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How to Become an Herbal Distributor

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Even physicians committed to pharmaceutical and surgical interventions are becoming converts to the role herbal medicines are playing in the health and recovery of patients, but there’s also been a lot of bad press about the quality of certain brands. Get into this lucrative but competitive field by researching the industry thoroughly so you’re able to counter the toughest sales resistance once your distributorship is up and running.

Choose the type of distributorship you’d like to run. Representing a single brand of supplements may also offer the security that comes with being a corporate employee and being eligible for myriad benefits. Alternately, you may want to represent more than one brand as an herbal supplement broker, making you an independent distributor. Regardless of the path you choose, pick brands that have solid reputations, offer a diverse herbal product mix and provide excellent marketing support and customer service.

Apply to state, county and municipal authorities for the permits and licenses you need to launch your herbal distributorship. As the middleman in an operation that ferries herbal products between manufacturers and retailers, the credentials you obtain from these government bodies may be different than those required of businesses marketing and selling pharmaceuticals.

Rent a warehouse. If you represent a single brand of herbal supplements, you may be required to use company resources to locate a facility that meets certain requirements (e.g., a facility on a rail line to expedite product deliveries). Alternately, as the representative for multiple herbal supplement lines, you can operate as an independent contractor, choosing your own warehouse. Pick an appropriately sized building to house the number of skus (shop keeping units) you plan to stock. Pay particular attention to climate control systems when choosing a place; some herbals require storage at specific temperatures to remain stable.

Build a client base. Avoid venturing into territories already claimed by your colleagues. Overlapping territories have caused problems for distributors over time. Too many herbal distributors within a small geographic region can impact everyone’s bottom line. Apply due diligence to pioneering a territory that’s not crowded or claimed by one or more representatives carrying the same products you distribute. Balance cold calls with frequent visits to valued retailers so nobody’s neglected while your business grows and expands.

Maintain a close watch on the herbal supplement industry so you’re apprised of contemporary research studies and new product introductions approved by the Food and Drug Administration and sanctioned by the National Institute of Health’s Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Advocate on behalf of the herbal medicine industry; your customers will count on you stay apprised of legislation and trends, so make good on that commitment.


Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.