NOW Foods has far exceeded its growth expectations since it opened a 130,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center on Vista Boulevard in 2012.
And NOW Foods still is just getting its northern Nevada operations off the ground.
In two short years, the facility on Vista Boulevard accounts for more than 30 percent of the company’s gross revenues, President Jim Emme said during a tour of the facility a few days ago.
“That’s far more than we projected,” Emme says.
The facility opened in 2012 primarily as a distribution hub with about 30 employees. After bringing in vitamin and gelatin-capsule manufacturing lines, NOW Foods is closing in on 200 employees — and seeks to hire a number of skilled technical positions such as chemists and quality assurance workers.
Softgels, or liquid-filled gelatin capsules containing vitamins, peppermint, fish oils and other popular natural products, are one of the largest areas of current and future growth for NOW Foods. The company’s single softgel manufacturing line can produce between 4 million and 10 million capsules each week, and the Sparks plant was built to accommodate up to four softgel lines. That portion of NOW Food’s business currently employs about 15 in production, quality assurance, sorting and related functions.
NOW Foods has more than 1,400 individual products in its wholesale catalog, and softgels make up a significant portion of that catalog, Emme says. The business is expected to grow significantly over the next few years as in-house chemists develop new formulas and products. The company also seeks to in-source more of its products rather than purchase from companies in California or on the East Coast, Emme says.
“By bringing it in house, we shorten our supply chains and reduce our costs,” Emme says. “We also will have more control over quality. Strategically we are set up to do that — we have a fully equipped scientific lab for testing natural products similar to what you’d find in a pharmaceutical manufacturing operation.”
NOW Foods sells all-natural vitamins and health supplements primarily to independent health food stores and natural-food retail chains in North America. Overseas, the company also sells to some hospitals and has products in more than 70 countries. Domestic sales by far account for the biggest portion of NOW Food’s revenue.
One of the company’s biggest challenges since opening its doors in Sparks is keeping pace with overall growth: Last year’s double-digit improvement in sales volume was NOW Food’s 28th straight year of annual growth, and the company is poised for yet another year of increased revenues, Emme says.
“When we established this facility, and our service levels got even better, our growth exceeded our operating plan,” he adds. “The challenge was catching up with that growth curve.”
Finding skilled labor, such as high-level chemists to perform testing and to create new products, also has been difficult. NOW Foods has been working with the University of Nevada, Reno, to create a pipeline for skilled graduates to find employment. It’s also workingwith Truckee Meadows Community College to implement vocational training to help develop its workforce.
Looking ahead, Emme says NOW Foods must continually expand on the Sparks facility’s capabilities and technologies.
“We have to be innovative; we can’t keep with the status quo. Some of the technologies we are implementing have been out there a few years, and we want to innovate and make them better to reduce our costs and improve the quality of our products.”