generations of industry leadership.

"His legacy lives on through the NOW team and its continued support of best practices and multiple industry quality initiatives.” 

Supporting the Natural Health Research Institute

Elwood is survived by his wife Betty, daughter Sharon (Richard) Wong, sons Dan and David, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild. 

For those wishing to honor Elwood’s memory, support of the organization so important to him, the Natural Health Research Institute, would be appreciated http://www.naturalhealthresearch.org/donate/.