How 4 successful contract manufacturers grew their businesses

How four contract manufacturers - Arizona Nutritional Supplements, Century Foods International, Robinson Pharma and Vita-Tech International - grow and keep their businesses healthy, including what each specializes in.

More than supplements, solutions

Arizona Nutritional Supplements (ANS) was born out of frustration — at the lack of quality contract manufacturers available in the marketplace, and that so few manufacturers were committed to good manufacturing principles.

"The founders, Aaron Blunck and Jonathan Pinkus, had been in the industry for several years and decided to start their own company to do things the right way," explains Kirk Neal, vice president of operations at ANS. "The company began in 1996, and within four years, they were able to build a top-of-the-line 50,000-square-foot facility equipped for tableting, capsules, powders and high-speed packaging."

But even that, it would turn out, wasn't enough. "By the end of 2001," says Neil, "they were already out of space, so they had to purchase a second 17,000-square-foot distribution facility. Three years later they added a third warehouse." The building frenzy continues. ANS is now working on a 130,000-square-foot facility to house all of its current operations; its planned completion date is late April.

Neal says the growth is due to the company's strong commitment to quality products and quality people. "From the very start, we dedicated ourselves to making sure all of our customers' needs were met," he says. "Instead of trying to fit customers into our system, ANS looked for ways to work with customers to allow them to focus all of their resources on marketing and selling. By leaving the manufacturing to us, retailers, direct-marketing companies, international clients and mail-order customers can focus on growing their sales. 'More than Supplements, Solutions' became our company motto.

ANS was among the first contract manufacturers to earn its GMP certification from the National Nutritional Foods Association, and was the first contract manufacturer to earn GMP certification from NSF International. It has since gone on to become certified for organics by Quality Assurance International, receive its site license from Health Canada, and implement Total Quality Management (TQM) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) programmes.

The Phoenix-based company says it sees 2008 as harbouring great potential. "We see high-quality organic products and strong international sales as two trends we are ready to capitalize on," Neal says. "As companies look to have their products made by a contract manufacturer they can trust to have the highest quality, we will be there with added capacity to meet their needs."

The Protein People focus on quality

It is the aim of Century Foods International that, thanks to its reliable and high-quality product manufacturing, brand owners can focus on what they do best: sales and marketing

"We offer a full turnkey approach, managing all aspects of projects, from formulation, procurement and manufacturing, to final packaging and shipping," says Nicole Lemus, director of sales. "In addition to our well-established HAACP programme, we are rated AIB Superior, and have our NSF National Certificate of GMP Registration and NSF National Certificate of GMP for Sport Registration. We are also USDA- and kosher-approved, Grade A, ISO 9001 certified, and EU certified."

The company was founded in 1991 as a broker/trader operation for dairy products, and grew into a full-service manufacturing and service provider. The company specializes in powdered blends and mixes, agglomeration, and nutraceuticals, including muscle-building and weight-loss powders and ready-to-drink beverages.

"We have the largest agglomeration capacity in North America and the ability to efficiently and homogenously blend any type of dry mix," says Lemus. "We have four manufacturing facilities with over 400 employees and serve customers in more than 45 countries. Many members of our management team grew up on farms and truly understand the dairy and food industries. Our R&D team, with backgrounds in chemistry, microbiology, nutrition, food science and chemical engineering, has experience in whey processing, powder drying, agglomeration and processing of dairy proteins."

The new GMPs will have a big impact on the contract-manufacturing market, Lemus predicts, because not all companies are ready to meet the regulations.

"The GMPs will reduce the number of qualified contract manufacturers, and those of us who are investing in the personnel and policies to adhere to the new GMPs will benefit from the change. Our customers are looking for a quality contract manufacturer, where they can be 100 per cent confident that the new GMPs are followed."

Lemus also predicts that products with added protein will be the leading innovation platform in coming years. With the increase in consumer knowledge of the health benefits of protein, and greater product demands, manufacturers are starting to respond, she says. "We are known as 'The Protein People,'" she says. "We are experts at protein formulation, which sets us apart from the competition."

