Clean Label Nutraceutical Compliance, with Alexandra Tan

Episode Overview

Episode Topic: In this compelling episode of NutraPreneur, we venture into the dynamic world of health and dietary compliance with Alexandra Tan. Alexandra, a distinguished professional at the helm of Goli Nutrition and 1Stop Regulatory Compliance, brings a wealth of expertise in clean-label and allergen-free ingredient labeling, all while ensuring dietary compliance. Join us as we unravel her remarkable journey, from her pivotal role at Goli Nutrition to her leadership at 1st Stop Compliance, showcasing her dedication to maintaining high-quality standards in the food manufacturing industry and ensuring dietary compliance.

Lessons You’ll Learn: In this conversation, Alexandra Tan shares crucial lessons on the intricate balance of business success and upholding wellness values with a strong emphasis on dietary compliance. She emphasizes understanding customers and the essence of authenticity, underscoring the importance of being purpose-driven, particularly in her role as a leader in dietary compliance. Alexandra delves into the transformative power of education and outreach, essential for building loyalty and empowering clients to prioritize their health and well-being, in alignment with dietary compliance. Moreover, she provides insightful guidance on navigating the complexities of nutraceutical industry regulations while championing innovation and sustainability.

About Our Guest: Alexandra Tan, is a stellar leader serving as the Director of 1Stop Compliance and Senior Manager of Quality and International Compliance at Goli Nutrition, where she plays a pivotal role in ensuring dietary compliance. From her pivotal role at Goli Nutrition to her leadership at 1st Stop Compliance, Alexandra is a trailblazer dedicated to ensuring the highest quality standards in the food manufacturing industry, including dietary compliance. Her expertise and passion drive her to empower customers to prioritize their health and well-being.

Topics Covered: In this episode, we explore the multifaceted realm of health and dietary compliance with Alexandra Tan. Her dual roles as a leader at Goli Nutrition and 1st Stop Compliance uniquely position her to guide us through this intricate landscape of dietary compliance. Alexandra is an advocate for education and outreach, actively empowering customers and ensuring women’s health takes center stage. She is also at the forefront of driving technological advancements in the health and wellness sphere.

Our Guest: Alexandra Tan: Pioneering Quality Assurance in the Food Industry

Alexandra Tan is an adept Quality Assurance and International Regulatory Compliance professional, specializing in the food and dietary compliance supplement sector. Based in Vancouver, Canada, she excels in ensuring compliance with rigorous standards like CFIA, FDA, and various certifications including those related to dietary compliance. Her strengths lie in strategic planning, financial analysis, critical thinking, and thriving in fast-paced environments.

As the Quality and International Compliance Manager at Goli Nutrition, Alexandra drives crucial initiatives to improve quality and bolster the company’s financial performance, all while adhering to dietary compliance. Her expertise extends beyond regulatory compliance, encompassing active involvement in continuous improvement projects that focus on dietary compliance. Previously, she held significant roles at 1Stop Regulatory Compliance Inc., offering vital regulatory consultation for consumer goods with a strong emphasis on dietary compliance. Backed by a robust academic background and professional certifications like Six Sigma Green Belt and Food Safety Preventive Controls, Alexandra is poised to steer sustainable growth and uphold excellence in QA and compliance.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Alexandra is also a dedicated volunteer, serving as Survivor Engagement Chair at the Canadian Cancer Society. Her commitment to health and her multifaceted skill set underscores her passion for driving impactful change in both her professional and personal pursuits, aligning with the values of dietary compliance. Alexandra Tan epitomizes the essence of a proactive and accomplished professional, poised to make lasting contributions to the nutrition industry while upholding dietary compliance principles.

Alexandra Tan - Quality & International Compliance, Senior Manager of Goli Nution

Episode Transcript:

Alexandra Tan: Invest in quality. It may seem like an expensive initial cost, but it is crucial for the continued success of any business. Higher returns on your investment. With fewer defects, you’ll have lower manufacturing costs and service costs because you’ll have lower product returns, including quality early on can really grow the business exponentially.

Bethany Jolley: Welcome to NutraPreneur, the Nutra Industry Podcast. I’m your host, food scientist, and nutraceuticals consultant Bethany Jolley. Each episode will be exploring what it takes to thrive in the nutraceutical industry, from conversations with successful nutraceutical entrepreneurs to venture capitalists to tech executives whose innovations are reshaping the nutraceuticals industry. We explore the innovations and trends that are shaping the next generation of nutraceutical businesses.

