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Choosing a Manufacturing Partner

<p>After thoroughly assessing its needs, a dietary supplement company can select a contract manufacturing partner who is truly a good fit&#0151;one that will help it be successful for a long time to come.</p>

For many companies, the costs associated with building a manufacturing plant, buying equipment, hiring staff and setting up a lab to test ingredients and finished products are outside their financial abilities or desires. But without these systems in place, a brand can’t produce supplements that meet GMP (good manufacturing practice) requirements. This is where a manufacturing partner can be an important asset.

Manufacturing partners (MP) are available for every step of the process—from formulation to manufacturing to packaging. Many companies can perform these services at one location. The decision to use a MP is not one to be taken lightly. An outside partner will not know a company's products better than a company employee, but depending on the services offered, it will have knowledge of, or access to, formulas (including proprietary blends and excipients), ingredient suppliers and packaging information. An MP will be an integral part of any new product development long before the public sees the products in the store. How does a supplement brand owner choose a MP that is the best fit?

First, a company needs to determine the types of products in its product line. Are they “stock" items, such as vitamin C chewables, or are they custom formulas? Will the brand be producing product under more than one label (health food stores vs. mass market stores)? Does it want to create a new product, but needs help with the formulation? Does it have a formula and need only manufacturing? Does it have a product that needs special packaging that it doesn’t have the equipment for? Is it able to manufacture products, but does not have a lab to test them? Let’s look at each scenario to help determine which type of manufacturer best suits different companies' needs.

“Stock" items

Private label companies specialize in single ingredient and standard formula products. They will have a list of available products to choose from. By producing high volumes of each item, they are able to sell them to multiple companies at attractive prices. Many private label companies can also provide packaging services. This is a good choice for items such as standard multivitamins or calcium tablets. The downside is that a supplement brand cannot make adjustments to the formulas; itcan only buy what is in the product list.

Unique Formulas

Contract manufacturers are well-suited to making custom formulas. Some offer formulation services, while others will simply run a formula on their equipment. Think about the entire product line are there tablets and/or capsules and/or powders? Using a contract manufacturer that can make and package all or most of a company's products can streamline manufacturing, allowing a brand to focus on other aspects of its business. Make sure a potential contract manufacturer will sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect company information.

One Product with Multiple Labels for Targeted Marketing

Some companies have products that they sell to different channels (e.g. health food and practitioner lines) or countries (e.g.,United States and Canada). This usually requires labeling bulk products with different labels to meet the requirements of each market. A brand owner can contract to have the product made in bulk and package it itself or it can contract with a MP that will manufacture the product and label it in multiple ways. If a brand chooses an MP that can provide both manufacturing and flexible labeling, it frees up in-house resources for other projects. If it wants to be able to label as needed for each market/country, having the product made in bulk for the brand to package as needed in house may be the best choice.

New Delivery Forms

Contract manufacturers can be a great help if a brand wants to try new delivery systems without committing to buying new equipment. If a brand is currently selling products in “dry" form—tablets or capsules–and would like to add a liquid to its product line, working with a contract manufacturer who makes liquids might be a good choice. They have the expertise necessary to formulate liquids with the appropriate amounts of ingredients, flavors, colors and excipients. They understand how interactions within the liquid can affect packaging and shelf life. A brand can test market its liquids to see if they are a good fit for the product line without spending capital on equipment and staff.

Special Packaging

If a brand's plant or current manufacturer packages powders in jars and it wants to expand to stick packs, a contract packager may be the solution. They can help add stick packs to a product line without the expense of buying new equipment. Many contract packagers can help with multiple types of specialized packaging, such as sample packs, pouches, stick packs and many other styles. Some do not have the capability to manufacture products, so a brand will send bulk product from its plant (or contract manufacturer) to the packager for processing.

GMP Testing

Contract labs are a good choice if a brand has a manufacturing plant, but its budget doesn’t have room for lab equipment. Contract labs specialize in various testing methods, ingredient testing and shelf life testing. Make a list of what needs to be tested, either by ingredient (protein content in a whey protein, for example) or by product (three-year shelf life testing on a multivitamin). Be sure the contract labs can meet most or all needs at affordable prices.

Many types of manufacturing partners are at the industry's disposal. By thoroughly assessing needs, a dietary supplement company can select a partner who is truly a good fit—one who will help it be successful for a long time to come.

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