A Natural Way to Better Health

NutraLab Canada

His background was ideal for jumping into the natural health industry. Dr. Ou earned an M.D. and MSc in Toxicology in China and then earned an M.Phil. in Toxicology and a Ph.D. in Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of London. “I got both the Eastern and Western,” he points out.

After moving to Canada in 1995, Dr. Ou had to choose what he would do with such a wealth of knowledge. “I tried to figure out if I should get a job or set up a company,” he recalls. “Very quickly I decided to move ahead with my business.” He walked away from a lucrative career in the pharmaceutical industry and launched Honson Pharmatech Group.

It was the right choice. The small start-up quickly mushroomed from a one-man show to a sixty employee success story with several subsidiary companies, including Nutralab. “We got lucky because natural health food was [gaining popularity] in ‘95, so we came up at the right time,” Dr. Ou explains. And the nutraceutical industry continues to gain traction. “I think there is more demand, more market potential. People need to have supplements.”

Dr. Ou goes on to explain that vitamins, herbs, and other natural supplements inherently carry benefits that pharmaceuticals do not, particularly in the area of prevention. Nutraceutical products also do not carry many of the unwanted side effects associated with many drugs. “Some problems you can’t rely on medicine for,” Dr. Ou explains simply. “We need the natural way without any side effects.”

This way of thinking has long been accepted in Eastern medicine but, Dr. Ou admits, some doubt still lingers in the West. However, Dr. Ou’s impressive resume has helped convince more than a few naysayers. “I am 100 percent a scientist,” Dr. Ou points out, a fact that he says gives him increased credibility in the eyes of many Western consumers. And his scientific mind harbours no doubt that natural remedies work. The majority of Canadians have come to agree. “I think today 50 percent to 70 percent of the public are using health supplements,” he reports. “I think the trend is still going up.”

A smart business model has been just as foundational to the company’s success as the increasing demand for nutraceuticals. From the beginning, Dr. Ou has broken the business down into five year segments and assigned a particular focus and goal to each segment of time. “Every five years I moved to a different area,” he explains. The first five years focused on supplying raw materials to vitamin supplement manufacturing companies. At the end of this time period, Dr. Ou decided that, “We should go to the next level. People asked me, ‘you supply the raw material, why not make it into a capsule for us?’” Dr. Ou responded to this positive feedback and sizable market demand by launching Nutralab. The Honson Pharmatech subsidiary went a step farther than its parent company and manufactured the natural materials into an end product.

Dr. Ou soon realized that the Canadian market lacked a strong pharmaceutical machinery supplier to provide the equipment needed to produce soft gels, caplets, and capsules. His next initiative was to step in and fill this void. Dr. Ou established Pharmaland Technologies as a developer and international distributor of pharmaceutical manufacturing and packaging machinery. The plan made good business sense. “The people buying the raw materials can also buy the machinery,” Dr. Ou explains.

Experience using this type of machinery at Nutralab also gave the fledging company a leg up in the new field. Most notably, the team was able to channel its experience and skills into improving the designs of standard pharmaceutical machinery in order to provide the industry with better, more efficient equipment.

Dr. Ou’s long term business plan has yielded three interconnected companies that support one another. “I set up this synergetic business to be more competitive,” he explains. The plan has worked marvellously. The one stop shop can provide everything that its customers need, which clearly sets the multitasking business apart from much of the competition. “Most companies, they are only doing one thing,” Dr. Ou explains.

Competitors, however, have begun to take notice – and to follow suit. “I notice today more and more people are doing [something] similar. They realize it is important.” Indeed, Nutralab’s complete solution begins with its ability to supply the raw materials and carefully formulate the product. Then, the company can manufacture the product and bottle it. Next, it will apply the labeling, which the team will custom design to reflect the customer’s brand. Finally, Nutralab will package and ship the final product and provide all the necessary regulatory submissions and international documentation.

Nutralab’s 45,000 square foot facility is located in Markham, Ontario. This region, widely known as Canada’s high tech capital, is an ideal spot for nutraceutical manufacturing, research, and development. The company has been so successful there that it is opening a brand new, state of the art facility in nearby Toronto that will be three times larger than the existing one. “That offers a lot of good business opportunities,” Dr. Ou points out, “particularly to sell to big accounts like Wal-Mart and Shoppers Drug Mart.” The move will be completed by late summer and is sure to propel the ambitious company to the next level. Furthermore, business will continue uninterrupted throughout the transition.

The specially designed site will include manufacturing and packaging facilities as well as a warehouse, offices, and a showroom. As is the case with the current facility, the new plant will be capable of running virtually any dose form or order size, from very small batches to very large ones. And all batches will continue to run using the most advanced and high speed automated equipment. Products produced by the state of the art machinery include softgels, tablets, blister packaging and liquid filling.

Safety and quality will continue to be a primary focus in the new facility. The team has always been committed to pure, high quality ingredients and superior operational procedures. “We use only the most reliable sources of quality raw materials,” Dr. Ou points out. The company is fully licensed as a cGMP contract manufacturer by Health Canada in addition to being registered with the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). An on-site laboratory provides microbial and heavy metal testing as an internal method of quality control. And, all Nutralab facilities are Kosher and Halal certified.

The company’s rigorous standards also comply with leading Canadian industrial Associations, including Canadian Pharmaceutical and Drug Stores (CACDS), Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), and the Markham Board of Trade. Dr. Ou says that Nutralab has always adhered to these high standards – even before stringent regulations came into play. “When we started, [other] people were manufacturing capsules in the kitchen,” he remembers. Not Nutralab; when regulations tightened, it really didn’t impact the company. “We were always using a high standard,” Dr. Ou explains. Meanwhile, the kitchen-lab competition fell by the wayside.

Today, business is booming and Dr. Ou is revving up for his next five year plan. He recognizes that there is a growing overseas market and is poised to increase the company’s international presence. Nutralab already exports to around 15 different nations, but Dr. Ou sees far more potential for sales overseas, particularly in Asia. “The market will move there,” he insists. The greatest challenge, he adds, is simply managing a steady stream of revenue “while the business is growing rapidly.”

In fact, he is looking to expand his management team in order to provide more support in financial planning, marketing, and the running of everyday operations. The reason is simple. Ever the scientist, Dr. Ou is eager to return to the lab. “I can save my time for something I like more,” he laughs. And getting back to what he likes best is important. After all, Nutralab was founded on his love of science and research. And with Dr. Ou’s continued leadership, Nutralab is sure to continue making strides in nutraceutical research and development – a win-win for both the company and consumers.

July 19, 2018, 9:45 AM EDT

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