Welcome back to another enlightening episode of NutraPreneur, where we dive into the forefront of innovation and the nutraceutical industry. I’m your host, Bethany Jolley. Today, we are honored to have Alexandra Tan, a true expert and clean label and allergen-free ingredient labeling. Alex serves as the director of 1Stop Compliance. Her extensive experience in the food manufacturing industry and her commitment to quality have made her a trailblazer in this field. So thank you so much, Alex, for joining us today.

Alexandra Tan: Well, thank you so much for having me, Bethany. It’s a pleasure to be here and share my journey and experience with your listeners.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, we’re so excited. So first, let’s just dive into your journey and your expertise. So if you could just share with our listeners really your journey in the food manufacturing industry that really led you into specializing in this kind of unique piece of the clean label, allergen-free, and sensitizing ingredient labeling?

Alexandra Tan: Oh, absolutely. Out here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, there’s a large population of vegetarians and vegans. Apparently three times greater than the average of all Canadians. So restaurants, bakeries, businesses were popping up with meat-free and dairy-free options, and really fueled by the plant-based movement. And so people were becoming more health conscious and really aware of society’s impact on the planet. So at the time, I was fresh out of school and I was working for a lab extracting and testing various matrices for food residues. So food residues can be anything from pesticides, hormones really like embedded in the food, or even antibiotics. This was subcontracted work to the lab from the government. Matrices brought coffee, oats, honey, rice, even to animal organs, and even urine samples of animals. And so as I was working, I was constantly wondering, okay, which of these samples are going to fail and how would this impact the food industry in North America?

That’s really when I started to shift my focus towards food manufacturing in that quality and regulatory space, starting off just to get the lay of the land. But really, my passion while working was finding loopholes and trying to find creative regulatory solutions to be able to use all the buzzwords that marketing wanted. So clean label allergen-free, when we discuss the difference between allergen-free and sensitizing ingredients, I think for us food industry professionals, allergen-free is just what the government mandates, and then sensitizing ingredients are for the 0.1% who’s allergic to mangoes or bananas, for example. And yeah, and that’s how I ended up here, where I am today.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, that’s great and there’s definitely a need for that. The number of individuals that are sensitive to certain ingredients or do have a food allergy is just becoming more and more prevalent. And I think we’re just in a world now where consumers are just more aware and more concerned about what they’re putting into their bodies. How does one ensure that the products are not only meeting high-quality standards but are also adhering to clean label principles?

Alexandra Tan: At the end of the day, everyone just wants to know what they’re eating. I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there and it can be really difficult to navigate. I think if you’re a beginner on this journey to make things easy, definitely opt for minimally processed or natural ingredients and ingredient lists constantly ask questions about ingredients, and do not fear the ones that you do not recognize. This does not mean that ingredients with complex chemical names or unrecognizable ingredients are bad for you. Yeah, I think it’s tough, I think the government does need to intervene and really work on transparency in ingredient labeling because there aren’t any thresholds. Right! So if you are super sensitive to, let’s say, mangoes and you don’t see actually, for example, natural flavors. It’s such a vague term. And if you are allergic to mangoes, for example, there could be a mango ingredient in there. And so it makes it really hard for people with allergies or sensitivities to be able to navigate the food industry, I guess, or buying food for themselves.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, that is so true. I mean, sometimes it can be overwhelming when looking at food labels because there are those big words that you may not understand or the vague ingredients like you said, the natural flavors. And I think just having educational resources out there is really important and so consumers just have to do their due diligence when learning what they can and can’t eat or learning more about those vague ingredients. And just the nutraceutical companies out there are trying to meet all of these compliance and safety standards. There are just so many rules and regulations that vary from country to country. And so could you shed some light on how 1Stop Compliance and your role contribute to helping companies navigate all of these complex requirements?

Alexandra Tan: A lot of the companies that I work with struggle with compliance and safety, mainly because they weren’t aware of all these requirements before launching their business. And so they come to a place where they’re stuck and they need to improve their process without affecting supply or losing money by investing or capital cost expenditures and things like that. So a lot of the companies that I work with, I’m able to provide tailored solutions to their specific compliance needs and the two important questions I always ask are, what is your ultimate goal and what is your immediate priority? I feel like we could go on forever. And there’s just to your point, so much in compliance and safety standards and there’s so many commodities out there.

