Elevating Standards in Nutraceuticals with Alex Brun at Willings Nutraceutical

Elevating Standards in Nutraceuticals with Alex Brun at Willings Nutraceutical

Episode Overview

Episode Topic:

In this episode of NutraPreneur, we dig into the world of nutraceutical manufacturing with a focus on maintaining high standards, leveraging technology, and providing exceptional customer service. Alex Brun, the vice president and head of sales and marketing at Willings nutraceutical, joins us to share insights into how their company ensures quality across diverse product formats, adapts to evolving technology, and tailors’ services to meet the unique needs of their global client base. We find the role of certifications, such as NSF and GMP, in meeting industry standards and discuss strategies for success on platforms like Amazon. Join us as we uncover the trends shaping the future of nutraceutical manufacturing and learn how Willings is preparing to navigate these changes.

Lessons You’ll Learn:                                                                                     

Throughout this episode, listeners will gain valuable insights into the intricate processes involved in nutraceutical manufacturing. From understanding the importance of maintaining high standards in quality control to harnessing technology for efficiency and speed, there are numerous lessons to be learned. Discover the significance of certifications like NSF and GMP in ensuring compliance and building trust with customers. Find strategies for success on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and learn how to tailor services to meet the diverse needs of a global client base. Get ready to uncover key trends shaping the future of the nutraceutical industry and gain valuable knowledge to stay ahead in this fast-paced field.

About Our Guest:

Alex Brun is the vice president and head of sales and marketing at Willings nutraceutical, a leading company in supplement manufacturing and packaging. With over two decades of experience in the industry, Alex brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. He is passionate about maintaining high standards in quality control, leveraging technology for efficiency, and providing exceptional customer service. Alex’s insights into nutraceutical manufacturing processes and market trends make him a valuable guest on our podcast.

Topics Covered:

Throughout this episode, we cover a wide range of topics related to nutraceutical manufacturing. From the importance of maintaining high standards in quality control to leveraging technology for efficiency and speed, we get into the intricacies of the industry. We explore the role of certifications like NSF and GMP in ensuring compliance and building trust with customers. Additionally, we discuss strategies for success on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and examine the future trends shaping the nutraceutical manufacturing landscape. Join us as we uncover valuable insights and practical tips to thrive in this dynamic industry.

Our Guest: Alex Brun-Leading Quality Assurance & Innovation in Nutraceuticals

Alex Brun is the vice president and head of sales and marketing at  Willings nutraceutical, a distinguished leader in supplement manufacturing and packaging. With over two decades of experience in the industry, Alex brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. His dedication to maintaining high standards in quality control, leveraging cutting-edge technology for efficiency, and providing exceptional customer service has positioned him as a key figure in the nutraceutical landscape. Alex’s role at Willings involves overseeing sales and marketing strategies, ensuring client satisfaction, and driving the company’s growth in a highly competitive market.

Having spearheaded numerous initiatives to enhance manufacturing processes, Alex emphasizes the importance of quality at every step of the production chain. He champions the implementation of advanced technologies such as ERP systems and AI-driven machinery to streamline operations and maintain consistency in product quality. Alex’s commitment to adhering to industry standards is reflected in  Willings impeccable track record of receiving top grades in audits conducted by NSF and FDA. His expertise extends beyond manufacturing to encompass branding and marketing, where he assists clients in developing effective strategies to reach their target audience and differentiate their products in the market.

With a multicultural team at his disposal, Alex understands the nuances of doing business across diverse global markets. He emphasizes the significance of cultural sensitivity in tailoring services to meet the unique needs of clients from various regions. Alex’s leadership and expertise in nutraceutical manufacturing make him a sought-after guest speaker, providing valuable insights into industry trends and best practices. As Willing continues to evolve and adapt to meet the challenges of an ever-changing landscape, Alex remains at the forefront, driving innovation and ensuring the company’s continued success.

