Quality from start to finish
Manufacturing dietary supplements, like many other consumer products, is an involved and complicated process with many steps to be completed along the way. NOW® goes to great lengths to ensure that quality is prioritized throughout the manufacturing process.
Purchasing is where it all begins
Our manufacturing process actually begins long before any ingredients are in-process for production. NOW purchasing agents have the daunting but rewarding task of finding the best source for hundreds of ingredients on a continual basis.
Due to the highly variable nature of natural ingredients, supply chains are constantly changing for many different reasons, so our purchasing agents are always looking for new sources and comparing raw material quality to ensure we’re always obtaining the best materials currently available. Quality products require quality ingredients, and our world-class purchasing agents make it happen every day.
Receiving of raw materials
Once our purchasing agents have secured the highest quality raw materials and ingredients, these materials are shipped to our manufacturing facilities, where our Receiving department takes over. Receiving performs a number of critical steps that ensure only the best ingredients make it through the door:
- They physically inspect truck trailers for tell-tale signs of poor quality, utilizing the senses of sight, smell and touch, which can help give an early indication that a shipment doesn’t meet our stringent quality standards.
- Receiving performs a physical black-light scan of the shipment and the truck trailer, which can help detect adulterants and contaminants that may not be evident to the naked eye.
- Receiving matches records from Purchasing to shipping manifests to ensure that we’re receiving the right raw materials at the appropriate quantities from the correct supplier.
- Receiving notifies our Quality Assurance technicians, who will then sample incoming raw materials for the purpose of performing specific scientific analyses to confirm attributes such as identity, purity, and strength.
Manufacturing location and country of origin
With increasingly complex global supply chains, it’s more important than ever to be able to trace an ingredient or processing aid back to its original source.
At NOW we document not only an ingredient’s country of origin, but the location where the ingredient was processed and/or manufactured as well. At NOW we understand the importance of traceability, and we take the necessary steps to document both the manufacturing location and the country of origin for all ingredients used in our products.
Initial analysis and testing
Once our ingredients are received, our quality team begins testing to verify their identity and purity in our state-of-the-art, in-house analytical laboratories. In addition, NOW has quality assurance technicians who utilize mobile testing platforms to perform initial analyses right on the receiving dock. Together with the physical inspections our Receiving team performs, these analyses allow us to quickly determine if an ingredient will actually be received into our facilities, or rejected.
In-depth screening and analyses
Once an ingredient has been received, inspected, and accepted, samples make their way to our in-house laboratories for more thorough testing and analysis.
Very few companies have the facilities, instrumentation, and staff to test their ingredients and finished products in-house. At NOW we perform approximately 16,000 tests on a monthly basis, all of them in our own facilities using our own instrumentation and performed by our own technicians. The tests they perform include screening to ensure the absence of adulterants and contaminants, and analyses to verify identity and potency.
Maintaining our own in-house laboratories, instrumentation and staff allows us to test and analyze faster, be more responsive and adaptive, and provide fresher products at reduced costs due to faster turnaround of finished products.
The outside contract laboratories used by many other manufacturers are becoming harder and harder to find, and their lead times for analyses are becoming longer, which increases their costs, much of which is passed along to retailers and consumers in the form of higher pricing. NOW’s in-house laboratories position us for continued growth while protecting the quality and value consumers have come to expect from NOW.
Manufacturing and GMPs (good manufacturing practices)
After all the testing, screening and analyses are complete, our ingredients are finally ready for the actual manufacturing process. Ingredients are verified by production staff in conjunction with quality assurance staff and then matched to the production ticket. Once everything has been checked and double-checked, production staff initiate the production run, which is monitored from start to finish.
With so many different ingredients and variables involved in the production of dietary supplements and natural products, establishing and maintaining consistent, reproducible manufacturing processes is a must. This is where GMPs, or good manufacturing practices, make a huge difference.
Good Manufacturing Practices
Since 1968 we’ve been meeting and exceeding natural product manufacturing regulations, even when none existed. We were one of the first manufacturers to seek certification through the Natural Products Association’s (then the NNFA) inaugural GMP (good manufacturing practices) program in 2000, for which we received an ‘A’ rating, and we’ve been recertified with an ‘A’ rating every year since.
The NPA GMP program is a voluntary certification program comprised of standardized manufacturing and quality control practices. Companies seeking certification must undergo intense and thorough audits of their manufacturing, quality control and quality assurance processes and procedures, and must do so annually to maintain their good standing.