When we just look at food, there’s dairy regulations and then meat regulations, and fresh fruit regulations. And then there’s us in the prepackaged or even dietary supplement industry. So there’s a lot to navigate. I try to provide strategies to be able to meet market entry goals or improve the bottom line, all while meeting compliance and safety standards to really protect the brand. So anything from short projects like label reviews, formulation compliance assessments to communication with Health Canada or CFIA, or even FDA, I’ve also had opportunities to train and support existing teams to implement new processes that they may be unfamiliar with or make existing processes more robust things like recall programs and whatnot.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, that’s fantastic. All of the different sectors in the food industry, like you said, they each have their own subset of regulations they have to follow. I think new and upcoming brands really need assistance just diving into those regulations and making sure they’re complying and then the existing brands have to stay up to date as the regulations evolve and change. And so I think it’s great that you have your team that can provide those resources and really help them with that.

Alexandra Tan: Yeah, just to add on to that as well, I think as a consumer, it can be really hard to understand who is compliant, who’s not compliant. And it’s not like someone can just put on packaging that were compliant doesn’t really mean anything. And us being in the food industry, there are so many different types of certifications as well, and each certification has different standards. So as a consumer, if you don’t know the brand, it can be really hard to understand like how strict those quality standards are or there’s always basic requirements. But I feel like the bigger brands definitely have to go above and beyond, and their quality programs just have to be more robust because they can’t afford an error out there in the industry.

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I want to move into innovation and compliance and supplements and just the food industry overall and this industry is just really evolving quite rapidly and there’s new ingredients and new formulations that are constantly emerging. So how do you stay ahead of the curve in terms of ingredient labeling and compliance?

Alexandra Tan: So I think the government does a really good job of putting the news out there and you can subscribe to this news from the government, but onto that as well, they’re subscribing to industry news like Food Navigator is a really good one and networking in industry or even joining the Food Industry Association so whether it’s like regulatory associations or here out here in Canada, we have CHFA just joining and really everyone engaging in new regulations, interpreting those regulations together because sometimes proposed regulations or guidance documents don’t really dive into the nitty gritty details or haven’t really been fleshed out by the government. And so it being part of an association, you really understand how everyone else interprets it or maybe how the government would interpret things like that. I think this way you can stay ahead of the curve, know what’s upcoming, five ten years down the line. You’ll learn of upcoming trends, new hero ingredients in the news as well. You’ll find Ukraine and Russia going to war. There’s going to be ingredient shortages. I think that’ll really help your supply chain team and us in quality. We work so closely with operations, so that is definitely how I stay ahead of the curve.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, that’s a great point. I think a lot of people have had issues sourcing ingredients and packaging components just with all of the worldwide changes that have occurred over the last few years. And so staying on top of that, and then you also make a great point about just subscribing to the various websites and things that the government agencies offer as well as those associations because I’ve noticed as I subscribe, they provide very specific details on one topic at a time. So you’re not just overwhelmed or they have webinars that you can attend that are very helpful. And so I think that’s a great idea. So could you walk us through a successful case where your expertise in clean label and allergen-free ingredient labeling made a significant impact on a product’s success or compliance?

Alexandra Tan: Yeah, I think I touched on this a little bit earlier on. A great example would be the use of natural extracts to actually extend shelf life. Diving into this a little bit more celery extracts, Rosemary extract oregano extracts. They act both as an antioxidant and antimicrobial due to the high amount of organic acids that are in there that can control microbial growth and just oxidation. But because they are organic acids, they’re also flavor modulators, and so they can be classed as a natural flavor on your ingredient list. So I think that was really a successful case at my workplace when we really wanted a clean label product and we were able to achieve marketing requests by putting these shelf life extenders that are actually natural extracts as a natural flavor, but also meet our aim of extending shelf life of the product and preventing spoilage all while being compliant. So I think it’s really important to have regulatory and quality involved and really understanding where we can class things into different categories for ingredient naming. And that way you can add flavor modulators, bitter blockers, natural flavors to achieve the flavor profile you want without overextending your ingredients list.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, and I think that’s great from a regulatory perspective and a marketing perspective as well. So to talk more about innovation and consumer-focused products, have you noticed any new trends that you expect to see in the future from the food or the supplement industry?

