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supplier insight

SUPERthrive formula remains a mystery by A.J. Lepley

better suited to a turn-of-the-century carnival barker than a scientifically proven product. Especially one that has been on the market for 71 years. Ironically, the labeling also claims to be just such a product.


Asked about the odd duality of the labeling and advertising, 99-year-old creator of SUPERthrive Dr. John A. Thomson doesn’t make any bones about it

“It turns out that people in general in the advertising business consider that my advertising is cluttered and too loaded and not according to what they teach in art classes for advertisers. I just go ahead and do it my way and it sells better than anything else. As long as that continues as it does, I’ll realize that that speaks for itself and sympathize with the critics all the way to the bank,” laughs Thomson. “My ads all draw as far as I can figure, so that’s the purpose of them. I figure that those who want to have art-schtick type of advertising are sure privileged to do so. They’re the ones paying for their ads and I’m paying for mine. And the ones that I’m paying for are selling SUPERthrive. It does the job, and I’m happy.”

Thomson does answer some of the pro ad writers’ criticisms. To those who say his ads look like they were written by a chemist, he says that he prefers that. But he confirms the guess of other trade executives that the reason he has so many exact reproductions of earlier ads is because they were all among the earlier inclusion of ads receiving 100 percent approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Thomson points out that in 1962, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s leading scientists

ooking at the label for SUPERthrive, you may come away a bit confused as to what exactly it is and what exactly it does. Strange fragmented thoughts adorn the labeling, which is done in a kitschy throwback format

studied all vitamin ingredient wording of labels, ads, publications, and over 100 government, university and commercial reports. They issued an official approval of all vitamin ingredient wording.

“In 1972, when that approval record had been buried in a USDA storage file in Virginia, I became concerned by legislation wording meant to handle weed killers and growth retardants,” Thomson says. “While the Pesticide Regulation Agency searched for Vitamin Institute’s approval, the general counsel of the U.S. Senate Agriculture and Forestry Committee phrased the Plant Regulator Clarification Amendment to emphasize the fact that SUPERthrive, a non-toxic product, is intended by law to be available and not to require the disclosure of its proprietary formula.”

Congress published letters from 35 associations and names with occupations of over 3,000 professionals stating that nothing else works so well as SUPERthrive in support of the Plant Regulator Clarification

Amendment. A total of 500 park system heads wrote that nothing else works as well as SUPERthrive. The amendment became law and has been ever since, and the earlier approval, still good, was located.

When the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee general counsel notified Thomson of the passage of the revised statute, he told Thomson, “The amendment is right. There was no flim-flam about it. The agriculturalists all supported you.”

SUPERthrive certainly isn’t shy about touting its own historical achievements. One quote from the SUPERthrive website claims SUPERthrive “helped win World War II.” Perhaps the hyperbole is a bit over the top, but there is no doubt SUPERthrive has a long history on the market. Since 1940, in fact. That’s a long time for the open market to test and cull

products, and SUPERthrive is still standing. If longevity lends any credence to legitimacy, SUPERthrive has it in spades.

“It primarily does the five main things that I brag about and make an offer about on any label – which is to activate, revive, plant or transplant, give extra growth, and perfection to plants more than what would otherwise be possible,” Thomson states.

Thomson also points out that SUPERthrive is not a fertilizer, but a vitamin and hormone regimen to be used in conjunction with standard fertilization procedures. Just like the vitamins we, as human beings, take in addition to healthy diet and exercise, but for plants.

Thomson developed the formula in 1939 and founded the company Vitamin Institute to market and sell it shortly thereafter. Now, 71 years later, he’s still selling it, and at the age of 99, is still active in the day-to-day running of Vitamin Institute. In fact, he has not missed a day of work since his wife’s passing in 1998.

“He’s the first one in the door and the last one out,” says daughter Patrisha Thomson.

Holding a Ph.D. in biochemistry, Thomson has collected respect, awards and commendation for his lifetime of work. In 2006, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lawn & Garden Marketing & Distribution Association. In 2009, Thomson also collected Sustainable Environmental Education’s Environmental Awareness Award. That’s quite the lifelong resume for someone who originally wanted to go into law. Thomson was a senior in the School of Government at University of Southern California when he heard the calling of the hard sciences.

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