Elevating Standards in Nutraceuticals with Alex Brun at Willings Nutraceutical

Elevating Standards in Nutraceuticals with Alex Brun at Willings Nutraceutical

Episode Transcript: 

Bethany Jolley: Welcome back to Nutra Preneur your go to source for insights into the nutraceutical industry. I’m your host, Bethany Jolley. Today we have the pleasure of hosting Alex Brun, vice president and head of sales and marketing at Willings nutraceutical. Since 2002, Willings has been a leader in supplement manufacturing and packaging, known for its dedication to quality, efficiency, and comprehensive client support. Their services cover everything from production to placement on major platforms like Amazon. It’s so great to have you today, Alex, thanks for joining us.

Alex Brun: Of course.

Alex Brun: Really excited to be here and share a little bit about Willing with you.

Bethany Jolley: Yes. So first off, I think it’d be great for you to walk us through Willings nutraceuticals approach to maintaining high standards in supplement manufacturing.

Alex Brun: No, of course, you know, I think I stand out is definitely crucial to, to grow in this industry. it helps to acquire new customers, but obviously it’s mainly, it mainly helps to, for current customers and really for them to, to grow in the best way possible. overall, we do our best to really maintain high standards everywhere, but just not on the quality side, for example, on the processes. we’re currently implementing a new ERP system that will enable us to monitor more effectively each Po. it will really help us to increase even more the quality, but also lower lead times provide more frequent and more accurate updates to our customers. on the status of each Po. because, as you probably know, in the industry, everything wants once things yesterday. all of our customers, you know, they would likely time to be, just a few days, but sometimes it’s not. It’s not possible.  they won’t update. I think like an ERP system that is really accurate and as you know, a lot of different status options and what we can really monitor, every single aspect of the Po is really, really crucial. We’ve also been growing like the sales and marketing team, and we now offer services and like the branding side.

Alex Brun: For example, we can help brands to develop a new product, really find the right, the right product format for them.  You know, sometimes customers, they come and they’re like, I would like a gummy for something. We’re like, okay, with the formulation that you have, maybe like a capsule is going to be a better fit for you. you don’t have to worry about the taste because some of your ingredients could be a little bit bitter, for example. Really trying to help them through that, sometimes we have to adjust a little bit. We have an in-house formulator to really assist with that. Finally, we really try to guide them to the high-level marketing strategy. We really want to make sure that like you know we are making good products for our customers. These products will be effective for the end users. And that’s really what is really driving the success for both Willing and our customers. It really comes by having high standards overall, but just not on the quality really in the whole process over the board.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, absolutely. And you are definitely right about this being a fast-paced industry. And you mentioned, you know, you work with a few product formats. So, with a variety of products like capsules and powders, how does Willings ensure uniform quality across all of their products?

Alex Brun: Yeah. I mean, like, all of our products, you know, are very set procedures on how we run things. It is obviously specific for each product type. All of these procedures have really been clearly detailed in all of the SOPs that we have. And we really developed them over the last 20 years. You know, it’s really,  a process that takes time. We’re frequently updating all of these SOPs every time that we find something, you know, that could be a little bit optimized. We always try to optimize the, optimize and update these SOPs. We developed all of that based on the guidelines of both NSF and FDA, to make sure that all products are always compliant with the highest quality standards.

Bethany Jolley: It’s great. Yeah. Documentation is so important in this industry, especially when you’re manufacturing products and you’re trying to produce high quality products. You want to make sure that your procedures are very detailed and that you have a lot of documentation and records to provide for regulatory agencies.

Alex Brun: Exactly.

Bethany Jolley: With technology, what role would you say technology plays in your manufacturing and packaging processes, and how does it help you maintain your promise of fast turnaround times?

Alex Brun: It plays a huge role. That’s definitely you know, technology is really like the keystone for our industry. On top of that, it’s evolving very, very quickly. So, on one side we have the technology really used for internal processes. For example, we’re updating the ERP system right now. All of the technology used to capture data throughout the process. It could be scanners for example in the warehouse. It could be connected scales. You make sure that like every single thing that you weigh, has the correct weight and no one made a mistake in, you know, translation or writing it somewhere. And now it comes directly from the actual scale. We’re really trying to add more and more integration with this system. The goal is really to quickly identify choke points that we may have and to improve our processes to make things more efficient and obviously faster. On the other side, you know, we have the machines that we use, we’re constantly having new machines with improved technology. It really forces us to both, you know, train our teams to use these new technologies, but also offer significant improvements. Not just on the speed and quality, but also in one we can offer. For example, we recently installed a gummy packaging machine that uses AI and image recognition to sort and count the gummies. The concept is relatively simple, but it was pretty, pretty new for this industry. Basically, you are training the AI machine on the type, the shape, the color of the gummies.

