It’s not often you come across a business that’s been around for 150 years.
It’s even more rare to see it growing in popularity.
J.R. Watkins is a popular network marketing company that offers a range of products from lotions and soaps to spices and oils.
With an intriguing rags-to-riches story, J.R. Watkins became the largest MLM in the world at one time. Today, they’re quietly gaining a market share against some of the biggest brands out there.
1. What does J.R. Watkins sell? J.R. Watkins sells natural, environmentally friendly personal and home care products, as well as gourmet foods, including spices, extracts, baking decorations, and cooking sprays.
2. What are J.R. Watkins’s most popular products? Their spices and extracts are now rivaling the industry leader, McCormick. Their body care products, sporting old-time labels that make it clear these products have been around for a long time, are also popular. Who can resist hand creams labeled, “Creme pour les Mains,” and hand soaps labeled, “Savon pour les Mains,” especially when those labels have a genuine apothecary look and feel?
3. How much does it cost to join J.R. Watkins? You can join Watkins for $29.95.
4. Is J.R. Watkins a scam? No, Watkins is one a legitimate business selling real products. Their products can be bought in retail stores, and some of their brands are rivaling long-time industry leaders.
5. What is J.R. Watkins’s BBB rating? A
6. How long has J.R. Watkins been in business? Since 1868
7. What is J.R. Watkins’s revenue? We couldn’t find any numbers published online.
8. How many J.R. Watkins distributors are there? We couldn’t find any numbers published online.
9. What lawsuits have been filed? In 2015, Watkins sued McCormick for underfilling their tins of black pepper—essentially using deceptive marketing and packaging practices.  In 1954, J.R. Watkins was slapped for using a specially denatured alcohol in its liniment without paying the tax for it. 
So is it too late to get involved?
Product-wise this company might be legit, but if you’re just interested in the business opportunity, there are better options out there…
Either way, here are 13 things to consider before joining J.R. Watkins.
#13. They’re an American institution
They’ve been around for a long time. Like about 150 years long.
If you’re looking for established, this company is literally historic.
The J.R. Watkins administration building in Winona, Minnesota is now a museum and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places , and his house in Plainview, Minnesota where he mixed his first batch of the company’s signature liniment was purchased in 2008 by the Plainview Area History Center .
#12. They tap into the vintage craze
Antique stores aren’t just for grandma anymore.
From college kids to Macklemore, thrift shopping is in, and the whole nation is going retro. Who doesn’t love nostalgia?
J.R. Watkins sets themselves apart from the “futuristic” vibe most MLM companies are rocking nowadays by really leveraging this trend and maintaining the original aesthetic of their bottles. Their products have that vintage charm that people love.
In fact, they love it so much that there are actually “Watkins Collectors” who collect vintage Watkins products in bottles that date back 100 years or more. 
#11. Give direct sales a good name
Their history is woven into the fabric of America’s. A lot of people’s grandparents or great-grandparents sold for them. “The Watkins Man” was a household name back when they were still a door-to-door sales company, and people actually looked forward to a knock on the door from their local Watkins Consultant. 
In fact, there’s even a sappy (ahem, “heartwarming”) made-for-TV movie inspired by the life story of a Watkins salesman called Door to Door.
Somehow, this company managed to build a nostalgic, positive image instead of the negative connotations that door-to-door sales usually conjures.
J.R. Watkins is the traditional “American success story”, and their classic, sentimental brand builds trust in people and invokes all the warm fuzzies. And it’s been proven time and time again that emotional connections drive sales. 
#10. Once the largest direct sales company in the world
In the 1940s, J.R. Watkins was the largest direct sales company in the world.  Obviously, they were doing something right. They might not be as trendy as Le-vel or Purium, but they’ve been around forever.
#9. Filed for bankruptcy in the 1970s
Glory days don’t last forever. J.R. Watkins peaked in the 40s and, much like the high school prom queen who ends up fat, ugly, and poor, 30 years later they hit rock bottom. 
While they’ve since rebounded and worked their way back up, they never fully recovered. In fact, nowadays, they aren’t even a top 100 MLM. 
