In 1975, a Canadian hallmark was born: alive magazine. A visionary publication, alive was the first reliable source for Canadians interested in natural health. Learn about alive's past, present, and future to celebrate 40 years of achievement.
In 1975, the Wheel of Fortune spins for the first time. Microsoft is founded. The beaver becomes an official emblem of Canada. And another Canadian hallmark is born: alive magazine.
alive founder Siegfried Gursche—photographer, bookstore owner, and importer of natural health products—published the magazine for 30 years.
“Siegfried … felt there was a massive gap [in] what consumers’ knowledge was regarding health products,” says current alive publisher Ryan Benn, who took over in 2005. “He thought the best way to educate consumers was to create a journal to distribute via health food stores that would educate customers on knowledge-based, interesting things about natural health.”
Gursche conceived alive at a Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) meeting, where it was enthusiastically received. In the first issue of alive magazine, a forceful CHFA-affiliated manifesto was printed, declaring that Canadians had the right to make their own health choices.
“There was a defensiveness 40 years ago. Literally, we were fighting for legitimacy,” says Dave Freeman, CEO of Health First Network, an independent health and wellness retailer co-operative. “There was still a lot of positive passion, but there was that underlying tone of ‘We’re under attack’ or ‘We have to fight.’”
Gursche developed more tools to gain ground in that fight. In 1978, just three years into publishing alive, he founded alive Books. He guided healthy tours and vacations. In 1992, alive Academy began offering natural health courses through distance learning.
Four major educational undertakings in fewer than 20 years may seem ambitious, but it only hinted at the heady growth to come.
At 40 years old, and under the umbrella of Alive Publishing Group (APG), alive’s journey now courses along many discrete, though not divergent, paths.
Benn says alive’s longevity has come about “because of the viewpoint that we want to be a content provider, not a magazine.”
APG conducts research, surveys readers, and hosts an executive summit. It has expanded into Australia with two magazines Down Under. alive Studios provides video services. alive Academy is still going strong with more than 2,000 students from across North America and around the world. And a boutique digital version of alive, alive interactive, is changing corporate wellness at more than 400 companies.
alive’s connection with CHFA remains strong, notes CHFA president Helen Long.
“Throughout the many years, alive has done a tremendous job at keeping Canadians informed and encouraging them to make healthy, natural, and sustainable lifestyle choices,” states Long. “CHFA is looking forward to the next 40 years and continuing our strong partnership with alive, working together to continue educating and raising awareness for the natural health products industry.”
APG’s many projects have not muddied the water; rather, they provide clarity to generations of readers worldwide.
“Health in general, including natural health, is very complicated,” says Benn. “It’s a confusing category with lots of competing information. alive has earned the reputation as the trusted source for natural health information. And when consumers translate that trust through the editorial that we provide them, it provides them clear, compelling, engaging, actionable next steps to take on their natural health and wellness journey.”
Freeman says two words have always sprung to mind when he thinks of alive: education and emotion.
“I would say the emotional side has definitely evolved over 40 years,” says Freeman. “Back in the day, it’s almost like the emotion was a feistiness: a need to fight for legitimacy of health and wellness products. We the industry, and we consumers—we’re well beyond that today, and so is alive. Today, alive is almost a celebration: the joy, the passion of healthy living. It’s much more fun to read now.”
“We have a vision: for as many people to interact with our brand around the world as possible,” says Benn.
Inspiring and educating those who want to participate more actively in natural health means addressing all aspects of their lives.
“Natural health has … moved to a lifestyle from products and services. I suppose it always was a lifestyle, but that lifestyle has morphed to become so all-encompassing, so thoughtful,” says Benn. “The alive lifestyle now isn’t just about our personal health, but it’s about looking at where our food comes from, the food supply chain. It includes how we treat each other and how we treat the planet.”
Ensuring that message is loud and clear means staying abreast of technology, says Freeman.
“How our customers want to receive information and when they want to receive it has changed as technology has changed, and alive is there and current,” he says. “It’s gone from just a magazine to online, mobile, social media.”
Benn describes alive as “the bridge between product and lifestyle”; Freeman calls it a “beacon.” Whatever the metaphor, alive’s journey has been defined by one thing: making readers’ wellness journeys a little easier to plot.
alive: beyond a magazine
1975 – first issue of alive is published
1992 – alive Academy begins offering courses
1993 – first annual alive Awards for natural health products are handed out
2002 – alive.com goes live
2009 – alive Australia launches
2010 – alive Research begins
2011 – alive interactive premieres
2012 – alive Australia Pharmacy launches
2013 – first alive Summit is held
2014 – alive Studios opens
2015 – alive’s 40th anniversary is celebrated