Sourcing ingredients for supplements is an art. You cannot just go to ingredients.com and add 10kg of vitamin E to the cart. You need to know that the supplier can be trusted to deliver perfect quality ingredients, ethically sourced, and in a time frame that won’t hold up production.
G&G’s buyer, has been with G&G since 1987. With 30 years under his belt, Mark knows this field rather well. Just because Vitamins Ltd says they can deliver 50kg of B1 by Thursday, does not always mean they can, or that it will pass it’s lab tests. Having dealt with almost every possible supplier in the past, Mark already knows who can be trusted.
There are a small handful of staple European companies who can be relied upon to deliver ingredients, and uphold quality. It is the new upstarts in China that are really changing the game and altering the deep set patterns when it comes to raw supplies of vitamin powders.
The Chinese phenomenon is one that has affected almost every major industry worldwide. Supplement manufacture is no different. Avoiding doing business with China is now almost impossible. If China can provide Vitamin C at £20 per kilo, and that same powder is £100 per Kilo from a UK source, then to remain competitive you cannot rule out use of the Chinese supplier.
Of course, China has always suffered from one major problem. Quality. China has always put quantity first, in almost every aspect of it’s existence. Within the vitamin supplement industry (or really any industry where the product is going to be swallowed!) quality is the single most important issue. So, if you’re going to use ingredients sourced from China, and especially from a new supplier, you’re going to have to test whatever it is they supplied in the lab first.
There is a secondary problem too. Time. Shipping from China by boat takes a long time. You can fly supplies over quite quickly, but that can be costly. Once the vitamin ingredients arrive, then it has to go to the lab for testing. This process all takes time. Testing for micros within ingredients is inherently slow, as you have to give contaminating life forms time to grow and rear their ugly heads within the lab and that may involve waiting for weeks to confirm nothing grows. The customer will often want as short a lead time as possible, and waiting for ingredients to arrive on a boat does not suit.
Prices on vitamin and mineral supplies from China are also highly changeable. The primary problem supplement manufacturers within China face is the governments new environmental protection policy. The Chinese are not messing around when it comes to cleaning up their pollution problem. Factories are expected to clean up their act, and if they don’t comply they are aggressively shut down or even bulldozed. Creating certain vitamins, amino acids, herbal extracts and minerals can produce some pretty nasty waste and byproducts that the Chinese are no longer permitted to simply dump. The real world affect of this on the industry is high price volatility, as factories are closed down and rebuilt, or whole new manufacturing processes are created. To give an example, vitamin B3 variety Inositol Hexanicotinate, better known as Nicotinamide has risen in price significantly over recent months as two major producers in China have been totally shut down. Chinese stock levels are low, and thus the price is sky high. Most Amino Acids also face a similar situation. Meanwhile some products, especially those that have been highly popular in recent time such as Co-Q 10 are lowering in price as China has already had time to learn how to make this cleanly and develop internal competition. This means the pricing on products to the end customer are currently far more unstable than they used to be.
Ultimately G&G will always try to buy ingredients from trusted suppliers, as quality always has to trump price. We will always use British stockists where possible. We proffer people we have worked with for years, who’s factories we have inspected, who’s hands we have shaken, and who’s product has been tested and tested and tested until we know it is perfect. Some ingredients such as microbiotics are best sourced from the USA, for the simple reason of nobody produces a better culture than one particular factory in Nebraska. Where we have to, we will purchase ingredients from China provided suitable certification can be found, and the time frame permits the cross checks in the labs locally.
Sourcing good quality supplement ingredients is something takes time to perfect. One has to try each approach, and repeat only those methods that worked. G&G’s buying team are experts. They know that for us quality always comes first. They know we have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure our supplement ingredients are perfect, which ensures in turn than the supplements we manufacture are perfect.