#8. Purchased in 2018
In January 2018, Swander Pace Capital acquired Watkins’ lines of home and personal care products, creating a separate business under the name of “J.R. Watkins.” Watkins, Inc., the original company, will continue producing their spices, extracts, and gourmet cooking ingredients. 
#7. Struggling to keep with the times
As charming as the vintage wares can be, companies still have to update their image to keep up with trends and modern times, and J.R. Watkins seems to be struggling.
They’ve whipped up some creative social media campaigns, but they turned out to be fairly unsuccessful as the company only gained 2,000 followers over the course of an entire year. Sorry Watkins, but my 16-year-old little sister has you beat two-fold, and all she does is post pictures of her manicures. 
#6. 3-way compensation plan
J.R. Watkins offers their distributors, “consultants,” three ways to sell their products.
- They can buy at wholesale prices and sell at retail prices, pocketing the difference. The company suggests prices but consultants can charge what they wish. Commission ranges from 15-49%.
- They receive commission on sponsoring new team members who make product sales. Commission ranges 10-15%.
- They can earn income through incentivized bonuses and leadership rewards. There are three main levels – consultant, manager, and executive – each of which has a bronze, silver, and gold level. Moving up will get you bonuses and additional earnings.
#5. Annual fee for distributors
The sign-on cost of $29.95 is actually an annual fee required to maintain a Watkins Membership, cheaper than a lot of MLMs (hint: SeneGence, Monat, or Norwex). The initial package to become an Independent Watkins Associate includes some training and literature to get you started and up to a 35% discount on product. You need to purchase $100 of product a month to stay active and qualify for commission.
That being said, upgrades in membership are encouraged and will lead to higher earnings. These range from $69.95-$349 in monthly orders that include product for home party settings on the lower end and product for “serious business builders” on the high end. The first three months of web maintenance for a distributor’s personal sales website are free, but afterward there’s a monthly fee for that as well.
#4. Quality, trusted products
Some of their main products include:
- Hand creams
- Pain relief
- Home cleaners
Their products are backed by over a century of usage, and they are safe and effective. In fact, when the FDA recently banned the use of 19 antibacterial ingredients commonly used in hand soaps and body washes, causing most body care companies to panic, J.R. Watkins could smugly sit back and relax, because their products have never included these banned ingredients. 
They’re truly “committed to providing the highest quality products by using pure ingredients.”
In 2008 they introduced a line of all-natural personal care products capable of competing with the popular Burt’s Bees, although they’ve yet to catch up with Burt’s popularity quite yet.
They also started selling food dye made with 100% natural vegetable juices, which is huge. People have been freaking out for the past decade about synthetic food dye and its correlation to health problems. 
#2. Extracts are now the #2 brand in the nation
The company’s extracts — vanilla, lemon, almond, etc. — are now the No. 2 U.S. brand.
Extracts and spices are a rough market. McCormick basically has a monopoly on them, which you’ll notice at pretty much any supermarket around the country. Most extract companies only experience growth in the low single-digits, but J.R. Watkins’ extracts have been hitting double-digits. 
#1. They sell their product in stores
This one might be a deal-breaker.
A lot of changes have been introduced by the new ownership that pulled J.R. Watkins out of bankruptcy in the 70s and back into the green.
Namely, in the 90s and early 2000s, J.R. Watkins started introducing their products into retail stores. While they still have some products exclusively available through their consultants, the company now sells many of its products everywhere from Walmart and Hy-Vee to Whole Foods, Walgreens, Ulta, and even Target.
While this has been great for the company overall, it isn’t great news for distributors. Do you really think you can compete with the likes of Target?
The fact is, retail is cheaper and more convenient for consumers.
And the proof is in the numbers – their retail channels now make up a large majority of their $120 million in annual sales.  While this company shows a lot of promise, they may be phasing out their direct sales methods.
You definitely wouldn’t want to join J.R. Watkins expecting it to replace your day job.
They’re not a bad company at all, but there’s just more sustainable income opportunities out there.
Look, I’ve been involved with network marketing for over ten years so I know what to look for when you consider a new opportunity.
After reviewing 200+ business opportunities and systems out there, here is the one I would recommend: