In 2006, after having worked for more than 15 years in the food processing and manufacturing industry, Álvaro Zúñiga Benavides founded FuXion, a unique venture specialized in high-quality food and food supplements. The uniqueness of FuXion is that it uses ancient knowledge about nutrition and health from century-old cultures and combines them with modern biotechnology to produce shakes, teas and beverages that are marketed and distributed by a growing direct sales network now present in 12 countries. FuXion’s “True Health” integral approach is focused on physical health through nutraceutical products that complement a balanced daily diet; emotional health, through personal development and personal transformation workshops, courses and seminars delivered through SerFuXion, FuXion’s Leadership Institute; and, financial health, through FuXion’s shared-value approach. Indeed, the company distributes close to 50% of its net revenues as compensation and incentives to the direct sales force. Founding President and CEO of FuXion Biotech, Álvaro Zuñiga Benavides, explains what makes the company’s culture so unique and its potential impact in the U.S.
What is FuXion?
FuXion is a young and passionate food manufacturing company that markets and sells high-quality food supplements extracted from selected superfruits and vegetables originated from the Andes, the Amazon and Asia. Our products are based on a fusion between century-old knowledge from ancient cultures and modern science and technology, hence our name, FuXion. We have developed a unique product and service offering aimed at improving the physical, emotional and financial wellbeing of our customers.
From the start, we decided to set up a direct sales model in order to engage customers with our “True Health” proposition, i.e. improving the physical, emotional but also financial health of our customers. Hence our tag line, “We Improve Your Health”.
FuXion is present in 12 countries: Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States. We have been present in the U.S. since 2014 and we have been fully operational since early August. Our future plans include opening in Argentina and Brazil in Latin America, and to start operating in Europe, in Spain, next year. We will explore other international markets during 2016.
Our distribution network comprises a growing direct sales organization with more than 50,000 members in 12 countries, supported by our 600 highly motivated staff members. Our consolidated sales figures in 2014 were $80 million, with Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica accounting for close to 60% of the total. For 2015, we forecast no less than 60% growth. Over the next three years, we expect to reach sales in excess of $500 million.
When was FuXion founded? How did it all start?
FuXion was founded in 2006, on the back of more than 15 years of experience in the food processing and manufacturing industry. We funded the company with the support of friends and family, including a significant investment from two childhood friends, Frank and Derek Michell, who are now successful entrepreneurs, and from my brother, Rafael Zúñiga Benavides, who was an investment banker in Europe at the time and now serves as Executive Board Member. For me it was a logical extension of my dream to ensure that our high quality products reach as many customers as possible, leveraging on a grassroots, person-to-person distribution model. We invested the first several years in developing our product offering. We wanted to have a product offering for the whole family.
My vision was that all family members would share a healthy lifestyle. We are passionate about promoting a balanced diet for the whole family. We started with sports nutrition, extending our product offering to energy drinks, immunology, weight loss, anti-aging, kids nutrition, and women nutrition. We use an array of more than 1,500 active ingredients extracted from fruits and vegetables and we combine them in a unique way to multiply their effect. We call it the “X factor”.
What gave you the idea of combining the age-old knowledge of Andean, Amazonian and Asian cultures with modern biotechnology?
One of my passions is to discover and understand the impact of certain foods on our body, mind and spirit. When I was young, I was always curious and surprised by my grandmother’s knowledge and her understanding of the effects of certain foods on our body. I started to read and experiment as a child. Each time my family went on a trip, each time I had the opportunity, I’d spend time and energy trying to understand more about nutrition and how to achieve a balanced, healthy diet.
In high school and later on during my industrial engineering studies, I continued to gather knowledge and experience. Quite naturally, I started my career in the food processing and manufacturing sector. Later on, during my MBA studies, I came up with one of my first business ventures, and after 15 years of experience, I worked on the basic concepts of FuXion: the first one is the concept of “Nutraceutical Fusion”, the process of merging ancient nutrition knowledge of the Andes, the Amazon and Asia with modern biotechnology, and the other core concept was the network marketing distribution model that allows us to deliver our high-quality products through word of mouth, leveraging on customers who share their passion for a healthy lifestyle. It took more than three years of research and development before we really started.
Our team, together with our distributors and customers – the FuXion Movement as we call ourselves – is determined to share a healthy lifestyle with Latin passion, a combination of enthusiasm, joy and unconditional love for family, friends and the community. We are convinced that this passion can be shared anywhere in the world where there are people who are passionate about their heritage, their culture, and a healthy lifestyle.
How does FuXion implement its “True Health” mission? In what way does it impact physical, emotional and financial wellbeing?
“True Health” is about three dimensions of life: physical, emotional and financial health. It’s a transformation process.
