In the ever-evolving world of supplement manufacturing, there may come a time when transitioning from one contract manufacturer to another becomes necessary. For example, we recently learned a prominent provider of manufacturing services abruptly ceased its operations, leaving their current customers scrambling to find a new company to work with. We empathize with brands that have become entangled in this situation. Whether due to shifting business needs, quality concerns, or the desire to expand product offerings, a smooth transition is essential to minimize disruptions and ensure continued product quality and success. Here is our step-by-step guide for transitioning from one supplement contract manufacturer to a new one.
Step 1: Evaluate your current situation.
- Assess your reasons for transitioning and clearly define your goals and expectations for the new contract manufacturer.
- Identify any specific challenges or issues you faced with your current manufacturer to avoid repeating them in the future.
- Collect physical samples and documents you might need from your old contract manufacturer, especially if your product is already in production.
This first step is vital when considering a change to a new supplement manufacturer. We find brand owners who take the time to address these points in advance possess a better vision of their business and can communicate their objectives to us. It helps ensure a smooth transition to a new contract manufacturing partner.
Step 2: Research and shortlist potential contract manufacturers.
- Conduct thorough research to identify potential contract manufacturers that align with your requirements.
- Consider factors such as years of experience, production capabilities, quality control processes, regulatory compliance, and reputation.
- Shortlist a few manufacturers that best meet your criteria.
- Be cautious of fraudulent manufacturers by checking for deceptive practices such as irrelevant awards, unrealistic claims, and stock images on their websites. Other signs of supplement brokers or manufacturers who shouldn’t be trusted include:
- Using the FDA logo on their website is against the law, and every manufacturer or broker knows it. If companies are blatantly doing it, you can only imagine what happens behind the scenes.
- A website exclusively containing positive testimonials using generic names is a red flag. You may also notice a pattern of one-star ratings in their Google Business Reviews that detail instances of falsehoods and dishonest encounters, coinciding with a sudden surge of five-star reviews to overshadow the negative feedback. Brand owners should take these Google Business reviews with a grain of salt. Google poorly moderates the comments, making it easy for a customer or competitor to defame a company and its employees. Very rarely will Google remove these fraudulent reviews.
- Their certifications page is not specific to their industry certifications (NSF/GMP for manufacturing). They hold certifications that are not relevant to supplement manufacturing.
- They claim to be a jack of all trades. Most supplement manufacturers advertise and can produce capsules, tablets, and powders. However, liquids, softgels, and gummies are more complicated to manufacture, and it would be difficult for a manufacturer to do them all well. At the very least, the manufacturer would have to work out of a 300,000 square-foot facility.
Thorough evaluations are essential. Consider the importance of experience, capabilities, and reputation. Prioritize trustworthiness and expertise to establish a partnership that aligns with your needs.
Step 3: Request proposals and evaluate options.
- Reach out to the shortlisted contract manufacturers and request detailed proposals.
- Evaluate the proposals based on pricing, production capacity, lead times, quality control measures, ingredient sourcing, regulatory compliance, and additional services or support offered.
- Avoid selecting a manufacturer solely based on price and prioritize the quality and safety of your products.
A brand owner should not select a supplement manufacturer solely on price. In this industry, you absolutely get what you pay for. Brand owners must recognize their products will be ingested by other human beings. Choosing to cut corners could have disastrous effects on their business – both in the short and long term.
Step 4: Conduct site visits and due diligence.
- Arrange site visits to the facilities of the top contenders.
- Observe their manufacturing processes, equipment, quality control labs, and storage facilities.
- Ask relevant questions about their operations, certifications, supply chain management, and traceability.
- Perform due diligence by checking references and verifying certifications.
This step is critical, especially if your product(s) was already in production with another supplement manufacturing company. If it was a reorder and timing is crucial, you should get several quotes from other manufacturers; it does not cost anything to shop around and have options. Should you find yourself in a position where you need to start over, at least you completed most of the time-consuming due diligence and formulation exercises ahead of time.
Step 5: Determine if they can accommodate your production needs.
- Clearly define your production needs, including the desired volume, frequency, and capacity.
