IDAHO FALLS -- Frank VanderSloot said his company plans to build a new Bonneville County manufacturing plant and hire hundreds of new workers on the promise of a recently obtained patent.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Melaleuca a patent Sept. 25 for the company’s Oligo technology, which allows people to process minerals and vitamins in new ways, VanderSloot said Wednesday.
The patent offers Melaleuca protection on its Oligo formula through 2030, and Melaleuca plans to aggressively produce and market the more than 30 products that utilize Oligo. Plans call for building the plant in the spring, near existing Melaleuca facilities off York Road, and creating “several hundred jobs.”
“This is the most important discovery and most important advancement we have made in our history by several times over,” VanderSloot said.
Based in Idaho Falls, Melaleuca is a direct seller of about 350 household and nutritional products. The 27-year-old company employs more than 3,300 employees across the globe and surpassed $1 billion in annual sales for the first time in 2011.
Will Jenson, an Idaho Falls-based regional economist working for the Idaho Department of Labor, said Melaleuca’s announcement translates to good news for the local economy. Jenson said construction of the plant will create temporary construction jobs over the short term and sustain long-term manufacturing jobs.
“It increases the diversity of our economy, which is a good thing,” Jenson said. “It will provide more job opportunities, improved wages and (the expansion) could become an attractor for other manufacturing-related industries.”
Additionally, Jenson said Melaleuca officials should have a pool of experienced workers to tap into in the local area. Citing statewide statistics from July, Jenson said about 11 percent of Idaho’s unemployment claimants came from the manufacturing industry, while an additional 9 percent of claimants were laid-off or out-of-work construction workers.
VanderSloot said the Oligo line, which includes Vitality multivitamins and Koala Pals children’s vitamins, is the company’s fastest-selling product – accounting for more than $400 million in sales over the past four years.
“We announced last year we just reached our first billion in annual sales,” VanderSloot said. “This product alone will be a billion dollars in sales in the next few years.”
Melaleuca invested millions of dollars and thousands of hours in labor into the research development of its Oligo line, VanderSloot and chief marketing officer Scott Hollander said.
VanderSloot said the Oligo technology mimics the way plants process minerals and makes minerals more digestible in the small intestine. It was developed in Idaho Falls by four scientists and a group of nutritionists.
Oligo has previously been manufactured elsewhere, but the line will be made in Bonneville County once Melaleuca’s new plant opens, VanderSloot said. The products will be sold exclusively through Melaleuca.
Linda Martin, CEO of the economic development agency Grow Idaho Falls Inc., said Melaleuca’s expansion could help improve the local unemployment rate and offer a boost to University Place or Eastern Idaho Technical College if the company seeks additional training for the new workers.
“While our economic unemployment rate keeps going down, whenever you get a boost like this it helps us along even more,” Martin said. “I think it only strengthens our economic profile in Bonneville County, and I am thrilled.”