the first time i heard about Oberlin Nutrition was from Instagram when they followed me in September of 2018.
their Insta is filled with all these beautiful pictures of people smiling and brightly colored drinks in front of a pristine white background. but i also remember the first time i saw the store IRL and something about it just seemed so fucking weird. Oberlin Nutrition is sandwiched between Oberlin's infamous Dominos and an abandoned Laundromat on the way south end of campus about a 10 min walk from downtown. not the most wonderful location for a shake stand intended to have "amazing vibes." it was just so incredibly bizarre from the outside and honestly jarring seeing Instagram posts of a super cute, super aesthetically pleasing looking shop on the inside...
i became obsessed. what in the fuck is Oberlin Nutrition? and why does this exist in Oberlin?
the first thing i had to figure out was– what is the deal with these shakes?
Oberlin Nutrition's Instagram showcases a ginormous menu with all sorts of "healthy" shakes, teas, and coffees to choose from. but it isn't like any regular tea / coffee shop in the sense that you HAVE to first choose a tea, then pick an aloe (which wtf even is that as a beverage and why would i ever wanna drink that) and finally select a shake flavor. you cannot simply order one item but are recommended to buy all three. when it comes to the shake "boosters" you can choose from a variety of options such as "muscle recovery proteins," "fat burners," "fiber," and "probiotics" which then contain a list of super vague health benefits such as "targeting bad fat" "suppressing appetite" or "helps get rid of bad bacteria." first of all how in the heck is a tea or shake going to do these things. second, suppressing your appetite IS NOT HEALTHY IN THE SLIGHTEST. Oberlin Nutrition even claims that this tea and shake combo is supposed to actually "replace a meal." no goddamn drink should ever replace a meal PERIOD. did i mention all the "healthy" flavored shakes they offer? some include Frosted Animal Cookie, Cinnamon Roll, Captain Crunch PB Berries, Snickers, and White Chocolate Reeses... super nutritious.
see for yourself–
another super interesting thing about the menu is that there are no prices listed at all. i'd be interested in knowing how much the shakes actually cost but i found this to be incredibly weird as pretty much all cafes and restaurants disclose the prices (as they should) on the menu.
so the biggest question about this shit really is– what in the hell are in these goddamn shakes?? i'd asked some of my friends about their experiences ordering there and they said the shakes were super gross and packed with tons of random "proteins" that just made them literally crap for days. one friend even told me it made them sick and bloated. these can't just be normal milkshakes with some healthy stuff in them. they're advertised as shakes specifically made for athletes or after a workout or to gain certain "health" benefits. i just HAD to know what in heck these people were putting in them that were making my friends majorly shit themselves...
after scanning through their Insta feed i found a picture captioned "OPENING DAY VIBES!" and you can kinda get a glimpse of what is behind the serving counter. there are blenders and syrups and pitchers of tea but you can also see at the very bottom of the shot what looks like these giant tubs assorted next to each other. they looked almost like tubs of protein powder. if you zoom in even closer you will notice tiny green labeling across all the containers. another picture from October 19th shows the same tubs lined up on shelves right behind the customers in the shot. i remembered those tubs somewhere... the green labeling... the shake mix... Herbalife.
Herbalife Nutrition is a multi-level marketing company that develops and sells dietary supplements– most notably their shake formula sold in those giant tubs with the green labeling on the front. the founder of the company Mark R Hughes began Herbalife in 1980 and grew his business through multi-level marketing where independent distributors sell individual products. it's basically a Pyramid Scheme but with an actual product to sell (usually not a very good one at that and they're hella expensive). distributors buy initial product packages which cost around $738 to start their initial business. you buy and then sell inventory but the REAL way to make money (and this is the pyramid part) is by signing up other people to sell BENEATH you. you then make a commission from what your downline sells and how many people your downline signs up to sell. according to income disclosure statements 50% of Herbalife distributors made less that $370 a year (basically losing more money than they initially invested), 10% made around $7k a year, and only the top 1% made 109k a year. an MLM cannot succeed without having the majority of distributors LOSE money so that the very top sellers (who've usually been in the business so long that they have a huge downline) make money.