- Consider other factors like production scalability, machinery, facilities, and workforce.
- Communicate any challenges you foresee and evaluate if the manufacturer can address them effectively.
Understanding their supplement production capacity and capabilities is essential. Do they possess the resources, equipment, and production capabilities to meet your current demands? Can they scale with your business over time? Also, consider their track record and experience handling similar production needs for other clients, especially those who had transitioned from another supplement contract manufacturer.
Step 6: Negotiate terms and sign the contract.
- Negotiate the terms of the agreement with the chosen contract manufacturer.
- Ensure the contract outlines production requirements, quality standards, timelines, pricing, intellectual property rights, and additional services or support.
- Seek legal advice if needed to protect your interests.
This step should never be “fast.” When manufacturing a dietary supplement for the first time with a new company, be sure to give yourself plenty of time and ensure the specifications of your product are the primary talking point. A quick manufacturing lead time will mean nothing if the product fails to meet your specifications – or worse – falls short of a consumers’ expectations.
Step 7: Develop a transition plan.
- Collaborate with your new contract manufacturer to create a detailed transition plan.
- Include a timeline for product transfer (if applicable), inventory management, raw material sourcing, formulation adjustments (if necessary), and quality control protocols.
- Clearly communicate expectations and product specifications.
A reputable supplement manufacturer will be transparent and honest about realistic expectations. If your new manufacturer is asking great questions and is genuinely working on the problem-solving as hard as you are, it is a sign of a great partner.
Step 8: Manage inventory and production transfer.
- Coordinate closely with your new contract manufacturer to transfer inventory, raw materials, and production-related documentation.
- Establish protocols for quality control testing and product validation during the transition period.
- Monitor closely to address any unforeseen issues promptly.
Ask what their department procedures are for each step of the entire manufacturing process. What types of investments have they made in the organization? They should share answers on their machines, personnel, quality process, certifications (outside the minimum), product packaging, dose forms, etc.
Once a potential supplement contract manufacturer hears about your situation, they will know you are vulnerable. Compare their answers to other manufacturing companies to ensure they are not taking advantage. A reputable manufacturer will sympathize with your needs and value your partnership more than the sale.
Step 9: Ensure regulatory compliance.
- Ensure that the transition process adheres to regulatory requirements and guidelines.
- Verify that the new contract manufacturer complies with all relevant regulations and assist them in obtaining any necessary certifications or registrations.
Ask the company you’re thinking about working with if they are a direct manufacturer or if they work with a “partner.” Make sure your manufacturer is doing the actual work. Not having full transparency with your contract manufacturer is the #1 most common issue with new brands in the industry. Many supplement contract manufacturing companies advertise on the internet and reference their vast capabilities yet sub the business to the cheapest supplier. Often, this can mean your product will get made in a facility that does not have the necessary certifications. A foolproof way to determine you are dealing directly with the manufacturer is to ask for specifics. Here are a few:
- NSF manufacturing certificate (not warehouse/packaging)
- Organic certification from QAI
- Health Canada site license/registration
- NSF for Sport certification (not warehouse/packaging)
Step 10: Continuously monitor and communicate.
- Maintain open lines of communication with the new contract manufacturer throughout the transition period.
- Regularly review and assess their performance, addressing any concerns or issues promptly.
- Monitor product quality, customer feedback, and market response to ensure a successful transition.
Transitioning from one supplement contract manufacturer to another can be complex and stressful for established and up-and-coming brands. However, knowing how to select and collaborate with a new manufacturer can help simplify the process. Specifically, open communication, collaboration, and adherence to quality and regulatory standards are the keys to a smooth transition.
Vitaquest is Your Full-Service Supplement Manufacturing Solution
Vitaquest is adept at expecting the unexpected. For over 45 years, we have established ourselves as one of the leading supplement development and nutraceutical manufacturing companies by offering turnkey solutions across a broad range of custom formulations. We’ve grown because of successful collaborations with thousands of brands like you, and we have continually invested in the facilities and capabilities needed to support them. We will guide you through your transition every step of the way.
Call 800-526-9095 to speak with one of our experienced sales executives or send us your request for a free price quote!