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Welcome to our NOW Foods review!
Having weathered half a century’s worth of ups and downs (or rather, downs and then mostly ups) while amassing a catalog of 1,400+ health food products and counting, NOW has plenty of experience in the health food and supplement industries.
But have they translated that experience into innovation, or will they be swallowed up by the endless tide of up-and-comers like those we met at Expo East?
After speaking with Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing Dan Richard and sampling the products ourselves, we can testify to the former.
NOW continues to deliver competitively priced, soundly formulated natural products made under strict safety and quality standards.
After sufficient tire-kicking, our editorial team gives NOW Foods an overall grade of A.
If you’re looking for a battle-tested nutrition brand that actually saves you money, read on to find out how NOW is continuing to disrupt the health food industry.
NOW Liquid Multi
- Strong track record for 5+ decades
- High value
- Huge product catalog
- Dated site design
- Packaging issue (see below)
- Unopened returns only
Hippy Niche to Industry Mainstay: NOW Across the Decades
They may be sitting pretty now, but the spirit of the gritty American success story was alive and well in the early days of NOW, which was built on the challenges and failures that lead to success.
NOW officially started in 1968 as a private label natural products business operating inside Fearn Soya Foods, the company that founder Elwood Richard (a physical chemist) inherited from his father, Paul Richard, six years earlier.
This was after Health House, Elwood’s first Chicago-based health food store chain, went under.
Realizing he was up against undercutting supermarket prices as well as a hesitant populace (it’s the 60s, just have your cabbage soup, beatniks!) Elwood knew that he had to go for value.
Such was the strategy behind the founding of NOW foods, which allowed him to cut costs and own the quality in one move, as he was able to control manufacturing and supply his own stores.
Gradually, NOW opened up their distribution to other Chicago-area stores, but when Elwood’s son Dan Richard hit the scene full-time in 1985, they handed him a bucket, not a signing bonus—NOW was sinking deeper into the red every year.
“For the next 12-15 years [after opening up to Chicago-area stores], we lost money every year,” Dan explained. “Dad came and pulled me out of the warehouse and said, ‘You have to learn how to sell, or we’re going to go out of business.’”
Dad came and pulled me out of the warehouse and said, “You have to learn how to sell, or we’re going to go out of business.”Dan Richard, VP of Global Sales and Marketing
After his compulsory reassignment, Dan, who would eventually become the VP of Global Sales and Marketing, revitalized the sales team just as the first “fish oil wave” hit in 1986, which was a huge turning point for the company.
We don’t mean to be reductive, but we’ve got 36 more years to go, so here’s the TL;DR for the rest of the NOW Foods story:
- Sales continued to improve under Dan’s leadership
- More health food revolutions hit the US, which NOW capitalized on to diversify their selection while remaining profitable
- The business expanded several times, each to a larger facility (now covering well over 200,000 square feet).
- By 2016, NOW had won 9 consecutive Chicago Best and Brightest Companies to Work For awards
NOW continued to expand their certifications, including PETA’s Cruelty-Free certification, Informed-Sport certification, ISO accreditation for their laboratories (more on their product testing below), and more.
Suffice it to say, NOW has certainly scrapped their way through tough times amidst a rapidly evolving health food industry, earning their privileged position as industry frontrunners.
But experience alone does not an A+ company make, especially in a health food market that is much, much more competitive than at the time of NOW’s origins.
You know, “then.”
Couldn’t help it. On to the review!
Our NOW Review
Every brand we review is scored using these six universal criteria (NOW Foods scores included):
- Quality (A+)
- Transparency (A)
- Website Experience (A-)
- Customer Service (A)
- Value (A+)
- Brand Value (A+)
NOW Foods received an overall score of A for their significant ground-level contributions to the health food industry, their quality and testing standards, and much more to be covered below.
As always, let’s kick it off with a closer look at overall quality.
NOW has followed and even created industry-leading standards in the areas of product testing, sourcing, R&D, and more, earning them a top score for overall quality.
Determining consistency of quality goes beyond ordering a few product samples and recording the results; we need to gauge quality of sourcing and manufacturing methodologies, product formulation, and more to form a more reliable impression.
Considering how NOW works with several thousand vendors, Dan couldn’t give us an exhaustive list within a single interview call, but he did mention that products from China and elsewhere are subject to on-site or remote audits.
Along that vein, NOW conducts product safety testing in in-house laboratories that they own and operate.