Alex Brun: Once set up, the machine is going to automatically sort the gummies to make sure that the ones that are not, you know, fully formed, are rejected. And to make sure you have uniform count and mix. You know, each bottle has the correct count and they all have a very consistent mix when you’re doing different flavors or different colors in there, which before was not necessarily possible with some of the previous machines where you still had a pretty. Pretty sometimes significant, you know, margin for error, like in this one, you have virtually no error at all. But on the other side, you also have a lot of new packaging solutions. You don’t just improve what has been there for a long time. You have a new packaging solution, for example. You have a lot of variations right now around like, you know, stick pack, sachet, protein powder. They used to only come in like big plastic jars, and now they come more and more into pouches. It’s way more efficient. You put more like one pallet. You know, it saves a lot on transport and it’s more efficient for more customers. You know, I really like that. It’s also a marketing advantage as well. But on that side, we had to adapt because you cannot feel, you know, a big jar is always open the same way you’re going to feel like a pouch. We need to have new machines and you just to, to train the team to stay on top of the game for that.

Bethany Jolley: Now that’s amazing that you have all of those offerings. You know, utilizing AI is incredible because I’ve seen that where, you know, gummy bottles will have the incorrect count. I know it’s because the previous equipment was unable to really count and sort through the different shapes and colors and sizes like you mentioned.

Alex Brun: Yeah. No, it’s really amazing to see. It does take a little bit of time to set up. We’re definitely keeping that for larger POS. But it’s very effective once it’s set up.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah that’s amazing. And Willings is also renowned for its customer service. So how do you tailor your services to meet the unique needs of your diverse client base?

Alex Brun: It’s a great question because we really have customers all over the world in so many different spaces. some companies, they really specialize in like 1 or 2 different product types and like, you know, 1 or 2 countries. But here we have like, you know, sports supplement brands in the US. We have worked with some of the biggest fish oil brands from Europe. We work with some large e-commerce brands in China. You know, the customer base is definitely really broad. They have different requirements. We really need to adapt to them and find the best way to service them. There’s a lot of many different ways we can do that. For example, we can really try to be flexible on macOS. That’s really the number one question. You go to a trade show. Sometimes people, you know, come to your booth. No question. What’s your focus on this product? You know, and like, that’s really like the major pain point in our industry, the thing that you have specific requirements when it comes to that. We try to be as flexible as we can on that to really adapt. For example, we can have more POS often for less quantity to better accommodate distributors, because a lot of them do not want to have, you know, four, six, eight months’ worth of inventory on hand.

Alex Brun: For example, instead of having a Po of 30,000 bottles every six months, we would split that into three Pos of 10,000 every two months. This way we can, you know, just refill the inventory of the distributor more often. We don’t have this large Po that a lot of a lot of distributors are unhappy about. It works better for our customers. It works better for us as well. it’s kind of makes sense on that side, but what we can do as well, you know, we have things like, the way we are stacking pallets a certain way and to really accommodate the warehouse, some of them they have like specific height requirements, for example. We like making some arrangements on that side, on the billing side as well. Some customers like to be built for each Po separately when others like to have one bill per month. they have specific, you know, payment requirements, payment terms.  We always try to adapt where we can. Obviously, you always try to have a uniform process for everyone. But that’s what we learned, like, you know, if you try to build a little bit too rigid with your own processes, you cannot really grow because everyone works a different way. It’s also true on, you know, the culture side as well, the way you’re doing business with customers in China or people in Europe or people here in the US is very different.

