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Plant Expansions

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K2VITAL®

Optimistic business plans and environmental concerns are just some of the considerations when companies decide to ramp up their plants’ capacities.

EConomists were a bit more optimistic about the U.S. economy as 2011 came to a close— but only a bit.

According to CNNMoney, a December 2011 survey of 20 top economists found their fear of the economy falling into a new recession retreated in the three months prior, as they put the chances of a new downturn at only about 20 percent. Prior to that, they believed there was about a 30 percent chance.

So while much of the economy seems to be taking baby steps toward recovery, some businesses are making big gains.

For example, Apple climbed 21 slots into the top 50 of the Fortune 500 last year. The Company got there by not only expanding its reach in existing markets, but also creating new ones.

The nutritional and dietary supplement industry, due to several factors and despite a weak economy, has benefited from a steadily increasing demand for nutritional preparations, natural medicines and functional foods. Like Apple, growth of current products and drive for more research and development are the impetus for strength and expansion.

Four natural product companies gave NIE details of their recent investments in plant capacity, including how the new facilities enhance quality, offerings and bottom lines, and what specific changes and advancements the new facilities will make.

Controlled Environment

Reliance Private Label Supplements • Edison, NJ • (732) 537-1220 In 1997, brothers Ted and Philip Vigeant bought Reliance Private Label Supplements from their parents. In November 2011, the company moved into its new 90,000- square-foot, state-of-the-art, ecofriendly facility, which houses the entire private label, contract manufacturing and branded operation.

According to Philip Vigeant, president and co-owner, Reliance now has more capacity by blending all aspects of manufacturing and packaging with new powder filling lines, tableting and encapsulation equipment. Brands are manufactured in new Class 10,000 clean rooms, which exceed industry Standards for air quality and moisture control, and the company is capable of providing product forms including tablets, capsules, powders and any product requiring low moisture environments, such as probiotics, SAMe and effervescents.

The facility boasts enhanced state-of-the-art environmental control—the “best in industry” dust collection system and climate control maintains humidity levels below 45 percent regardless of external conditions. “This provides a perfect environment to produce sensitive products and maximize stability for products like probiotics, with no interruptions in production during periods of high humidity,” said Vigeant, adding that Reliance believes it is the only private label manufacturer to invest in this level of control.

Since oftentimes store brand labels look homemade, the company also invested in a new Kodak NexPress digital Production color press typically used by commercial printers to print labels, marketing materials, sales collateral materials and more.

In-house testing capabilities now include FTNIR (near infrared), HPLC, atomic absorption, titration, moisture, water activity and microbiological, with gas chromatography and ICPMS (for trace element analysis) to be installed in the next few months.

Now, Reliance has a branded division that develops niche products, Vigeant said. “This is a result of investment in product development and branding talent, equipment and research, allowing Reliance to help develop products,Branding and distribution capabilities for marketers of supplements.” 

In addition to supporting the physical plant, the company invested in new talent, Vigeant pointed out. Chris Young was hired to run the branded division, NutraFusion Nutritionals. In the private label areas, the company hired Kenny Flores as the new vice president of sales in the Natural Division. “Both of these people have extensive experience in their areas of expertise within the supplement industry,” noted Vigeant.

While investing in the new facility to Raise the level of quality for private label products, the company kept in mind the need to invest in the environment. “Rather than build a new building, Reliance refurbished an existing one. The vintage brick building has excellent insulation qualities. The walls and ceiling have a significant amount of glass and plastic that allows natural light into the entire warehouse and manufacturing area to minimize burning electricity. The new climate control system is the most energy efficient system on the market,” Vigeant said, Adding that Reliance is a registered member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Challenge, a national call-to-action to improve the energy efficiency of America’s commercial and industrial buildings by 10 percent or more.

Conservation and environmental measures include energy usage monitoring, reducing electrical, water and gas consumption, minimizing heat loss, initiating a green procurement policy, recycling and utilizing award winning, environmentally sound packing materials.