They also send products to Informed Sport, a well-established testing lab (400 published scientific papers), for performance supplement testing.
Dan clued us in on the vendor qualification process that NOW created, which is so restrictive, they haven’t been able to find a vendor to provide them with food-grade gummies.
As for the R&D side, NOW has a 150-person quality department that, in addition to some key quality control functions, is responsible for formulating and testing new products.
Speaking of the products, the formulations may not be the most innovative in the game, but they’re certainly sound, never deviating significantly from industry gold standards meant to mirror RDAs and provide balanced nutrition.
The labels provided all the standard information you’d want to know, including:
- Basic specs (quantity, concentration, etc.)
- Supplement facts
- Other ingredients
- Use suggestions
Our only notable issue on the packaging front is that, though each supplement bottle we received was sealed, after we discarded the seals, the lids weren’t exactly childproof.
There’s no push-and-turn mechanism to the lid, which is just a pop top that comes off with direct pressure.
Albeit, it does require a few pounds of force, but certainly not more than most toddlers can muster.
Otherwise, packaging and labeling were consistent with other industry-leading health and wellness brands.
Taking this into account along with integrity of sourcing and manufacturing, ingredient quality, and the several other factors we use to rate nutrition brands, we’ve arrived at an overall score of A+ for quality in our NOW Foods review.
Here’s a (very) abbreviated snapshot of NOW’s (huge) product catalog.
The NOW Product Catalog
Don’t worry, we have no intention of listing all 1,400+ products.
Even listing all of NOW’s product categories would probably be too much for the attention span, so here’s a very abbreviated breakdown of their colossal product selection.
NOW has arranged their supplement selection into more than a dozen subcategories, and most of their products come in capsule form.
Here are a few examples of the subcategories:
- Fiber and Prebiotics
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Vitamins and Minerals
Beauty and Health
NOW Solutions, which is what NOW calls the beauty and health product lines they established in 1988, offers a well-rounded assortment of hair, body, facial, general hygiene, children’s, and other products.
Among the more innovative options in this collection is their Progesterone Balancing Skin Cream.
Of course, several of the greatest hits of health industry cosmetics, like cocoa butter lotion, are abundant throughout the NOW Solutions line.
NOW also maintains a hefty selection of electrolyte and energy supplements, amino acids, and endurance supplements.
Since Bone Broth had itself a moment and a half at Expo East 2022, we might as well keep the hype train going (see below).
Beef Bone Broth Protein Powder
Firmly set apart from NOW’s many vegan selections is this loud and proud testament to the power of meat-based protein, which features 70% natural collagen and a wealth of naturally occurring protein.
Each serving contains 28 grams of protein, in addition to (albeit, smaller amounts) of sodium and potassium, which are important for healthy exercise.
Natural Foods and Essential Oils
Whether you’re cooking, baking, or snacking, the Natural Foods section of NOW’s product catalog contains a variety of ancient grains, cooking and finishing oils, dry snacks (nuts, sesame sticks, etc), flour, macaroni, and more.
They also have sweeteners (including monk fruit sweetener) and teas.
As for the essential oils collection, NOW divides it up by scent, including mint, musky, sweet, “woodsy,” spicy, and others.
Some product pages could stand to be beefed up, but otherwise, NOW is an open book, clearly sharing key insights about their leadership, history, sourcing, and other key operations.
Definitely towards the top of the time-tested playbook for scaring off potential customers is withholding key information about your company—especially in the areas of safety and product quality.
Even more menial issues like shipping and return policies can make the difference between becoming a loyal customer and clicking off the site, considering the options we all have access to now.
This is why we award reviewed brands credit for openly sharing all of the above information, with extra consideration for especially in-depth breakdowns of product sourcing and processing, company leadership, and more.
Between our interview with Dan and our perusal of the NOW website, we gleaned the clear impression that they want to share as many insights as they can with their customers.
The leadership bios are extensive, as is the background information provided on the company and the detailed timeline of the company’s history—all located in the About NOW section of the site.
Within seconds, we were able to pull up the shipping and return policies, a hefty database of informational articles, and some well-produced videos going into detail on how and from where (a few) NOW products are sourced and manufactured.
As for our conversation with Dan, he was not timid in freely sharing his insights on all of our at-times probing questions relating to back-end concepts like manufacturing and testing protocols, etc.
Finally, though most of NOW’s product pages contained sufficiently in-depth product descriptions, we noticed some of them were on the sparser side.
All considered, it’s a solid A to NOW for transparency.
