The Inspiring Women behind the Carlson Brand

For more than 50 years, Carlson has been recognized as an innovator and leading educator in the field of high-quality nutritional supplements. The Carlson family’s interest in vitamins and minerals began when they experienced the benefits of vitamin E firsthand. Founder Susan Carlson’s father suffered from debilitating chest pain that limited his activities and forced him to stop working. He was unable to find relief until he came across the extensive clinical work of Doctors Evan and Wilfrid Shute of Shute Medical Clinic.


After examining him, they suggested he take natural-source vitamin E. In less than three weeks, he was back to work and looked noticeably better. Susan began extensively researching and was inspired to create her own line of high-quality, natural-source vitamin E. Carlson Laboratories was founded with a single product, Key-E® 200 IU, in 1965. The second product, E-Gems® 200 IU, was introduced two years later, and other strengths were added shortly after. Carlson quickly grew to offer the most complete line of natural-source vitamin E in the world.

Susan managed the company from her third-floor, walk-up apartment on North Winchester Avenue in Chicago and also worked part-time as a pharmacist in a high-traffic store in Wheeling, Illinois. By 1968, Susan hired two employees who helped her open a small neighborhood store on Damen Avenue in Chicago. A sales representative was then added, and Carlson products began popping up on the shelves of popular health food stores across Chicago. As the brand continued to grow, Susan expanded Carlson into the space next door.

In 1970, the business moved to a larger office space on North Kedzie Avenue, and Susan left her pharmacy position to focus on Carlson full time. Her husband John, who previously worked as the chief water engineer for the city of Chicago, was named the president of Carlson. Within six years, they outgrew the space. With the help of John’s architect friend, they found property and built the brand new Carlson headquarters on College Drive in Arlington Heights. Two years later, the operations expanded to the neighboring building.

John and Susan had two daughters, Carilyn and Kirsten, who grew up in the natural products industry. From a young age, they attended tradeshows, helped out at Carlson headquarters, and developed a passion for quality nutritional supplements backed by science. Carilyn and Kirsten played (and continue to play) an instrumental role in launching groundbreaking new products and helping to grow the Carlson brand.

Today, the headquarters are located at 600 West University Drive in Arlington Heights, and the next generation of Carlson continues to ensure that the Carlson name represents the high quality products customers have come to expect. President Carilyn Anderson and Vice President of Marketing Kirsten Carlson – and their dedicated team – are proud to offer more than 200 vitamins, minerals, fish oils, and other supplements designed with your family’s unique nutritional needs in mind.