Alex Brun: Something that is really important for us and it works really well is like to really have a multicultural team. So just like in the front office here at Willings, we have 5 or 6 different nationalities. We have people from Pakistan, we have people from China. As you can tell, I’m not really from the US with my accent. I’m originally from France. And we have people from Ukraine. We have people from Lebanon. We have, you know, a pretty big international team and really trying to leverage that to really to try to, to adapt to the, the, the cultural requirements and how people like to be treated and to do business with on the other side, though you know, we try to adapt, we try to adapt. It’s great. But sometimes we have requirements that we cannot change at all. For example, we’re looking at blender machines for the new facilities we’re working on. Some of them have amazing blending time. You know, you have a really uniform blend of all of that. It’s great.  it saves a lot of time and everything, but you have a minimum weight that you need to put in there. You cannot put 25, 50 kg in there. You need to put on like 100 to 50 300kg.

Alex Brun: Sometimes you have moqs that are set by technical requirements. So, you cannot really, you know, like to adapt there on this specific point. Although you know, we always try to store as much inventory as possible because some vendors have really high moqs, typically patented ingredients. When you have, you know, new shapes of containers or new colors or things like this, you know, the queues are pretty high. What we try to do is to store as much as possible. We make big POS with them, and then we resell directly and we provide that for our customers. One, it really helps to reduce lead times. And on the other side we have big savings because as you know quantities when we order increases like sometimes the savings can be quite substantial. We can pass down the savings to our customers. It definitely takes a little bit to adjust all of that and to have such a big inventory to manage. But at the end of the day, that really helps a lot for our customers. Obviously always trying to accommodate customers as much as we can. But as I said, sometimes you have requirements that are kind of dictated either, you know, by technical requirements or sometimes just by some vendors, but we do what we can.

Bethany Jolley: This episode is brought to you by NutraPayments.com. If your business needs credit card processing, that fully integrates with most major neutral software platforms, offers the lowest industry prices, and has built in features like recurring billing, $0 trials, and chargeback prevention. Then visit us at NutraPayments.com for a free online quote. And we’ve talked a lot about compliance and quality, which I think is crucial in the nutraceutical industry.  Can you explain how Willing’s meets the stringent standards set by NSF, GMP, and USDA certifications?

Alex Brun: Yes. All of our procedures, you know, are clearly detailed in all of the SOPs that I mentioned earlier. We have developed these SOPs, you know, over the last 20 years now. All of these SOPs are based on the guidelines of NSF and FDA. All of the audits that we had in the past few years with NSF and FDA, we always rank A or higher. We’re really proud of that. These results really speak volumes for us because we really try to keep our standards as high as possible. When we do get an audit, you know, you always stress a little bit because an audit is like, you know, it feels like a test when you’re a kid at school. But like when they leave, they’re like they’re happy with the way you’re doing. You’re conducting your facility. It always feels great.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, absolutely.

Bethany Jolley: Those auditors can make you a little nervous, but it’s important to have them come in and definitely important to maintain those certifications.

Alex Brun: Exactly.

Bethany Jolley: And another big aspect of this industry has become Amazon. So as many businesses strive to excel on Amazon, what specific support does Willings provide to brands that are looking to succeed on the Amazon platform?

Alex Brun: We really offer different levels of support. For example, from setting up the POS quantities and pallet requirements like that Amazon needs. Because Amazon is such a big distributor, like when they reject something, you know, you just have to just have to adapt. They’re not going to adapt to you. You need to know their requirements. We also have, you know, marketing and branding support. With more than 20 years of experience in the space across many different categories, we know what customers like and we can, you know, really recommend, like the right quantity. The count of gummies per bottle. What is going to work well with customers? Working brands, you know, to really create the right product for the right audience. Sometimes we help them, you know, to just twist, a little bit. Just to have the best price possible. Sometimes we have to work with them to just find them, the right supplier. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to, you know, to, to select the right vendor so we can achieve the right price. But on Amazon, if you cannot have a good product that is going to have good reviews and at a competitive price, it’s really going to be very tricky. And on the regulation side as well, you know, products that are produced in an NSF certified facility, they tend to rank higher on Amazon.

