Paragon Laboratories: An Interview with President & Chief Executive Officer Jay Kaufman

Fully integrated, full-service contract manufacturer Paragon Laboratories has been making natural products and supplements for over 35 years. Founded by Victor Kaufman in 1970, the company has recently expanded production capacity to better service its clients nationally and around the globe. Whether it's producing special shape products, enteric coatings, green foods or completely novel formulations based on new ingredients, the company stands ready to use its experience, relationships and standards to support new and existing clients.

We spoke with Jay about Paragon's history, its capabilities and approach, defining characteristics, as well as some of the questions one should ask when choosing a contract manufacturer.

Who is Paragon and what is the company’s background in Contract manufacturing for the Natural Products Industry?

Paragon Laboratories is a full service contract manufacturer of natural products including dietary supplements and nutraceuticals. Paragon Laboratories has been in operation for over 35 years manufacturing and packaging capsules, tablets and powders.

In 1970 the number of supplement marketers in Southern California was beginning to expand dramatically, as the region quickly became known as a trendsetter in both nutritional supplements and natural products. That was the same year Victor Kaufman decided to start Paragon Laboratories. With degrees in chemistry and business, plus nearly twenty years of experience in pharmaceutical and supplement manufacturing, (which included several years as VP of Operations for a major supplement brand), he understood that the market’s expansion was going to create a demand for qualified contract manufacturers.

At the time he started the company, over thirty five years ago, his business philosophy was rather uncomplicated: Use only the best raw materials to produce the highest quality tableted, encapsulated and powder supplements possible at competitive prices and deliver them where and when they are needed.

Refusing to compromise that philosophy over the years enabled Victor Kaufman to establish Paragon Laboratories as a leading fully integrated, full-service contract manufacturer; servicing customers worldwide.

In 1990, Jay Kaufman assumed the responsibilities of Chief Executive Officer. Jay himself had worked in the operation since high school, beginning with placing caps on bottles and knew the operation intimately. Today, three decades after the company was founded, Jay and the company’s Chief Operations Officer, Richard Kaufman, are determined to continue guiding the company using the same founding philosophy for the next thirty-five years and beyond. It’s a no nonsense approach that has worked to the benefit of Paragon Laboratories and its customers alike. Recently, the company expanded building capacity by over 20% to meet customer requirements.

What differentiates and makes Paragon a leader amongst Contract Manufacturers?

Our state-of–the-art manufacturing operations include in-house analytical and microbiological laboratories, production packaging and warehouse facilities. Our thirty five -plus years of expertise enables us to identify industry trends far ahead of competition giving you, our customer, every advantage in the marketplace. And to top it all off, we have the industry’s vote of confidence too, having received both (NNFA) National Nutritional Food Association and (NSF), “The Public Health and Safety Company™”. (GMP’s) Good Manufacturing Practices certifications for superior manufacturing practices, as well as (QAI) Quality Assurance International Certified Organic certification. Paragon Laboratories has always been committed to manufacturing top quality products at competitive prices, with on-time deliveries to customers.

Paragon Laboratories’ Quality Assurance and Quality Control Standard Operations Procedures include:

  • Quarantining all incoming raw materials immediately upon receipt from pre-qualified suppliers.
  • Subjecting the quarantined raw materials to analysis prior to their release to production.
  • Analyzing a formulation after blending a product to confirm ingredient accuracy and potency.
  • Conducting in-process inspections throughout manufacturing, including fill-weight, hardness, thickness as well as disintegration and friability and other test for compliance verification.
  • Visually inspecting every finished unit dose using the latest automated inspection equipment to prevent the packaging of cosmetically substandard products.
  • Quarantining finished goods until Quality Control chemists complete a final analysis and confirm that the product is 100% correct.
  • Retaining bottled samples of each production batch by Q.A./Q.C. for future reference.

We’re serious about the quality of product we produce. We appreciate the importance of our customer’s brand equity. It’s why we do everything possible to make sure our products are the very best all the time, without exception.

Our technical staff is highly educated, holding degrees in chemistry, biochemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry. Many on our staff hold advanced degrees. Their combined experience is well in excess of a hundred years in the Natural Products Industry.

Our relationships with our clients are deep and exceptional. We know by volume of business that we are, in many cases, a preferred supplier and in some cases, the only supplier.

What services does Paragon provide?

Paragon Laboratories’ service philosophy is straightforward: be available, be helpful, follow up and follow through. Our professional sales staff knows that when you need information, you need it now. They’re here anytime to review an order’s status, confirm delivery of ingredients, or check on shipping. Because of our extensive production tracking system, orders are constantly monitored, and a project’s data is always at our fingertips. In addition, our sales department personnel are also prepared to assist in every way possible. Whether it is the production of a best seller, the development of an entirely new formulation, or a completely new product line, we have the technical service staff working together to provide you with assistance at every stage of new product development. This includes initial formulation development through production of samples for evaluation and stability studies to full-scale production. It’s our way of helping customers stay one step ahead of their competition.

