Columbia Nutritional – Quality health solutions

written by BVM May 8, 2019
Columbia Nutritional production machine.

Columbia Nutritional

Quality health solutions

 

Business View Magazine interviews Ned Becker, CEO of Columbia Nutritional as part of our focus on the neutraceutical and supplement industry.

Columbia Nutritional is a full-service custom, contract manufacturing company that is focused on the formulation and production of dietary supplements in the form of hard-shell capsules, tablets and powder drink mixes. According to its CEO, Ned Becker, “The company was formed in 1998, by a couple of smaller, family companies that were based in Vancouver, Washington. They cut their teeth working with small, independent, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, and alternative medicine professionals to develop nutritional supplement products for their specific clients and specific functional needs. The Pacific Northwest is kind of a hotbed for alternative medicinal practitioners, given that Bastyr University is in the Seattle area and many of those graduates come out and open up their own clinics to serve patients in the area. So, natural products and alternative medicines are very popular here because of that.”

“Columbia was acquired about six years ago by a private group of investors who bought out the families that originally owned the company, and added some more production experience to grow the business,” Becker continues. “That private investor group is still actively involved to continue the growth of the company in a very strong market, that’s grown from about a $6 billion market in 1995, to over $46 billion in retail sales, today. So, it’s been a very high growth industry.”

Columbia Nutritional is strictly a contract manufacturer for a variety of brands, who then market their own product lines. Becker explains, “We take their formula idea, we create a specification of that formula, we source and test all the ingredients, and then we compile them together to manufacture them in a capsule format, or a tablet, or a drink mix formula. Then we’ll package that product in the specific bottle or package that they require, adhere their label, or have their marketing information printed on the product, and ship it back to them for their resale, either direct to their consumers or the distribution channel that they work through.”

The company has two manufacturing facilities, staffed by a total of 135 employees, a 75,000-sq.-ft. headquarters and manufacturing operation in Vancouver, Washington, and a 24,000-sq.-ft. facility in Columbus, Ohio. “In Vancouver, we have all three of our major manufacturing capabilities, in terms of blending, encapsulation, tabletting, and powder filling,” Becker notes. “In the Columbus, Ohio facility, it’s strictly a powder blending and powder filling operation to support some of our east coast clients. Those products are typically heavier in weight, so the shipping costs are more of a factor. So, we’re a little closer to some of our markets that we serve in the eastern U.S. But, we serve clients all over the country, as well as internationally. Pills are pretty light in nature and cost-effective to ship in bottles, so, we really don’t have any geographic limitations.”

Becker reports that, over the last two decades, the company has produced over 4,000 individual formulations, sourced over 3,200 unique ingredients and packaging components, and developed and launched over 150 products, annually. Last year, it manufactured over 500 million capsules and tablets, 1.2 million kilograms of powdered drink mixes, and 6.8 million bottles of pills and powders. Columbia Nutritional is registered with the US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and compliant with 21 CFR Part 111. It is GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified by the Natural Product Association through UL Laboratories

Since becoming CEO a few months ago, Becker says he has concentrated on improving the company’s internal processes and systems in order to get its clients’ brands to market more quickly and efficiently, while still maintaining full compliance with FDA requirements. “Sometimes that requirement to get a product to market and ensure compliance may take a little bit of time,” he admits, “but we want to do it right with a sense of urgency and responsiveness. We’re also working on creating programs for replenishment of our customers’ products in a more timely manner, as well, working with our vendors to coordinate the inbound shipment timings and ensuring they have inventory of the raw materials.”

“Finally, we try to be very proactive in our communication with our customers,” he adds, “giving them weekly updates on the status of their orders; communicating any challenges or potential problems that come up; and working together to solve them from a partnership perspective. We want them to view us as an outreach of their own operation, emphasizing improved communication on a regular basis.”

Going forward, Becker says he would like to see Columbia Nutritional expand its manufacturing capabilities. “Our goal is to increase our business to utilize a lot of unutilized capacity that we currently have,” he states. “We could probably double or triple our plant output over the course of the next three or four years without any major infrastructure investments, and our team has been focused on systems design and more experienced personnel in key areas. I just, recently, promoted our Vice President for Quality, Brea Viratos, to take the company to a higher level of certification status. I’ve also brought in a 15-year industry expert in customer service and product development support to lead up our team in those areas. I’m also expanding our internal expertise from an industry experience basis to get ourselves positioned for growth, and to be able to support larger brands that require higher standards than they may typically find in the industry.”

“We’re also looking at investing in a specialized infrastructure for expanding probiotic manufacturing capabilities,” he adds. “The probiotic market is growing rapidly. We are in some early stage talks with a strategic partner that could help catapult our sophistication and knowledge in processing and manufacturing finished-dose, probiotic formulas at a higher level of standards. We do currently manufacture products in that area, anyway, but this will catapult us to another level of support and sophistication. It’s an exciting area that we’re investing in, internally.

“The other major investment I’m looking at over the course of the next couple of years is our laboratory testing capabilities. That is a big portion of our processing times – making sure that ingredients meet our specifications from a testing perspective. So, we are making an investment in adding microbial testing. We’re bringing in bio-luminex; it’s a rapid test process. We’ll use that for both our raw material incoming testing, as well as our finished product testing to help speed up that process and get a little more control. Over time, we’re looking at making even more investments in our lab capabilities to test for heavy metals and, eventually, more analytical and assay tests, as well.”

In closing, Becker touts Columbia Nutritional’s advantages in a rapidly growing and highly competitive marketplace: “Columbia has had a long, successful history and a lot of experience in the industry, working with a variety of different products and customers in terms of product needs,” he states. “We are focused on ensuring compliance from a quality and regulatory perspective. We’re very focused on servicing the customer. Finally, we’re well-positioned to grow with a lot of capacity for growth; we’re able to bring on new products and customers and put them into our manufacturing schedule.”

AT A GLANCE

WHO: Columbia Nutritional

WHAT: A full-service custom, contract manufacturing services company

WHERE: Vancouver, Washington

WEBSITE: www.columbianutritional.com

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