but wait... how in the hell is Herbalife existing as a store?? we'll guess what they AREN'T. Oberlin Nutrition actually does not consider itself a shake and health foods cafe but is listed as a "Nutrition Club" or "Wellness Center" that also sells shakes... and Oberlin Nutrition is not the only Nutrition Club out there. there are THOUSANDS all around the country with the word "Nutrition" in the title– Amherst Nutrition, Odyssey Nutrition, and West Park Nutrition just to name a few in Ohio alone. this is exactly why there are no prices listed on the menu. Nutrition Clubs sponsored by Herbalife must adhere to extremely strict guidelines in order to not cross certain violations that a regular cafe would never have. all distributed to-go cups must be UNLABELED. you'll notice from their Instagram posts that the shakes are served in a blank plastic cup without any label or brand name on the front. this rarely EVER is the case for a normal cafe like Starbucks or even Brew Haha for that matter. they cannot label their cups because people cannot know that the shop is merely an MLM in disguise. same thing when it comes to naming the clubs. you cannot include Herbalife in the title so people won't know that you are using and suggesting Herbalife products... that is why each shop has an incredibly vague name. i thought at first that Oberlin Nutrition was like its own store or something but if you take a look at the other "Nutrition Clubs" you will see they look EXACTLY like Oberlin Nutrition. from the store logo, to the tinted windows (which are deliberate btw), to the decor inside the shop, and even the posts on Instagram. Oberlin Nutrition doesn't even have it's own website, only social media, which shop owners (distributors) are instructed to post specific content according to Herbalife.
one of the STRANGEST things about Oberlin Nutrition too by far is how many times they post and share pictures of everyday customers onto their social media. like with any MLM THIS is what they are selling. they are not trying to promote shakes, they are promoting people liking the shakes and joining the club. a post by a nutrition coach wrote on Oberlin Nutrition's FB page "Join Our VIP Club with exclusive offers and promotions!" when did your local cafe ever have a VIP club to join??? what do these people do in the clubs?? i'll tell you what they do... they sign up KIDS yes KIDS, teens, adults, or anyone who gets a shake to become an independent distributor of Herbalife products. i decided to click on a photo of a customer who looked like a high school student and was in a lot of the Oberlin Nutrition Instagram pictures. they seemed like a regular customer and probably someone who lived in or around Oberlin. after doing a little stalking i found on their Instagram Highlights that they had actually been recruited to sell shake mixes for Herbalife!! one of their Highlights was a video of them signing up for an Herbalife starter kit with the song "Money" by Cardi B playing in the background... this is just one teenager out of many that have probably been scammed into this quote "incredible business opportunity."
Oberlin Nutrition is not your typical place to grab a healthy shake. i don't even want to know what amount of shit is in their shake mix but i do know that Oberlin Nutrition like the rest of these Nutrition Clubs are complete and total SCAMS looking to get you to sign up for their PYRAMID SCHEME. you can literally look online at reviews of the "health benefits" of these shake mixes and they are horrendous. getting some frickin aloe or whatever the heck in your tea is not going to fight off bacteria! it's insane that these people can even claim that about their product. just look at the way they made their health claims off of faulty trials and fake science. the worst part of it all is that they pray on poor and marginalized communities. Herbalife has been known to especially target latinos. they pray on single mothers and people who are looking for a side hustle. they pray on TEENAGERS who are just going in there to get a snack after school not a fucking MEAL REPLACEMENT which DOES NOT EXIST and is the antithesis of HEALTHY. that is why the store is located where it is. it's why they are constantly following Oberlin students and posting a picture whenever a customer enters the store. it's why they have "come hang with us!" and "good vibes!" in their bio because it is not considered a cafe but a club.
there were so many creepy signs that i couldn't ignore at the beginning and i'm so glad i didn't. looking into the world of MLMs and other extremely shady pyramid schemes has been such a fascination of mine that i'm honestly blown away we even have one in our very own college town! please for the love of gawd do not buy anything there. or please, if you do, report your findings and get back to me ;) ask them what the heck is in their protein mixes and why my friends kept shitting their brains out after drinking them!!
and always remember... the most perfect things online are not always what they seem.
*all pictures can be found on Google, Oberlin Nutrition's Instagram & Facebook Page