JW Nutritionals expands, riding the wave of a 'changed' sports nutrition sphere

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

JW Nutritionals photo
JW Nutritionals photo

Related tags Sports nutrition Nutrition

Texas-based contract manufacturer JW Nutritionals is riding a wave of demand with the opening of a new facility in Plano.

The new, 55,000-sq-ft facility  is devoted to the production of protein powdered products, and is meant to capitalize on the booming demand in the sports nutrition sphere. The new facility, housed in a retrofitted building, almost doubles JW’s production capacity. It builds upon JW’s previous experience in servicing sports nutrition customers.

“We saw that there were additional opportunities in the protein market. Just in the last six months we acquired the building in Plano. Protein is a very large volume game and it takes a lot of room to move those big sacks around,” ​Jesse Windrix, CEO of JW Nutritionals told NutraIngredients-USA.  “We have done some of those products in our existing facility but it is not ideal.”

Growing up with GMPs

Windrix and his partners started manufacturing dietary supplements in the Tulsa, OK area in 2004. At first they were focused on putting together products to build their own brand, and fell into contract manufacturing almost by happenstance.

“We were trying to build a brand up from nothing on a shoestring, with guerilla-style marketing, and we were placing it into smaller retailers. Those people then were asking us, can you make some products for us? Small runs, 50 bottles, 100 bottles. It’s not originally what we wanted to do but then we thought, maybe there is something to this contract manufacturing,” ​he said.

The company started to grow strongly in the 2006 to 2007 time frame, Windrix said. They mastered new capabilities and added equipment and personnel and made the move to the Dallas area as part of a now expired joint venture. That time frame is important, he said, because JW was around just as the industry was digesting what GMP compliance was going to mean, and the company made a key hire of a quality control manager with extensive experience in pharmaceutical manufacturing.

“We got in at the right time. If you got in any later than we got in, it would have been extremely tough. We got in when the industry was figuring out that 800-page document, and we were very lucky to bring on board our quality manager, who had a wealth of knowledge from the pharmaceutical industry when it came to things like what kind of batch records you need to have, and what a proper MMR looks like,”​ Windrix said.

Windrix said the company’s experience and track record with sports nutrition brand holders has meant that it has not had to invest much in marketing up to now. The company built its capacities in the field servicing a variety of customers, many of whom wanted to do smaller batches. Most new customers arrived via a word-of-mouth connection.

“Sports nutrition has been our niche, and they are some of the hardest products to run. They want you to cram as much as you can into a capsule, and they use difficult ingredients. Highly concentrated extracts, sticky, highly hydroscopic. And they are some of the most difficult things to flavor, to mask off flavors and make them taste good,”​  he said.

Shedding the stigma

Windrix said sports nutrition has had a stigma in the past, a stigma that perhaps in some cases was deserved, coming as it did from a penchant of using questionable ingredients. Certainly, it is an area of concern for FDA, as sports nutrition products are among the products posing as dietary supplements that are most likely to contain undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients. But Windrix said he believes that is changing, and it is a change that is being driven by consumer demand. In the old days, gym rats were prone to ingest almost anything, now matter how objectionable from a taste perspective or questionable from an ingredient standpoint, if they believed it would work, and product formulators fell in with that mindset.

“Prior to Part 111, a lot of those quality questions really hadn’t come up, and a lot of the sports guys just really hadn’t concerned themselves with that.  A lot of these guys are great customers, but it is typically smaller runs and the industry does come with a stigma,” ​Windrix said.

“But sports nutrition is changing. You are starting to see sports nutrition consumers become more educated and more concerned about what’s in their products. Our sports nutrition customers are now concerned about things like natural flavors and natural sweeteners,”​ he said.

JW now has NSF certification for its manufacturing facilities, and Windrix said it is the kind of thing that has become mandatory in the modern contract manufacturing sphere.

“We are trying to diversify and minimize our customer concentration. The big players are putting on some stringent requirements.  If you don’t have something like an NSF certification, they don’t even want to talk to you,”​ he said.

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