Whether you remember your mom buying baking soda from the Watkins Lady, or your Facebook feed is filled with Team Beachbody encouragement posts, everyone is familiar with direct selling companies. Here's a list of the world's largest, including some you may not be familiar with.
Whether you remember your mom buying baking soda from the Watkins Lady, or your Facebook feed is filled with Team Beachbody encouragement posts, everyone is familiar with direct selling companies. Some have become cultural touchstones, like the pink cars driven by high-performing Mary Kay salespeople or the Tupperware “burp” mentioned in Disney’s “Aladdin” movie.
But how much money do these companies actually make? Actually, quite a lot. And not just in the United States. Companies in Germany, Brazil, China, and everywhere else are making huge gains using the direct sales technique.
Here is a list of the top 12 largest direct selling companies, based on 2014 revenues. All information from DirectSellingNews Magazine.
12. Ambit Energy
2014 Revenue: $1.5 billion
Year Founded: 2006
This Texas-based energy company sells electricity and natural gas in deregulated markets around the US. In 2010, Inc. magazine named the company the fastest-growing private company in the US. This year has been rough for the company, as the New York State Public Service Commission has launched an investigation into the company and its rates.
11. Oriflame Cosmetics SA
2014 Revenue: $1.68 billion
Year Founded: 1967
This publicly-traded company, based in Luxembourg, sells Swedish cosmetics and personal care items in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The company claims it was one of the first to include plant extracts in its “natural” products. Recently, the company has been focusing its growth in India, specifically in smaller towns that are growing quickly.
10. Joymain Science and Technology
2014 Revenue: $2 billion
Year Founded: 2000
Direct sales marketing was illegal in China until quite recently, and to this day transactions have to happen in a retail location, while pitches can be made in the home. The largest Chinese direct sales company is Joymain Science and Technology. The company has 2,500 store fronts in China and is expanding its product lines to include some American-made products.
9. Nu Skin Enterprises
2014 Revenue: $2.57 billion
Year Founded: 1984
The 1.2 million sales people who sell Nu Skin cosmetics and wellness products might tell you that the Fountain of Youth is based in Utah. This huge direct sales company has 1,300 employees in the Provo HQ, but has expanded into 53 markets nationwide marketing nutrition and anti-aging products. The company’s notoriety is likely to pick up, too, as Nu Skin’s anti-aging supplement was featured in the celebrity gifting suite at this year’s Emmy Awards.
8. Tupperware Brands Corp.
2014 Revenue: $2.6 billion
Year Founded: 1946
Like other major household brands — Kleenex, Band Aids, and the like – Tupperware has become the name of an entire category of kitchen storage tools, not just those made by the Orlando-based company. Tupperware sellers, of which there are more than 2.6 million worldwide, still host parties to show off products, just like Brownie Wise, the EVP of the company who was the first woman featured on Business Week.
2014 Revenue: $2.64 billion
Year Founded: 1992
Infinitus seeks to modernize traditional Chinese herbal medicine into supplements. The company has nearly 5,000 store fronts in China, and at least 12,000 salespeople in China alone. Apparently, the excellent revenue results have pleased the company’s top exec, Sammy Lee, enough to send all of the employees on a week-long vacation in Thailand this year.
6. Natura Cosmeticos
2014 Revenue: $3.2 billion
Year Founded: 1969
Natura is the largest cosmetics manufacturer in Brazil, and has a network of 1.7 million salespeople in multiple countries. In addition to its long term financial success, the company has also received recognition for its commitment to sustainable growth and environmental friendliness. In December of 2014, it was certified as a “B Corp” — a “Benefit Corporation” that has high standards of environmental stewardship and transparency.
2014 Revenue: $3.9 billion
Year Founded: 1883
The oldest company on the list, the German firm started out as a carpet manufacturer and has expanded into appliances, cosmetics, and venture capital investments. The company’s major brands include Kobold vacuums, Thermomix kitchen appliances and JAFRA cosmetics. There are nearly 600,000 independent “sales advisers” in 70 countries working for Vorwerk brands, and now the company has invested in small direct-selling startups such as Lesara Bags and HelloFresh food delivery.
4. Mary Kay
2014 Revenue: $4 billion
Year Founded: 1963
The 13th largest cosmetic company in the US of any kind, Mary Kay is a name that has been synonymous with working moms, skin care, and pink Cadillacs. Headquartered in Texas, the company is still privately held, but employs more than 3 million sales people. Though generations of American women have bought — and sold – Mary Kay cosmetics, the company continues to align itself with modern brands, like Project Runway, to maintain its top spot in the market.
2014 Revenue: $5 billion
Year Founded: 1980
This nutritional supplement company is so well-known it has its own club of detractors in addition to the 4 million evangelists who sell the products. Since 2012, “Activist Investor” Bill Ackman has done everything in his power to prove the company is an illegal Pyramid Scheme, not a legal Multi-Level Marketing company, which has led to some policy changes by the company. But the demand for Herbalife products, and the resulting revenues, show that even if Ackman is right, a lot of people don’t really care. They may lose more customers in their 90 countries of operation by partnering with divisive soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo on a new sports drink than from any Wall Street campaign.
2014 Revenue: $8.9 billion
Year Founded: 1886
Founded in New York City, the oldest American company on this list has branched out from cosmetics to skin care, fashion, and home décor. Avon has also become well known for its philanthropic work, sponsoring huge fundraising walks for breast cancer research, as well as aligning its college-age brand, mark., with dating violence prevention. Unfortunately for the well-known company modern retail strategies have outpaced their traditional direct selling methods. Despite being the seventh-largest cosmetics company in the US, there are talks of divesting some brands or even selling the entire company.
2014 Revenue: $10.8 billion
Year Founded: 1959
Even if they didn’t invent the direct sales model, Amway seems to have perfected it. From cosmetics to nutritional supplements, water purifiers to dish detergent, it seems like you can get just about anything from Amway. The company is continually expanding around the world, with a new manufacturing plant in Vietnam, and opening up the business to sell directly to customers in India. The company is the named sponsor of the arena where the Orlando Magic play, as well as the new sponsor of the college football coaches’ poll. With more than 3 million people in their salesforce around the globe, Amway is the largest by revenue and recruitment.