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How Are Supplements Made?

In my last video I digressed somewhat to give you a bit of background about supplements. 

I made that video about four years ago. I said I would follow it up with another one showing how supplements should be made. 

We filmed this video about four years ago.  In it I refer to our new facility being built three years earlier – which is now 7 years ago as at May 2020. 

I hope that you find it interesting. If it raises any questions please feel free to ask them in the comments below. 

How Supplements Should be Made

Last week I gave you some general background on the supplement industry. I touched on the reasons we sometimes hear negative reports about them in the media and why these reports are usually invalid.

This week I’m going to take you inside our own facility at Xtend-Life to show you how supplements should be made.

We purpose-built this facility about three years ago and it is state-of-the-art. But, as you will see shortly, it takes more than just a good building to make a good product.

There are many high quality facilities around the world producing dietary supplements which are at pharmaceutical standards similar to what I’m about to show you.

Unfortunately, there are also many facilities that should be shut down through the use of substandard equipment processes and hygiene. But that’s another story for another day.

Regulations and Standards

Before I start, I should mention about regulatory standards for the manufacture of dietary supplements. If you were to believe some people you would think that they were no standards at all, particularly in the USA.

That could not be further from the truth.

The US FDA have developed a very robust set of GMP regulations. Although by law all manufacturers should comply there are a significant percentage of manufacturers in the US who still do not. The problem is that the enforcement by the FDA is not as good as it should be. Now that they are getting further resources are no doubt enforcement will continue to improve.

As a New Zealand manufacturer, we can’t risk being non-compliant otherwise our products could be stopped at the border. So what you’re about to see is how products should be produced if the manufacturer is in compliance with the Regulations.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Raw ingredients for supplements

If you don’t have quality raw ingredients you cannot have a quality finished product, period. Of course, we make the decision of where to source the raw ingredient from well in advance of it arriving at the factory. We thoroughly research the manufacturer of each ingredient to ensure that they meet the quality criteria that we have established. This may also require an onsite audit of their facilities.

The standard of the manufacturer is more important than where they are located. We use ingredient suppliers from New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, South America, several countries in Europe, Malaysia, India and China.

We test everything

Every ingredient is put through a series of tests when it arrives at our Factory. It doesn’t matter how good or reliable the manufacturer of the ingredient may be.

These tests involve taking samples of each ingredient in sending them to specialist labs around the world.

Not only do we test for contaminants, we also test for identity and pay them see. In other words, is the ingredient exactly as it says on the certificate of analysis and does it have the correct amount of active ingredients at the right potency. Some ingredients we are able to test in our laboratory but most of them go to specialist labs. The ingredients are stored in a separate quarantine area pending release while we wait for the results.

Because of the care that we take in selecting manufacturers we don’t have many tests fail, perhaps 20 a year. If they do, we send the ingredients back to the manufacturer and refuse to accept them.

When the ingredients are clear for use they are taken out of quarantine and put into our general store. They are then available for use in production.

Documentation – the supplement “passport”

The next step in the process when we are ready to manufacture a product is for our QA department to prepare all the documentation for that particular batch. There is a lot of documentation which sets out the processes for each batch.

On site production

Now, let me take you into our factory so you can see what happens next. Andrew, our production manager, has been with us for more than 10 years and keeps our production flowing nicely.

To get into the factory we have to go through an airlock because of pressurization systems. We also need to change into suitable clothing to prevent any potential contamination getting into the factory. The air control system is a very important part of factory as it prevents cross-contamination by controlling pressure in various areas.

In addition, the filtering system makes the air is clean as the hospital operation theatre.

Inside the factory

Our raw ingredients get into the factory from the warehouse airlock system. The first step is to weigh them in the quantities needed for the particular product. Our blending protocols set out the specific way that we put the ingredients together.

When the ingredients are being weighed we have a double check for accuracy. This requires two people to sign off on each ingredient.

Blending

The next step is to blend the ingredients. This is where Xtend-Life’s process is quite different to most other manufacturers.

Rather than putting all the ingredients in a blender or mixer and stirring them up for 20 minutes which is the norm, we go through a very systematic process of adding ingredients into the blender in a specific order. This takes several hours for our most complex products such as Total Balance and it’s a bit like baking a cake.

A really big cake.

We also use a different type of mixer called a 3d blender. This blender ensures all the ingredients are mixed evenly.

You’ve no doubt heard of reports which have said that some supplements contain either too much of an ingredient or too little. If manufacturers don’t take enough care at the blending stage, the active ingredients in the tablets can vary from one to another.

This does not happen with our process as we validate the mixing process for each product by doing extensive tests with dummy product and specific markers that we test in the lab for uniformity.

After the blending is complete we take the mix through to the rooms where we either encapsulate or tablet the products.

Enteric coating

After this, in the case of our flagship product Total Balance, we begin the process of enteric coating.

This is something that is very rare in the supplement industry because it is a complex and expensive process.

This process protects the ingredients from being damaged by stomach acid by putting a special coating on the tablets. This coating is a natural, vegetable base and works on the ph in the digestive system.

What this means is that will not be affected by stomach acid. The upper intestine is alkaline, so the tablet quickly dissolves. This allows the ingredients to pass through the walls of the intestine and into the bloodstream to be transported to our cells.

Bottling

After the enteric coating process is complete, the tablets are sorted to remove any broken ones prior to going through to our bottling line.

This is a state-of-the-art line and the counting system is highly accurate. But even with the best systems there may be one in a thousand bottles that the count might be out by one tablet or capsule. So we set the counters to supply one extra. This means our customers never get shortchanged.

Final testing

The finished product is then put into quarantine pending release or through the testing for both micros and heavy metals. We’re not required by regulation to test for heavy metals at the stage and is probably unnecessary because we test all raw ingredients for these at the point they came into the factory but we do it anyway just as a further precaution.

The finished product is then tested again, even though all raw ingredients were tested for contamination prior to being used. This is just in case there’s been a slip-up during manufacture and there was some contamination.

In our almost 16 years of history we’ve never had a  negative result on a finished product.

Whilst we’re waiting for the results to come back we also test the tablets for dissolution which we do in our own lab. We confirm that the tablet is protected from the stomach acid and breaks down rapidly in the intestines by simulating the acid environment of the stomach and the alkaline environment of the upper intestine.

That is how our supplements are made. I haven’t shared how we make our super food or skincare products. That’s for a future episode.

Other departments

Whilst we’re here today we quickly show you the rest of our facility which you haven’t seen. You’ve already seen our QA Department so let’s start with where we ship your products after you order online.

Our staff in this department collate all the orders and prepare them for shipping all around the world. We service customers in about 40 different countries with about 75% of the orders going to the USA. We always ship the orders as soon as possible. That means the same business day or the next business day if they come late in.

Let me give you a quick intro to the other departments. Along here we have new product development, project management, purchasing, IT and e-commerce. Across the hall here we have our customer relations team and along here our administration and of course our reception.

Someone asked me where my office is. I don’t have one. I travel so much I intend to work virtually, but I use the boardroom when I’m in New Zealand. This is where I do most of the filming for these episodes.

Well, that’s a quick tour of how supplements are made. If you’d like to know more you’re always welcome to get in touch with me through our website at Xtend-Life.

Until next week, take care.

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