Seven Questions for Supplement Contract Manufacturers

Who should manufacture it?” The right choice can make the difference between a product that is considered a market leader or an average one, an easy process or a painful one, a successful product or a failure.

By: Richard Kaufman

To a marketer of nutritional supplements, the most important single question to answer is “What product should I put on the market?” But once that’s been answered, the second most important question is, “Who should manufacture it?” The right choice can make the difference between a product that is considered a market leader or an average one, an easy process or a painful one, a successful product or a failure.

The answers to these questions should make decision-making easier and yield the best conclusion. No one good answer will be a dealmaker, but a majority of good ones should.

  • What certifications do you have?

It’s not what the company says about itself that’s important; it’s what others say about them. And in the world of supplements, the “others” that count most are independent organizations such as NSF International, the Natural Products Association (NPA) and Quality Assurance International (QAI). NSF and NPA offer third-party GMP (good manufacturing practice) certifications for contract manufacturers of dietary supplements. QAI is a well-respected third-party organic certifier. The judgments of these organizations are completely objective and offer a seal of approval.

  • How long have you been in business?

The longer a company has been manufacturing supplements, the more it has been able to learn. Longevity is also a measure of the confidence other marketers have placed in them. It’s not a decision-maker, but it’s a good indicator.

  • What types of products do you manufacture?

Obviously, the company should make the type of products required. But beyond that, it’s a good sign if a company offers a wide breadth of products, and has been doing so for a long time. It signifies greater industry trust and investment.

  • What kinds of testing do you perform?

This is crucial. Making the product is just part of the story. Making sure it delivers the expected quality is another. How early does the manufacturer start the testing process? (The earlier the better.) What does it test for? Is testing conducted at the raw material, in-process and finished product stage? Is there testing for uniformity within the batch? What procedures are in place to assure consistency from order to order? Is there a stability testing program in place? Is the testing conducted in-house, or is it outsourced? A strong, comprehensive testing program that’s part of a strong quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) program is a must.

  • Who will be making the product?

The caliber of a company’s staff is one measure of the quality of the products it manufactures. The level of experience, education and training are good predictors of quality. Is there an ongoing refresher training program in place for personnel to ensure adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs)? Obviously, the greater the amount of experience, education and training the staff possesses, the more likely the contract manufacturing experience will be a positive one.

  • What packaging choices do you offer?

Obviously, the company could be a non-starter if it doesn’t even offer the packaging you’re looking for. But there’s an important caveat: is the company keeping abreast of new types of packaging such as stick packs or green packaging options to offer a competitive market advantage? It’s also possible that a wide choice of packaging options may prompt the decision to use a different form of packaging than originally anticipated.

  • Can you handle complex formulations?

This question depends on the needs of the marketing company. Manufacturing complicated formulas is probably the most demanding task a manufacturer can take on. If a product demands it and the contract manufacturer doesn’t have the experience, it’s a major gamble. Even if a formulation is relatively simple, if the company is good at complex ones, making a simple one well will be a piece of cake.

Your brand is the most valuable asset you have. The best way to protect it is to choose the best company to produce it.

Richard Kaufman is executive vice president and chief operating officer of Paragon Laboratories, a contract supplement manufacturer founded in 1971. Kaufman has more than 20 years of experience in the supplement industry and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA).

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