Nutritional Laboratories Sharpens Its Edge
For more than 15 years, Missoula-based Nutritional Laboratories Inc. has ridden the cutting edge of dietary supplement manufacturing, employing meticulous production processes and redundant quality controls to produce the most sophisticated vitamin, mineral and botanical formulas available. As a contract manufacturer, the company focuses on providing products for large brands that seek to limit liability by marketing the best-quality products available.
“We recognized from the start that the larger brands needed a contract manufacturer that was more than just a food-grade manufacturer of supplements,” said Terry Benishek, a former automotive industry executive who helped found Nutritional Laboratories in 1997. “We started with that philosophy and the company has grown every year since.”
By early 2014, the company was manufacturing some 60 million tablets and capsules per month at its two facilities — one on West Third Street in Missoula, the other in Lolo. While the company can’t name its client brands due to confidentiality agreements, the labels would be familiar to anyone who purchases supplements at stores across America and overseas.
Nutritional Laboratories’ position in the marketplace proved prescient. In 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a new set of guidelines for supplement manufacturers that significantly tightened quality and testing regulations, bringing them more in line with drug manufacturing standards.
While the new standards played to Nutritional Laboratories’ strengths, Benishek saw that his company needed to upgrade its ability to prove the purity of its raw materials — or risk losing market share to competing manufacturers that were upgrading their own capacities in response to the new standards.
What Nutritional Laboratories needed, in short, was a high-performance liquid chromatography mass spectrophotometer.
“Yes, that’s a mouthful,” Benishek laughed. “What it allows us to do is properly identify more complicated raw materials, blends of raw materials and raw materials from extractions. It’s equipment that you will not find anywhere else in contract manufacturing of dietary supplements.”
The price tag for the new equipment? More than $400,000.
Around the time Benishek determined the company needed to make that purchase, he was approached by staff at the Missoula Economic Partnership as part of the nonprofit’s regular outreach to local businesses. After hearing about Nutritional Laboratories’ growth potential and challenges, Partnership Business Development Director Brigitta Miranda-Freer suggested that the company could qualify for a grant from the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund.
Working with the BitterRoot Economic Development District, the Partnership helped Benishek secure a $412,500 grant to defray the cost of the spectrophotometer. The Partnership also helped the labs secure a nationally competitive, low-interest loan of more than $500,000 to expand its manufacturing operation in Lolo.
As a result, Nutritional Laboratories will not only remain at the forefront of its industry, but also is on plan to add more than 55 new jobs by 2016, as it absorbs contracts from companies that have failed to keep up with the changing FDA standards. Including the company’s own investment, the project will result in more than $1.1 million in local capital investment.
“We were not aware of these programs until (the Partnership) told us about them,” Benishek said. “This funding will make a tremendous difference in our ability to stay competitive and grow.”