Ready to Grow

Maypro Industries • Purchase, NY • (914) 251-0701 Amino Up Chemical Company • Sapporo, Japan • +81-11-889-2277

In September, Maypro Industries announced the opening of a new expanded production facility by its Japanese partner, Amino Up Chemical Co., Ltd. The new facility doubles the production capacity of AHCC (active hexose correlated compound), Japan’s top specialty immune support ingredient.

Ken-Ichi Kosuna, chairman and founder of Amino Up Chemical Company, said the facility is adjacent to the company’s existing office building located in Sapporo, Hokkaido. [Sapporo was not affected by last year’s earthquake or tsunami. It is located more than 350 miles from the disaster area.] 

Part of the facility is built on a four-story reinforced concrete structure with a total floor area of 4,140 square meters [44,600 square feet], said Kosuna. The plant is dedicated to the production of Oligonol®, as well as the company’s flagship product, AHCC. In addition, the new five-floor office building is based on a steel structure with a total floor area of 2,000 square meters (21,527 square feet). It is used to hold business meetings and scientific seminars for the company’s guests from countries around the world.

“Since product demand from overseas is expected to grow strongly over the next few years, we plan to be ready,” explained Kosuna. “We are focusing our energy on expanding our overseas markets with our new plant and office.” 

With the new plant, annual production capacity of AHCC will increase to 90 metric tons, which is twice the capacity of the previous plant. In addition, the company will have the capability to increase the production capacity of Oligonol fourfold, which will produce 40 metric tons per year. “With our business developing, our new office building will also serve many needs, including the increasing amount of business Meetings and gatherings,” Kosuna said.

A goal for the new facilities is to be Japan’s leading example of ecofriendly buildings. The facilities contain 70 unique features designed to promote ecosystem conservation, which help to reduce CO2 emissions to half, and to reduce power consumption by using natural energy resources such as solar energy and geothermal energy, Kosuna said. In addition, the waste heat emission in the plant during the manufacturing processes is transferred to the heating of the office building, which also contributes to the conservation of energy.

Steve Yamada, CEO and founder of Maypro Industries, explained that as the distributor of Amino Up’s products, Maypro has been able to showcase the new state-of-the-art production facilities that uses the most advanced equipment available and meets the highest standards of a green building. “Every year, Amino Up hosts more than 300 researchers, doctors and Business executives from more than 15 countries around the world,” Yamada said. “This allows us to show many of our customers, whom we bring to this annual event, the actual production facility and corporate offices. Amino Up has produced a wonderful video that explains all the latest technological advancements of a green building that went into the construction of the new plant. When we showed it to our guests, they were just amazed and carried this message back to their companies and their customers. So we have been very fortunate that Amino Up has had the vision to invest in spite of the challenging economic global climate, and we believe this can help take our partnership to the next level of success.”

Kosuna estimated that Amino Up’s overseas sales will double in the next three years. “As a consequence, this necessitated the plan to increase our production capacity. We are very confident that this investment will bring a huge outcome in the long run.

“Amino Up is a company dedicated to maintaining people’s health and giving back to society,” Kosuna added. “We see our new facilities as a symbol of our mission. For this reason, our new facilities are built to be a model that will demonstrate that industrial production is possible by preserving the environment. We believe that this is possible if we commit ourselves to this mission.”

A Service to Partners

Sensient Flavors LLC • Indianapolis, IN • (317) 243-3521 Sensient Flavors CO2 extraction plant is located in Indianapolis, IN at the U.S. headquarters for the Sensient Flavors group. The new plant is in addition to the company’s original CO2 capabilities based in Bletchley, U.K. The plant comprises two commercial-scale, supercritical CO2 extractors as well as several pilot units available for research and development purposes. While Sensient has been employing combinations of proprietary extraction techniques for more than 30 years worldwide, the addition of CO2 extraction capabilities in the U.S. continues Sensient’s dedication to, and investment in, proprietary extraction techniques.

According to Jean-Philippe Giorgis, Sensient’s sales director, the decision to expand its extraction capabilities in the U. S. was in direct response to customer needs, increased sourcing opportunities and demand driven by the overall health and wellness market trends.