First, we focus on the body, in order to understand the needs of each individual customer to prescribe an individualized assortment of FuXion products. This is the essence of our approach: our best argument is that our customers feel better. Our FuXion Movement is there to share its passion and commitment for good nutrition and exercise to improve physical health.
Most people are enthusiastic about adopting a healthy lifestyle. But when it comes to action, it’s more difficult. It’s really a journey towards self-transformation. This is why we created the FuXion Leadership School, which became SerFuXion (BeingFuXion in English), a program of experiential workshops, courses and seminars to support our customers in their personal development and self-transformation objectives. It is interesting to note that in modern society we are often defined by what we do (the ‘doing’) as opposed to who we are (the ‘being’). FuXion develops training programs, tools and experiential processes to revalue our true self, thus providing the skills and toolkit to live life to its full extent, with an unparalleled emotional health or wellbeing.
Concerning our distributors, we have one of the most attractive compensation plans in the industry. However, from the outset, even before our customers reach their expected lifestyle, we encourage them to experience the joy of giving. There is no true happiness without sharing with your family and society and FuXion promotes abundance as a mindset, encouraging people to invest time and money in helping others.
We are engaged in a number of initiatives with our distributors and customers. For example we participate in initiatives carried out by the non-governmental association Aldeas Infantiles (SOS Children Villages). Furthermore, we have committed to grow significantly our “Buenos Días FuXion” program (“Good Morning FuXion”) that provides breakfasts to deprived children. This is how we provide financial health to our team members, making sure they earn money but also experience the joy of giving, sharing within the family, their friends and society.
How is FuXion different from other leading network marketing companies?
We are humble, passionate and relentless. We spend every second of our life thinking about better ways to add value to the lifestyle of our customers. There are at least two differential factors that we would like to stress: First, we are one of the few players in the industry that emerged from the food processing and manufacturing industry and we have a long-standing passion and business philosophy that acknowledges that Mother Nature has most of the ingredients needed to nurture a healthy, vibrant and cool lifestyle. We are always open to learn from any ancient culture and any new technology that could open new possibilities.
Our products are backed by patents encompassing decades of research and several million dollars of investment. Products are made by combining almost 1,500 active ingredients extracted from natural foods using state-of-the-art processes and blending them in unique formulations that increase the health benefits of each principle. I obtained one of my first patents in 2011, the Bio- Protein+ Colostrum®, a protein created through a process and a formulation that maximizes the bioavailability of high-value natural nutrients.
We are now integrating efforts with our key suppliers and we are investing in a new extraction plant in Iquitos, in the Peruvian Amazonian region. We have increased our investment in our science and biotechnology lab. We have started a partnership with the Universidad de la Amazonía del Perú (University of the Peruvian Amazon, UNAP) to foster and promote food and nutrition research and to test and implement new technological processes.
Our second differentiating factor is our commitment to Mother Nature: we have recently acquired 75 acres in the Amazonian region to build our training and convention center, with plans to build an “Experiencial Learning Center” called FuXionLand. The project includes: i) a convention center that will serve as a gathering point for people from around the world who are willing to connect with nature; ii) a lodge and spa where guests can focus on rebalancing their emotional wellbeing, relaxation, meditation and massage; iii) a large area devoted to fun and exercise, which will include activities as part of the Amazon adventure; and, iv) a biotech lab that will show and demonstrate the way we bring nature to their daily beverages, teas and shakes. In addition, we are considering organizing trips to the Amazon River in order to experience nature at its fullest while connecting with local communities.
What are the reasons behind FuXion’s exponential growth rates in the last three to four years?
The main two forces behind these growth rates are: a global trend to connect with nature and the passion of our team for personal growth and for the growth of our FuXion Movement. Learning from nature, we spent significant time learning to prepare for growth and therefore we want to manage our growth with care and caution. We want to get close to people to understand their needs in order to truly improve their lives.
Do you think that North American customers are prepared to embrace FuXion’s culture?
How are you planning to conquer the market? The North American market is very competitive and demanding. We believe that our business model, based on sharing value with customers, distributors and society, gives us long-term sustainability.
We also believe that North America will be our largest international operation within the next three years and we are enthusiastic about the challenges ahead.
Our culture is one of humbleness, passion and love for who we are and what we do and in every country where we expand to, we first focus on learning from customers and distributors, which is why we expect to learn a lot from the United States and their culture. Actually, the values of the American Declaration of Independence – “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – are really what the FuXion Movement is all about. We are confident that people in the U.S. will embrace our mission. We will enter this market with a humble yet strong message from nature. We want to bring value to our customers, distributors, suppliers, and to our people in the U.S., and through them to society, thus growing together.