he stricter regulatory climate governing suppliers of dietary supplements has been a boon for Vitality Works, a liquid herbal extracts company based in Albuquerque, N.M.
“The increased regulation of our industry has been good for us,” says Mitch Coven, the founder, owner, president and CEO of Vitality Works. “The suppliers of dietary supplements are being audited more frequently by the FDA. We follow all of the certification rules and regulations. Other companies were not prepared for that.”
Vitality Works maintains “a level of expertise that few other companies can compete with,” says Coven. “We also have climate control.”
Earlier this year, the company moved from its 21,000-sq.-ft. (1,950-sq.-m.) former home to a new 110,000-sq.-ft. (10,220-sq.-m.) headquarters in Albuquerque. “We purchased a facility on 22 acres [nine hectares],” Coven says. “It is fulfilling our needs now and it is designed for future growth as well.”
The firm currently employs 85 workers. “We added 25 employees in the past nine months, and our work force should be above 100 by early next year,” adds Coven.
Vitality Works manufactures dietary supplements for many of the top brands in the U.S., including Sprouts, Vitamin Shoppe and Farmers Market.
“Many of these products are sold in health food stores around the country,” Coven notes. “We do vitamins D3 and D12 and other natural products like Stevia, St. John’s Wort and Echinacea.”
Coven says the Albuquerque location has enabled the company to thrive in a highly competitive market. “We moved here in 1982 from Chicago for quality of life and the low costs of doing business,” he says. “I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and I loved it here from the very first day I arrived.”
Coven had not yet established his business back then. “I was looking for graduate schools. I fell in love with Albuquerque and New Mexico and decided to stay,” he says. “I started my own business and it took off. I found it easy to be successful here.”
Coven says he likes his firm’s Albuquerque location for many reasons. “We find our employees from the local market,” he notes. “We place local ads. We like to pull workers from an educated labor pool — people who are familiar with FDA-regulated manufacturing. We also recruit by word of mouth within the industry.”
The economic developers of New Mexico helped Vitality Works with its recent expansion project, Coven adds.
“I learned about Albuquerque Economic Development [AED} when we were looking for space,” he says. “Local brokers and developers helped me find the right space. Being a rapidly growing company, I found that the economic incentives available to us helped us get into a bigger facility right away. We got an industrial revenue bond, and we secured a New Market Tax Credit through the New Mexico Finance Authority.”
Coven, who now sits on AED’s board of directors, notes that “there is tremendous potential for this industry here. There are a couple of companies like ours in this area. We hope to become a center of manufacturing for natural products, particularly dietary supplements. There is a lot of support for this industry in the city and state. A lot of people here have training in how to operate in an FDA-regulated manufacturing environment.”
Coven adds that “it is easy to access political leaders here. We have very supportive people in government. AED is working hard to increase incentives for companies like ours. The business climate here is very good.”
The presence of the University of New Mexico is a plus, says Coven. “Recently, we hired some graduates from the UNM biology department, and they have been among our best hires,” he says.
“This sector is growing 5 percent a year,” he adds. “Vitality Works is growing 40 percent this year, compared to 25 percent in other recent years. We see a lot of growth ahead too.”