There’s no shortage of educational resources on the NOW site, and though the design could use an update, the shopping experience was seamless.
For our purposes as health and wellness brand reviewers, we prioritize three components when gauging the website experience any given brand provides their customers:
- Depth and breadth of educational content on the site
- The shopping experience (smooth and intuitive or clunky?)
- To a lesser extent, design
The skeptically sleuthing site visitor certainly can’t complain on the grounds of skimpy educational content, as the Healthy Living section of the NOW Foods website is flush with 490+ articles, several workout plans, and about 40 webinars covering foundational as well as more advanced nutrition topics.
The shopping experience is a fluid one, despite the fact that NOW has 1,400+ products.
Maintaining this hefty and diverse of a catalog means that NOW has to get down to the tertiary level when setting up their categories in many cases (example: click on “products,” click on “amino acids,” then you can browse individual selections).
Though this costs a couple of extra seconds to get down to the individual product level, it’s better than having to scroll through literally hundreds of products in broader categories.
Speaking of product pages, descriptions are succinct and mostly fluff-free, and one feature that stood out to us was the “find in store” button, which most sites sequester off to a separate section.
Once you’ve got your purchases, checking out is forgettably simple, as NOW customers go through the usual pipeline (review your cart, enter info, and you’re done) without any unnecessary steps to gunk up the process.
The site functions just as well on mobile devices as desktop—there were no buggy buttons, wrongly sized images or other features.
Finally, it isn’t a problem functionally, but the NOW Foods site is a tad dated in terms of the aesthetic. Dare we say, DMV-website-esque. Had to get at least one zing in there.
Overall, NOW provides a fluid and approachable website experience, earning them an A- for website experience.
The NOW customer service team was equally quick and accommodating when answering our test questions, but the return policy could be more forgiving.
We reward bands that stand behind their products with responsive, accommodating customer support.
In addition to phone and email support, we also assess the shipping and return policies.
NOW offers phone and email support, which we consider an A as far as availability of support services is concerned (add a live messenger to these two for an A+, FYI).
The email service got back to us promptly—within 24 hours—with a helpful response to our test question.
The phone service was similarly speedy and accommodating, as we were able to reach a human being via the phone service in a few minutes and have our questions confidently answered.
As for shipping and return policies, NOW offers free shipping on purchases of $50 or more to the 48 contiguous states, but if you don’t quite hit that threshold, standard shipping (they list 2-8 business days) is priced at a reasonable $6.95.
The standard shipping window is a bit wide, but since it is widened to allow for an earlier arrival than usual (instead of 5-11 days, etc.), we’ll allow it.
Finally, the NOW Foods return policy allows customers to receive a full refund within 30 days of their purchase, but the kicker is that the product has to be unopened, which takes a bit of the air out of what would be a decently generous policy.
Overall, NOW makes an active effort to promptly, personally, and professionally engage with their customers.
Though some of their customer-facing policies could use a bit of tightening, our impression of their customer service capabilities is overwhelmingly positive—A for customer service.
As reputable nutrition brands are concerned, NOW stays at or very near the top in terms of value for the vast majority of their product catalog.
Each brand we review has two criteria to meet before they can be considered a high-value option.
First, are their prices justified by the quality?
Also, do competitors offer better prices with equal or better product quality?
Considering NOW has always been a value brand—a title conferred not only by themselves—they are almost always at or near the bottom of the price range for any given product.
If a red flag just went up in your head, however, you’re not a cynic—most of us know from experience that rock bottom prices often come with a catch on the quality end.
As Dan assured us, NOW hasn’t survived more than 50 years by shirking the quality issue; here’s the defense he provided for NOW’s product quality:
- Complete ownership of the manufacturing end
- Extensive quality control protocols
- Major list of seals and certifications
- In-house testing on sourced ingredients (microbes, heavy metals, etc.)
- 150-strong R&D team
To provide a more concrete example of the price difference between NOW and other major competitors, our team compared prices across a few commonly used supplements (prices may have changed since publication):
|Vitamin C||Vitamin D||Ashwagandha||Biotin|
Though Vitamin Shoppe makes them work for it, NOW generally comes out on top in the value picture.
Weighing these prices against the quality, we award NOW an A+ for value.
Considering the effect they’ve had on the health food industry for half a century, they’re extensive philanthropic efforts, and more, NOW is clearly among the most influential brands in their vein.