Along with supercritical CO2 extraction capabilities, the new facility offers combinations of other high-tech processes, such as molecular distillation. This will allow Sensient to provide high-quality extracts to food and beverage manufacturers in the U.S., thus improving the offering opportunities including straight, high-fidelity natural products, building blocks to help customers in their own formulations or enhanced natural flavors that are readyto- use in product development.

The new facility impacted the company’s services to its partners by continuing Sensient’s dedication to proprietary extraction techniques, and will enhance its ability to customize and deliver even more innovative, high-performance natural extracts, explained Giorgis. “With the expansion of CO2 extraction capabilities and manufacturing capacity to the U.S., Sensient is able to offer enhanced services, such as shortened Lead times and an expanded product portfolio of the company’s flagship natural extract line, Sensient Natural Origins to its U.S. customer base.” 

Driven by Sensient’s innovation teams in the U.S. and the U.K., Sensient Natural Origins™ is an extensive line of highly concentrated botanical extracts. The state-of-the-art facilities employs selective, low-temperature extraction processes, which capture the true, natural flavor and aroma profiles of original botanicals and are ideal for use in a wide range of applications in the dairy, savory, sweet and beverage sectors.

Efficient and Ergonomic

Traditional Medicinals • Sebastopol, CA • (800) 543-4372

In early 1974, three young friends started Traditional Medicinals® (TM) in the back storeroom of a small herb shop along the Russian River in Northern California. The company was founded with the intention of providing herbal teas for self-care, while preserving the knowledge and herbal formulas of traditional herbal medicine (THM).

The current manufacturing facility is now 54,000 square feet and operates 20 hours a day, four days a week to produce two million teabags weekly.

Plant Manager Mary Goff noted that since 1974, the company introduced millions of health-conscious consumers to traditional herbal tea formulas and the concepts of THM. “These reliable, natural teas were well received and TM has grown dramatically,” she said.

The latest addition to the manufacturing facility was the blending and repack department, which was built to improve the department’s dietary supplement GMP requirements, as well as efficiencies and ergonomics for the employees.

“The new department is comprised of four rooms, with two of the rooms positioned above the bottom two,”

Goff explained. “This allows for a gravity fed process when inspecting and transferring the herbs during the repack and blending processes,” she said, adding that the rooms were constructed of smooth cleanable walls, self-closing doors and a Vac-U Max [pneumatic conveying system] to transfer the herbs from the bottom floor to the second floor where the blender hopper is located.

Improved ergonomics for the employees is the biggest gain with the Vac-U-Max, Goff said. “Operators no longer are required to manually dump 100-lb. Barrels into a blender hopper. The new rooms provide a well-lit, clean environment to inspect and handle the herbs. This new environment makes it easier for the operators to inspect the herbs and ensure our suppliers are meeting our strict specifications.” 

Vac-U-Max also allows for a gentle transfer of the herbs to the blender— reducing the potential breakdown of herbs to smaller particle sizes, which can affect the quality of the dose per tea bag, Goff explained. Particle sizes that are too small can leak through the tea bag paper, compromising the proper dosage per tea bag. Higher quality Blends/higher quality tea bags and less waste are the two most significant improvements to the bottom line.

The investment was spawned by TM’s aggressive business plan to double its sales in the next four years. “In order to do that from a manufacturing standpoint improvements were needed in all areas of manufacturing,” said Goff. “The new blending and repack department is the first step in the manufacturing process and now, with the new equipment and room configuration, this area can handle the additional workload.”

Still, the new blending and repack department marks the first step in the bigger plan to improve the manufacturing process, according to Goff. “TM is currently in the planning phase to build a new production area for the tea bagging equipment. This will include an IMA C-24 tea-bagging machine, capable of twice the capacity of our current IMA C-21 machines. New case pack equipment is part of the plan—providing the ability to run up to six different products through one case packer, which allows for more flexibility with scheduling, longer production runs and higher efficiencies.”

Albion Minerals®
 
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