By Tom Harvey, The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated: 10/22/2009

The estimated 9,500 people flocking today to the Salt Palace Convention Center is testament to the company’s expansion strategy during tough economic times, XanGo CEO Robert Conlee says.

XanGo’s annual Salt Lake City convention gets up to full steam today with international troops of independent distributors getting rah-rah messages and help with sales techniques.

The Lehi-based company — its name adorns the jerseys of the Real Salt Lake professional soccer team — is approaching $2 billion in sales since its founding seven years ago, Conlee said Thursday.

XanGo is privately held, so the numbers cannot be verified with public reports. But Conlee said company decided a year ago when he came on board to invest in increasing sales and attracting new distributors for XanGo’s signature juice the company touts for its nutritional value.

“We made a decision to invest our way out of the recession, out of any slowdown that might have hit us,” said Conlee.

XanGo rocketed to success in 2002 when it launched its XanGo Juice drink made from the Southeast Asian fruit mangosteen. Now, there are 1.43 million independent distributors in 31 countries.

In addition, the company this year began marketing Eleviv, a capsule the company says decreases stress, improves mood and enhances sleep. Last year, XanGo began offering a line of skin-care products under the name Glimpse.

Conlee said Eleviv recently helped the company set sales records.

“We had our largest single revenue day on July 20,” he said.

One of the highlights of this year’s convention was the appearance Wednesday of the founders of Operation Smile, a group that carries out or facilitates the surgeries to fix cleft lips and palates and other facial deformities of children in poor countries. XanGo’s distributors contribute to the nonprofit group, and the company has sent employees toMexico to help with a mission.

Bill and Kathy Magee — he’s a surgeon; she’s a nurse — founded Operation Smile 27 years ago after participating in a volunteer effort in the Philippines where 250 were operated on out of 300 children who had showed up.

Since then, “We’ve done 135,000 surgeries in 51 countries,” said Kathy Magee.

In the developing countries, about one in 500 kids is born with a cleft lip or palate , said Bill Magee.

XanGo raised $40,000 for an Operation Smile mission in Thailand, where the company obtains the mangosteen fruit for its products.

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