Growth in industry's size and commitment to quality fuel Alkemist's expansion, CEO says
The privately held company recently moved its laboratory into a new, vastly expanded facility in Garden Grove, CA. The company hosted an opening reception in connection with the recent Expo West trade show.
Reporters from NutraIngredients-USA were among the attendees. A tour of the new facility showed off the new lab space along with the new arrangements to house the company’s extensive collection of botanical reference standards.
Coming into compliance means more testing
Sudberg said the company’s growth has been part of the organic growth of the entire industry. But it is also a reflection of companies realizing that they need to up their compliance game.
“The continuous growth we have seen is partly from the industry’s growth, and partly because more companies are doing more testing. We get new clients every day. They are not new to the market, but rather new to compliance with maturing federal laws,” Sudberg told NutraIngredients-USA.
He said his company saw a bump in demand for its services following the rollout of GMP requirements for the smallest tier of industry. That happened in 2010, and as small companies wrestled with coming into full compliance, many realized doing all the testing that was required would either mean having their own lab, which many could not afford, or forming a more comprehensive relationship with an outside provider.
“Our sales have increased 15-30% year after year since inception. The biggest growth has been following major scandals, adulterations and of course implementation of federal laws supporting quality. Being a little lab in a sea of massive labs, I understand the challenges of making ends meet, which is why we try to work closely with AHPA's small business committee, offering them a considerate pricing structure so that size doesn’t limit commitment to quality,” Sudberg said.
Finding a niche
In an industry dominated by global companies operating dozens of labs, Sudberg said Alkemist sought to specialize. Its core competence is in botanical ingredient identification, which is where that extensive reference collection comes into play. One of the highlights of the library is a smidgen of hoodia collected during an expedition in the Kalahari Desert in the early 1900s during which the plant was first identified.
“I don’t think the industry needs another big box retailer sort of lab. Besides, metals, pesticides and microbiology are straight up boring to me. We have always been a boutique lab. Our specialty is plant testing,” Sudberg said.
The company can verify identity via microscopy and HPTLC and will soon bring DNA testing online in a portion of the new lab dedicated to that technology. And it can quantify potency via HPLC, UPLC, and GC. The lab can bring this variety of approaches to bear to verify that the finished product matches what’s on the label.
“It’s what we are good at, it’s what the industry still needs a lot of, and it’s what excites me,” Sudberg said.
The new facility will offer ample space for growth both for additional employees as well as new instruments, Sudberg said. And it affords a more rational layout for the company’s existing capabilities.
“Our incredible botanical reference collection was stored in the same cabinets we have now, although in a warehouse dysfunctionally separate from the lab space. It was inconvenient and a bit discombobulated, but our only option in the former small space. The new location allows a strategically designed space just for our invaluable collection with a logical flow and ease of access, all in an effort to better support the HPTLC team's quickly growing needs and ultimately improving our HPTLC turn-around time for the industry,” he said.