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SISU

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When SISU (pronounced 'see-sue'#157;) founder Harlan Lahti started to make his own vitamins and supplements and sell them in 1980, from Finlandia, his Vancouver pharmacy he had no idea that what was then a sideline business would one day become one of Canada's .

When SISU (pronounced "see-sue") founder Harlan Lahti started to make his own vitamins and supplements and sell them in 1980, from Finlandia, his Vancouver pharmacy he had no idea that what was then a sideline business would one day become one of Canada's leading natural health brands.

Lahti's only concern was to help people stay healthy longer and recover from illness more quickly by offering them top-quality natural health alternatives to the vitamins and supplements available at the time.

SISU has remained dedicated to helping health-conscious consumers maintain a high level of fitness.

"SISU stands out from its competitors by using only the best available ingredients in our products," explains Susan Brock, marketing manager. "Our products aren't the cheapest. But when you buy SISU, you know you're buying top quality."

The company ensures quality by having its products tested independently by third-party labs.

"We want to assure our customers they're getting the best possible products they can buy," Brock says.

"SISU" is a Finnish word meaning inner strength, loosely translated as "guts" - a quality that explains how this small Vancouver business has managed to become Canada's fifth largest supplements company.

According to Brock, the company's emphasis on innovation is key to its growth. SISU is committed to staying on the leading edge of product development.

"We were the first company to bring Ester-C® to Canada in 1988," she says. "We were the exclusive distributor in Canada for a time, before the market opened up, and that product really drove the company's growth."

Ester-C® is a patented form of vitamin C that's more bioavailable than other forms of vitamin C. It is pH-balanced to be less acidic and doesn't irritate your stomach the way other forms can.

The company's other top sellers include its line of bone and joint products (Arthro-Flex and Cal Mag Liquids), and their sports performance products (Hydrade, a line of rehydration drinks).

SISU products are available at specialty health and wellness retailers and in select national retailers all across Canada. The company retails its products through stores with trained health advisors on site.

"SISU really focuses on the importance of education," Brock explains. "We want our products sold in stores where they understand the value of our products and can help customers make informed decisions."

In fact, Brock says SISU actively tries to get its suppliers involved in education. "We host educational evenings with retailers so they can pass the information we share with them on to their customers."

SISU is also active in the natural health community. The company sponsors mountain-biking and cross-country cycling events across Canada, with nearly 20 races happening in the month of May alone in BC, Ontario, and Quebec.

"Cyclists are awesome! They make really loyal customers," Brock says. "They're generally a bit better informed than the average consumer and really appreciate the quality of our products - especially our rehydration drinks. Once they try our products, they often end up telling their friends about us, too."

The company recently embarked on an aggressive growth plan with a goal of doubling its sales over the next three years. Clearly, SISU will continue living up to its "gutsy" name.

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