Making the CM choice: a case study

NHK Laboratories? Executive Director Sharmin A. Karim shares her company?s formula for success

FF&N: What can you offer a supplements company that they can?t do themselves?

KARIM: Most companies in our industry are engaged in selling and marketing food supplements, not manufacturing them. As a contract manufacturer, NHK brings decades of technical experience and millions of dollars in capital resources at a fraction of the cost.

FF&N: Do you do food and beverage production?

KARIM: We manufacture functional foods in the form of powder drink mixes.?Our specialities include meal replacements, electrolytes and speciality powder blends.

FF&N: How do you guarantee quality control?

KARIM: Our facilities?are NNFA GMP certified. This certification includes several elements of the impending US food supplement GMPs as well as drug?cGMPs. The NNFA GMPs?require a rigorous multi-day audit of our facilities, procedures, training, sanitation, and Quality Control and Assurance departments.

FF&N: What if irregularities are found?

KARIM: An investigation is launched by our quality assurance departments. If warranted, the batch is recalled.

FF&N: How do you guarantee clients? IP is safe?

KARIM: We understand the importance of discretion.?It?s our policy to keep our client and product information confidential.?At the request of our clients, we sign non-disclosure agreements.

FF&N: Are there differences in how CMs operate in Europe as opposed to the US?

KARIM: The European Union views food supplements as a more effective means to wellness, hence more regulation.

FF&N: Should CMs be in the business of developing and selling ingredients?

KARIM: In a highly fragmented industry such as this, vertical integration is inevitable. NHK Labs launched its raw materials business in 1999, and it has been successful enough where we decided to spin off NHK Chemicals in July 2004.

FF&N: How much input do you give to a client regarding formulation issues?

KARIM: Our slogan ?From Concept to Store Shelf? really says it all.?Our clients often come with the germ of an idea, and our technical staff articulates the formula.??Sometimes a client will come to us with a formula, and we can tweak it to improve it.


FF&N:What happens if they approach you with an unknown ingredient? Is it your legal duty to seek further information?

KARIM: From a liability point of view, yes, but it is?also our obligation to educate our clients.

FF&N: Are there quantities below which business becomes economically unviable?

KARIM: The minimum order for capsules is 100,000 and tablets vary depending on the size and coating.?It takes less than an hour to manufacture 100,000 capsules or tablets, but it takes eight hours to clean the machines and rooms.


FF&N: Do you have a speciality area?

KARIM: NHK Labs specialises in the production of capsules, tablets and powder drink mixes.?In addition to our contract manufacturing services, we offer laboratory analyses and quality bulk ingredients.

FF&N: What would you say is more popular among your clients, tablets or capsules?

KARIM: Capsules are more popular in the herbal sector, whereas tablets remain more popular in the vitamin/mineral segment.?Tablets have proven more popular in Asia because they can come in small sizes, and multiple doses are a popular trend for Asian products.


FF&N: Should CMs be responsible for the compilation of scientific data?

KARIM: Currently, scientific data is being compiled at the raw material producer level. NHK Labs takes it one step further and tests each raw material that arrives at our facility.


FF&N: What are the GMP rules in your area?

KARIM: As a contract manufacturer, it is required that proper SOPs and quality-control measures are used. Cleanliness and sanitation are a must, as well as testing for and using quality ingredients. From the time the materials arrive at our facility until they are shipped out, quality control measures are taken.

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