Finally, brand value as we see it is a composite of product innovation, industry disruption, institutional knowledge, and several other factors that may vary according to the circumstances.
To phrase it a simpler way, if NOW were suddenly Thanos-snapped out of existence (dated reference now?), how would the health and wellness product industry be affected?
In the case of NOW, it wouldn’t be just their industry, but more than a dozen local and global communities that would be worse off without them, as NOW has made significant charitable contributions to the following causes:
- Food Bank of Northern Nevada
- Marklund Children’s Home
- Dupage Habitat for Humanity
- Autism Research Institute
- Hill of Hope
- Vitamin Angels
- Natural Health Research Institute
These are just a small sample of the dozens of philanthropic efforts NOW has been involved in, so it’s certainly top marks in that sub-category.
As for institutional knowledge, Director of Science Dr. Rick Sharpee—a microbiology expert with more than 30 years of experience—has the technical side covered, following in the footsteps of Founder Elwood and his physical chemistry background.
A similarly tenured field of sales, marketing, and quality control experts (including Dan) lead their respective departments.
They may not be the first to the latest trends anymore, but in the broader context of the health food industry, NOW has elevated the state of public nutrition by pioneering the rise of research-supported, accessible supplements for everyday folks since the late 60s.
There’s simply too much here to feature in one section, and for the same reason, we can’t settle for anything less than an A+ for brand value.
Ashwagandha is a handy herbal adaptogen (substance that alleviates everyday stressors) lauded among wellness enthusiasts as one of the more effective of its kind, and NOW’s take on it is a fitting example of why.
The vegan capsules went down easily enough—that highly commonplace, “papery” taste was all we noticed—and around an hour and a half to two hours later, a sense of calm overtook the default setting of our 21st century minds (aka, stress and anxiety) for at least two hours.
Of course, one doesn’t expect as noticeable or immediate a result in the short term from vitamin D3—despite its role in various forms of mental health maintenance—but we can at least describe the sampling experience, which was unremarkable in a good way.
The golden, caviar-esque softgels within our bottle of NOW High Potency Vitamin D-3 (5,000 IU) were significantly easier to take than the larger ashwagandha capsules, and had less of a taste to them as well.
Finally, the silica complex product was very much along the same lines of the vitamin D-3: hard to assess benefits in the short term, but easy to use and with no packaging issues.
Now Foods FAQs
Is NOW Foods a reputable brand?
With a 50+ year track record, high standards of testing, sourcing, and product R&D, and plenty of certifications, NOW is considered by most to be a reputable brand.
Per our medical editorial staff, NOW is one of the most commonly referred supplement brands by naturopathic doctors they have known or worked with, mainly because of the lengths NOW has gone to acquire their many certifications.
Is NOW Foods FDA approved?
While “approval” more commonly refers to any given drug or product being certified for use by the FDA, NOW as a company is FDA compliant.
NOW adheres to an FDA standard known as the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) program, which entails meeting certain thresholds of product quality, transparency, and more.
Where is NOW Foods manufactured?
NOW Foods has manufacturing facilities in Bloomingdale, Illinois; Sparks, Nevada; and Ontario, Canada.
For more on their manufacturing standards and processes, here’s a short article offering a concise overview.
Is NOW an American company?
Yes, NOW began as a small private label business serving the Chicago area, and though they source some of their ingredients from other countries, they have remained headquartered in the United States since their establishment.
Are NOW vitamins tested?
Yes, NOW vitamins and many of their other products are tested at their multiple in-house labs, which you can learn more about here, and NOW sports supplements are sent to a third party (Informed Sport) for testing.
Does NOW Foods test on animals?
NOW foods is certified Cruelty Free, meaning none of their ingredients or products are tested on animals.
Is NOW a vegan brand?
NOW isn’t exclusively a vegan brand, but with more than 850 vegan/vegetarian products, they are still among the largest carriers of vegan health products.
Thanks to their consistently high product quality, competitive value, and engaging customer support team, NOW has fought off the stereotype of the sluggish, mega-corporate giant that tends to be applied to companies of their standing.
This isn’t to say that they aren’t without a few rough edges, like the less flexible return policy and the un-childproofed lids (rather, they’re childproofed until an adult breaks the seal, but not after).
Still, NOW defends their position as a health food industry frontrunner with very convincing showings across all our major criteria, landing them with an aggregate grade of A.
If you’re in the market for a multivitamin, sports supplement, probiotic, or just about anything else under the health product umbrella, we recommend giving NOW foods a try.