We have the unique capacity to package special shape bottles, packets, cans, Blister cards, Packets in powder and tablet capsule dosage forms. We also produce uniquely shaped tablets and custom shaped tablets. We can also produce Chewable tablets and Enteric Coated Tablets. In total, the company has over 5000 formulas on file, and is involved in the development of new ones every day. We are especially known for green foods, complicated formulas including multiple ingredients, vegetable type capsules, etc.

We conduct stability studies, and in the course of our planning, take stability into account for calculating the overages required in product we produce for our customers.

What certifications does Paragon have?

NNFA & NSF GMP Certified, QAI Certified Organic in addition to governmental agencies. (which agencies?)California Department of Health Services, Los Angeles County Health Department.

What steps did you take to get your various certifications? For what purpose did you certify with the various agencies? What benefits do the certifications offer you?

NNFA & NSF GMP Certification requires full Standard Operating Procedures to be in place (an excess of 500 pages of documentation outlining every process and procedure, including training personnel, construction of the plant, and sanitation procedures). This places Paragon Laboratories in the unique position of being one of only a handful of companies in the U.S. privileged to be approved for these various certifications - certifications which give our clients the assurance that Paragon is manufacturing top quality products. “(QAI) Quality Assurance International serves the Organic Industry with Professional Certification that provides an assurance of organic integrity. The (QAI) Certification Program is designed to certify every step of the organic chain: From the land on which the product is grown; to the producers growing the product; to the post-harvest facilities preparing the product; to the processing and handling facilities transforming the product.”

Can you elaborate a bit about the certification processes and audits for Paragon?

Reviews are on-going throughout the year. Consultants, including our technical staff, are continually in attendance. Periodically these consultants and their respective agencies send independent auditors for a review of our procedures and facility. The individuals that are used are experts in certification requirements for our industry. We also encourage our customers and prospective customers to tour our facilities and to review our Quality Control and Quality Assurances systems.

What should a client ask/look for when selecting a contract manufacturer? What are common mistakes people make?

The client should evaluate the quality assurance and quality control systems the manufacturer has in place including a detailed inspection of the analytical and microbiological documents that are used in-house. A client should look at professional certifications; the intensity of the (QA) Quality Assurance & (QC) Quality Control requirements, number of years in business, as well as industry reputation. Common mistakes would be searching for lowest price only, not checking certifications, or quality of procedures and systems. A review of the manufacturing records as well as examination of analytical equipment used in-house to support QA and QC would be appropriate.

As a customer, I would ask to review the manufacturer’s analytical and microbiological records and equipment. A customer should expect to see systems and controls in place to manage variance. We often receive compliments from auditors on the scope and completeness on our manufacturing and laboratory records. Our Laboratory is equipped with the latest analytical instrumentation, which includes: HPLC, Atomic Absorption, FTIR, UV/ VIS Spectrophotometer, Fluorescence Spectrophotometer, Dissolution, Disintegration and Friability.

What natural products industry sector do you concentrate on servicing? What type of client?

Paragon Laboratories concentrates on all sectors. This includes but is not limited to, distributors who service major chains as well as those who deal directly with the consumer i.e. mail order and multi-level operations. Paragon Laboratories is at the forefront of searching for new active components to support our clients. We are actively involved with the industry through our network of suppliers, trade shows, conferences and memberships to industry trade organizations. We are members of NNFA, now the Natural Products Association, American Botanical Council, and the American Herbal Products Association.

I spoke earlier of our special formulation expertise, and as far as starting a program, we’re typically beginning at 100,000 tablets or capsules or more, or 500kg of powder.

Is the contract manufacturing business growing? Where do you see the most growth opportunities?

The natural food industry is constantly growing and evolving. Customers are service oriented and increasing expectation for quality products as well as new products. We see growth in this marketplace. In order to service these areas Paragon Laboratories has doubled our blending capacity, and doubled the size of our packaging facility. Currently in the works is the acquisition of new specialized packaging equipment. We are continually upgrading our laboratory’s capabilities. We currently have the capability to produce in excess of over 100,000,000 tablets and capsules per month.

How is Paragon working with customers on a global basis?

Paragon Laboratories is exhibiting in foreign tradeshows such as Natural Products Expo Asia, Natural Products Expo Japan, Natural Product Expo East & West, Supply Side West, as well as other additional domestic tradeshows. We are constantly involved in working with new export customers. In conjunction with this, Paragon Laboratories has the experienced personnel capable of preparing the detailed export documents required by governmental agencies to insure quick certification. We believe our dedication and the hands-on way we work allows us to provide our customers with the very best service in the industry, all day, every day.

We’re able to service clients in Europe, Latin America, South America, Asia and Canada. We are experienced in the certification requirements of Canada, and we have received numerous approvals.

Tell us more about your newest services, equipment, etc.

Paragon Laboratories has more than doubled its blending capacity as well as expanded the packaging facility to include unique packaging capabilities. We are continually updating our systems and equipment. Paragon has added personnel to assist you in every facet of new product development. We can help develop a single new formulation, create a line extension or formulate a new line of supplements. We have been instrumental in many product launches on a national scale. Because of our relationship with our customers, we honor the confidential nature of the unique type products that we are involved with.

What do you most want our audience to know about contract manufacturing?

One should do their homework to find a contract manufacturer of long standing with experience in all phases of manufacturing, supported by experienced technically qualified personnel who deliver quality products on time

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