NOW is also in full compliance with the Food and Drug Administration’s more recent Current Good Manufacturing Practices, or cGMP. Introduced in 2007, federal cGMPs are published federal requirements for companies engaging in the manufacture, packaging, labeling or holding of dietary supplements.
These cGMP requirements assure the proper design, monitoring and control of manufacturing processes and facilities. They also establish minimum requirements for sanitation, record-keeping, packaging and labeling operations, and more.
Our adherence to manufacturing GMPs, our insistence on choosing only the best ingredients, and our commitment to testing and safety are what set us apart from other natural product companies.
In 2015 the Natural Products Association (NPA) partnered with Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent global safety science company, to bring ACLASS/ANAB accreditation by the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board to our industry’s first third-party, cGMP certification program. ANSI-ASQ is an organization that provides accreditation across a broad range of management systems, including manufacturing management systems.
ACLASS/ANAB accreditation by the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board demonstrates UL’s technical competence as a monitoring body. ANSI-ANQ audits UL and other clients to ensure that they’re competent and able to perform their role as a monitoring body. Together, both UL and ANSI-ASQ will help ensure that responsible natural product manufacturers are adhering to current industry good manufacturing practices throughout the production process, which helps ensure the quality and safety of these products.
NOW was one of the first companies to receive accreditation through the joint NPA/UL program in 2015. Both NOW’s Bloomingdale, Illinois and Sparks, Nevada manufacturing facilities have been audited and certified by UL, and each facility will undergo an annual surveillance audit prior to renewal.
With our own state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and in-house laboratories, and our strict adherence to regulations, we’re well-equipped to ensure the quality and safety of all NOW® products.
Our non-GMO assurance program
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are organisms that have been produced through genetic engineering, typically by combining genes from a variety of sources, including plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes, to create a different organism, but one that doesn’t occur naturally. Genetic modification is different from traditional cross-breeding, where non-modified genes are naturally combined to enhance certain natural attributes. At NOW we’re firm believers that natural is better, so we avoid the use of GMOs whenever possible, and our ultimate goal is for 100% of our products to contain only non-GMO ingredients.
NOW’s Non-GMO Assurance Program is our proactive approach for defining non-GMO products and is comprised of stringent quality standards that involve a combination of thorough documentation and continuous testing. We also work with The Non-GMO Project for additional verification of our products.
NOW organic products are certified through Quality Assurance International (QAI), and we’re audited annually for compliance with the National Organic Program (NOP). QAI is one the leading USDA-accredited organic product certifying agencies and is committed to ensuring organic integrity at every link in the organic product chain.
From farm to retail shelf, QAI verifies organic product integrity at every step, and their expertise applies to crop production, food manufacturing, distribution, retail, food service, personal care products, dietary supplements, and more.
State-of-the-art cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation
NPA GMPs and federal cGMPs require manufacturers to adhere to stringent minimum levels of cleanliness and sanitation. NOW goes far beyond established minimums to ensure the cleanliness of our facilities and equipment.
We perform environmental testing to ensure proper air quality and to control cross-contamination. Manufacturing equipment is swabbed to check for contaminants and to ensure cleanliness. We perform a highly specialized ATP (adenosine triphosphate) sampler test that allows us to screen for allergens and microbes. Rooms that house manufacturing equipment are designed to control cross-contamination and are specially built to allow for comprehensive cleaning of ceilings, walls and floors.
At NOW, hygiene, cleanliness and sanitation are taken into account throughout every step of the manufacturing process.
Once the final products have been inspected and approved by quality control, they’re released into inventory and added to the appropriate stocking bay in our state-of-the-art distribution facilities. The inventory level for the product is updated, and the finished products are now available for purchase.
The manufacturing process isn’t complete once the finished products are produced. Once the finished goods have moved out of manufacturing, our production staff thoroughly cleans the room and equipment to prevent any cross-contamination with the next production run. Many of our production rooms are individually contained environments, so the entire room, including ceiling, walls, and floors, can be thoroughly cleansed and sanitized.
Manufacturing equipment is disassembled, cleaned, and then reassembled. Depending on the next production run, adjustments may be needed to accommodate for a larger pill size, or a raw material with a thicker consistency. Everything is logged and documented, so we can go back and review processes and procedures, not only when an issue occurs, but also for the purpose of training and improving both individual and team skills and knowledge.
At NOW we put a lot of time, effort and resources into the manufacturing of our premium natural products, and we take the necessary steps to ensure quality at every step of the production process.