Alexandra Tan: So many. I think gut health is huge, probiotics, prebiotics, and I think this one’s new to me, but Postbiotics are all like buzzwords in the industry. There’s also, I think, the hunt for a melatonin alternative. So melatonin is actually weirdly classed as a drug. I think it’s weird, I guess because we live in North America, but really class as a drug in Europe as well, in Australia and New Zealand. So I think a lot of people now are looking for a melatonin alternative so that one formulation can be sold worldwide. But also I think there’s just a lot of noise out there now that melatonin in excess amounts may not be the healthiest for you other than that, functional foods and beverages. I think those are huge. So new and fun ways of taking your supplements. I’ve seen protein chocolate, I’ve seen beverages now, little shots like in glass containers or even tea and even gummies. I feel like there’s a lot of people moving away from tablets and capsules and soft gels towards gummies. So that’s a really big one. I think sugar-free is also really massive low sugar-for-the-better-for-you movement as people are more health conscious nowadays, as well as meat and dairy, like vegan options, as people are more aware of their impact on our planet.

Bethany Jolley: I’ve noticed quite a few of those things actually just in my last few trips to the grocery store, it seems like they’re trying to find new ways to add pressure to things. Just the other day I saw chips that were made out of chicken and egg whites and that was interesting. And I had to buy some just to try it. And then I agree on the gummies. I know my family prefers gummies or tablets or soft gels just because it tastes better. It’s a little bit more enjoyable if you’re going to have to take a supplement. So that’s definitely an increasing trend.

Alexandra Tan: Yeah. I think another one is also convenient. Everyone wants us, like on the go. I think that’s huge. And like, maybe not part of the food industry, but does impact us quite a bit is actually reducing plastic use. So I’ve actually seen quite a lot of products come in like almost like a wax paper or a paper packaging or just even like smaller twist caps and just less plastic overall. So it’s really nice to see the industry move towards sustainability as well.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, it’s fantastic. I love seeing that. And for any new entrepreneurs that are entering into this nutraceutical space and looking to maintain those high compliance standards, what advice would you offer, especially with your food safety background and your training?

Alexandra Tan: Invest in quality. It may seem like an expensive initial cost, but I think it is crucial for the continued success of any business. I think it’s proven higher returns on your investment for any given market share with fewer defects. You’ll have lower manufacturing costs and service costs because you’ll have lower product returns or the need to destroy damaged goods. And I think the reliability that a high-quality product really builds the brand and really ensures profitability. So I think really including quality early on can really grow the business exponentially.

Bethany Jolley: That’s such great advice. More brands need to realize if they initially prioritize quality and safety and follow the regulations, they’re setting themselves up for success right from the start. Do you have any new exciting projects or initiatives that are on the horizon at 1Stop Compliance?

Alexandra Tan: I guess, nothing exciting but I think as the industry is actually moving away from passive to more artsy, so the difference between that is really house up with preventative controls, which really aim to decrease the chance of error. And so a lot of people have asked me, this is where I said like in industry I can really help companies who have existing processes like how do I upgrade this to an HACCP program? And the difference is really that preventative controls manage and reduce the chance of error. Whereas a prerequisite program, which is part of a HACCP program, shows that the hazards are unlikely to occur. So I think that’s a really big one that was part of the FISMA and FSVP requirement in the US. So for a lot of importers that was a new requirement that they had to adhere to that’s been really exciting for me.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, I know. It’s exciting for me. It might sound boring to others, but I do get about that importance that we’re taking extra steps to make sure that we’re qualifying vendors and we’re preventing risks because we’re all consuming food every day. We want to make sure it’s safe for all of us. So as we conclude, this has been a really enlightening conversation and we’ve gained a deeper understanding of the vital role of clean label and allergen-free ingredient labeling and the nutraceutical and food industries. So a big thank you to Alex Tan for sharing her wealth of knowledge and experiences with us and for our listeners that are interested in exploring more about first or about one, stop compliance, and speaking with Alex, we’ll provide all of the links and the show notes. And don’t forget to subscribe. Share your thoughts with us and join us in celebrating the ever-evolving world of nutraceutical innovations on social media until our next episode. Stay informed and stay inspired.

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