Moving well beyond soft gels

Since its humble founding in 1990 as a small contract-packaging company, Robinson Pharma (RP), a California company, has expanded to become a leader in soft-gel encapsulation.

RP is a full-service contract manufacturer that offers product development and ingredient sourcing, tableting and hard-shell encapsulation, blister packaging and bottling, as well as the country's largest capacity for soft-gel encapsulation.

"The breadth of services and size of our company give us the ability to provide a full range of services to our clients," says Kenn Israel, vice president of marketing. "We are the largest encapsulator of marine lipids in the United States, and we supply a range of customers beyond America, including Europe, Canada, Mexico and South America, as well as Asia and the Middle East."

Only one year after forming, the company initiated tablet compression and two-piece encapsulation operations, and by 2000, it had added soft-gel encapsulation. In 2006, RP opened its second phase of soft-gel operations with the addition of 10 continuous-drying soft-gel production lines. Last year proved to be as busy as ever. In May, RP completed a retrofit of its Phase I soft-gel operations, expanding to more than 20 production lines, all with continuous-dry capacity. In July, the company introduced high-speed laser printing on soft gels; and in August it initiated production with Kamata high-speed soft-gel encapsulators.

Important steps also were made in the safety arena. After being awarded a Drug Manufacturing License by the state of California's Department of Health Services Food and Drug Branch, demonstrating compliance with GMP manufacturing, in December the company completed its Shuster Labs' audit, certifying GMP compliance.

"Contract manufacturing is becoming increasingly competitive on four fronts: speed, price, innovation and quality controls," Israel explains.

"Tomorrow's contract manufacturer needs to be a faster and smarter company, increasingly precise and meticulous, and they will need to be the most effective manufacturers in their field of trade."

The one piece of the contract-manufacturing puzzle the company does not offer is branded delivery systems or its own line of raw materials — and this is for good reason. "This difference facilitates our ability to not pressure the client to use our proprietary systems," Israel says. "We can be a more neutral and effective partner, as we are not biased to one delivery system, technology or choice in ingredients — we are customer centric."

An NPA Gold Seal company

From its start in 1954, Vita-Tech International has been focused on one thing: quality. The California company's FDA manufacturing license has been certified every year since its founding, and all of its products meet or exceed cGMP standards.

The company is a pharmaceutical-licensed manufacturer, and is a member both of Drug, Chemical & Associated Technologies and the Natural Products Association (NPA). It is also an NPA Gold Seal Manufacturer.

"Today's emphasis on consumer safety and good manufacturing practices makes this kind of dedication essential," says Aaron Williford, vice president of sales and client services.

Strategically, Vita-Tech has its focus on oral-dosage forms: two-piece capsules, tablets and powders. But the company is also prepared to meet any unique formats requested by its clients.

"We offer a world-class manufacturing environment to our customers, and the resulting cost efficiencies that can be realized," Williford says. "Our state-of-the-art control and quality systems assure that our equipment is always working up to specification."

One of the company's other key strengths is its professional staff, and its ability to recommend formulas that combine both smart science and market differentiation in the final product, Williford says. "Our professional staff includes Dilip Bhatia, PhD, and Elizabeth Juco, head of quality control/quality assurance, both of whom are seasoned colleagues in the health-sciences industry," he says.

Vita-Tech has witnessed emerging interest in enteric coating of omega-3 soft-elastic capsules, as well as probiotics, powdered-drink mixes and formulas that support vision, joint-pain relief, mental function and stamina, as related to ageing. To meet this demand, in recent years the company has installed new compressing, encapsulation, overhead-feed and continuous coating systems.

With clients in more than 50 countries, Vita-Tech is planning further expansion this year to keep up with growing demand in overseas markets for analytical and regulatory support. "The only constant in life is change, and Vita-Tech has continuously stepped up to that reality!? Williford says. The company is also uniquely positioned because it does not compete with its own consumers by offering its own line of supplements, stock formulas or otherwise, he says.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.