Alex Brun: The fact that we have that is a big, big plus. And now Amazon, they recognize the NSF Ansi 455.2 uh certification. You know, a little bit technical, but basically, it’s for the GMP program. When you have this certification Amazon, they finally recognize that. It’s a huge plus to have it. Since we have both NSF, NSF sport certification at Wheeling’s, it really helps a lot of customers. And it’s a game changer for some of them especially, you know, like the sport side or of this like protein powder, pre-workout mix and all of these things. Like, they really care a lot about having NSF and SF sports. That’s something that we can offer. But overall, I would still add that more and more brands are trying to do direct to consumers. Most of the startups that we are working with, you know, they try to kind of bypass platforms, like Amazon, because the requirements and even their fees, you know, can be pretty, high and tricky to deal with. We see a lot of brands that are just trying, you know, to just bring people on their own platform, on their own website and do that only. We need to adapt, you know, to Amazon and have the right way to do that. And I definitely see a trend where more and more brands are trying to do without.

Bethany Jolley: That’s great. I think, you know, being able to help customers that do want to sell on Amazon and help them be successful is great. Then also helping those that do just want to do the DTC platform, because I’m seeing that as well. A lot of people are starting to move away from Amazon or other areas where they have those huge fees. It’s crazy.

Alex Brun: No, it’s definitely tricky, especially with the prices you need to set your products on Amazon. Sometimes the margins can be a little bit small. So totally understand what brands would like to do that. But at the same time, for the convenience of customers to be able to offer that, you know, capability, it’s just something you cannot do without sometimes.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah. It was all just kind.

Bethany Jolley: It depends on your business model, I guess.  Looking ahead, what trends do you see shaping the future of nutraceutical manufacturing, and how is Willing’s preparing to meet these changes?

Alex Brun: Overall, we see really big changes coming. Not only on the manufacturing side, but also really on the packaging side. There’s always kind of like this race to the hot new thing going on. But now we have, you know, a lot of successful products that emerge in space. For example, you have things like creatine and protein powder. They are here to stay. They have such a strong customer base and they have proven results. We see the demand for that keeps going up. For example, on that side we always try to innovate and have like new flavors of ways to always improve, like the quality lead times and things like that, because we know these products are here to stay. On the other side, for example, we have things like creatine gummies. It Has been pretty hot recently.  because taking creatine, you know, it’s like this powder that you have to mix. It doesn’t really have any kind of, like, flavor, but, like, it’s not always the easiest way to take it. A gummy was very, very convenient, but you had quite a few studies that came out that like, you know, just showed that the concentration of creatine was supposed to have in each gummy was absolutely not the reality. And so now we’re working with a gummy partner, who is working on a technical solution to try to have creatine gummies that will finally have a high level of creatine in there. they will definitely have a little bit of marketing to do with the consumers, because now they learn that, like, you know, you either need to take a lot or you need to really buy the high quality one.

Alex Brun: But that’s one side as well where like, you know, there’s a trend coming, but you have to be careful with that. You really have to learn. Is it a good solution? Is it the right product? Is it the right way to deliver that? On the other side, you know, you have things like artificial sweeteners right now they’re getting a lot of bad rep. You have studies that are coming out, that are mentioning, you know, some, potential, risk that you may have with that. A lot of brands and consumers are really obsessed with the zero-sugar approach, but it doesn’t seem to always be the best one. Natural sweeteners and a reasonable amount of sugar could be a good approach or just trying to find an alternative solution. Other types of sweeteners that I could walk where you still retain these kinds of, like zero sugar, benefit that a lot of brands and consumers want. But you at least you have something else that is different from what everyone is doing in the, in the space. So definitely a lot of research there. And what we have as well, you know, we have also a partner who we’ve been working with for a really, really long time who was working on a totally new type of product.

Alex Brun:  I cannot say too much about that right now, but it would be kind of a mix between a tablet and a gummy where you can have, like, have the best of both worlds. Definitely stay tuned on that. But we should be able to offer that very, very soon.  I’m really excited about this. And last thing you know that I want to mention, you know, it’s definitely the regulations. Regulations are always evolving. Overall, the space has tight regulation when it comes to manufacturing and packaging. But brands are relatively free to put whatever they want in the product. And like the regulations are relatively loose on that side. We know that the FDA is working on tighter regulations there. We really try to stay, you know, ahead of the game on that side, really know what is going to come. And there’s definitely, you know, some products that could potentially pose a risk to some consumers. There might be more ingredients banned, for example, or at least more regulation on that side.  just like is the case right now, you know, with CBD products where the regulations are a little bit all over the place, depending on the states or the federal level. We always try to stay on top of that too, to know how to do things and how, you know, to make quality products. That’s the, you know, long answer to your question.

Bethany Jolley: Yes.

Bethany Jolley: Willings always has to be up to speed and educated so that you’re able to educate your clients as well and make sure that they understand why you might say no to things or why you might suggest making adjustments to their formulation that they have an idea about. Like what? The creatine gummies, for instance. You know, I think it’s sometimes hard to conceptualize what you’re taking in. A giant scoop of powder isn’t going to fit into just a few gummies.

Alex Brun: Right?

Alex Brun: Exactly. And, you know each product is different. That’s why when you look at a formulation, sometimes you need the advice of experts, to really know what is the best product type. Some brand owners come to us and they have these ideas. I want to put these products into a tiny gummy. It’s like, yeah, it’s a great idea, but it’s not going to work, you know? So sometimes you have to negotiate a little bit with them.

Bethany Jolley: Yes.

Bethany Jolley: What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs in the nutraceutical industry, especially in areas that are related to manufacturing?

Alex Brun: Yeah, I mean compliance is really important, which is why we have a growing, growing team here. Focusing on quality and compliance, like the process to follow can be very tricky, especially when you’re new to the space. How do you end up with your expiration date? Which testing is required for each batch, for each product? When you, when you release that, you know. There’s a lot of steps that you need to take that we really need to guide customers on. But overall, I would say the couple of pieces of advice that I have for the upcoming entrepreneurs, the first thing is definitely do your homework, read and research. Like we obviously have no problem educating customers and like to give them advice, all of that. But there is so much going on that, like you need to have an idea of what you get yourself into because it is not. As easy as some people might think, and it is easier when you have a good partner. But he still has, you know, a lot of requirements in space. And I would say, you know, follow what you learn from your personal experience. It makes you motivated when you’re connected to the topic, the product. You really understand the challenge. And also, you know, passion. I always say it’s a great engine when you start a project. When you really create a product around a personal need, usually it tends to be very, very successful. Also, you know, you need to really take the time to select the right manufacturing and packaging partner. And we’re getting quite a few customers who are struggling with their previous manufacturing and packaging partner.

Alex Brun: Sometimes you have different philosophies going on, but product quality, packaging issues, like you can really make a big difference when you have partners that try to bring solutions rather than just adding more challenges to your plate. When you’re trying to launch a, you know, a new business like you want to make your life easy. Finding the right partner is definitely key. Take the time to discuss with them. Visit their facilities, see how they are doing things like I think it’s really important. Next I would say really take the time to understand your audience, your brand, your product. Like we can obviously, you know, guide you through the process. But we’ve seen some startup brands, you know, growing exponentially in a few months by having, you know, solid strategy, having really the right product and others who have, you know, relatively slow start by rushing to launch something because they saw a lot of other brands doing it. The reality is that, like when you have a product that, you know, five, ten, 20 other brands are already doing that, you offer the exact same thing. It’s either going to take you a lot of investment, marketing wise, to make it successful, or you’re just not going to succeed at all. You really need to add something on top. Taking the time to really understand the market, really understand the product, and really think you know about, like what you want to do, what do you want to achieve and what makes your brand special. This is what is going to make you successful.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, that’s all.

Bethany Jolley: Such great advice. And that wraps up today’s deep dive into the world of nutraceutical manufacturing with Alex Brun of Willings Nutrition nutraceutical. Alex, thank you for sharing your invaluable insights and the exciting developments at Willings. For our listeners looking to learn more about Willing’s nutraceutical or to explore their services, check out the links that we’ve provided. Don’t forget to subscribe and share your thoughts on today’s episode on social media. Join us next time on Nutra Preneur for more cutting-edge discussions. Stay informed and stay inspired.