Quality and Commitment (video)
by Lynda Hammons, Vice President of Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs
At our June Strategic Summit — a gathering of Regional Managers and above in Las Vegas— Lynda Hammons, Vice President of Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs, gave a presentation where she drove home the point that quality has always been and will always be central to Nature’s Sunshine Products.
Nature’s Sunshine has quality that is second to none. We guarantee every bottle we sell. It’s important to us that you consistently get the best results with Nature’s Sunshine products. For that reason, you can be assured that we will always be committed to quality and excellence.
Over a thousand companies produce or manufacture dietary supplements in the United States today. More than 85% of the brands on the market are made by small, contract manufacturers. They put pretty labels on bottles and sell them to big box stores, warehouse clubs and other companies that sell—but do not make or test—their own products. These sellers are not responsible for their quality. As a result, a lot of poor- quality products are on the market.
Lynda Hammons, Vice President of Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs, gave a presentation where she drove home the point that quality has always been and will always be central to Nature’s Sunshine Products. What follows are her words.
Doing it Right, Ourselves
At Nature’s Sunshine, we design and manufacture our own products. We are in charge of our quality. We know what we put into every bottle. There is a huge gap between bad products and good products. And there is a big gap between the good products and Nature’s Sunshine’s highest quality products.
Quality is not an accident. It doesn’t just happen! Nature’s Sunshine spends millions of dollars every year plus a lot of time, effort and expertise, assuring that we offer the highest quality products. I have never been asked to cut costs. We have the funding for testing because we need to test to ensure quality.
Sometimes quality can mean the difference between life and death. Many of our distributors found Nature’s Sunshine because of a critical health issue. I am a cancer survivor of eight years, and I fully believe that I would not be here today if it weren’t for premium quality Nature’s Sunshine products. In my case, it was the difference between life and death.
Uncompromising Commitment to Quality
NSP was built on quality and that will not change. Quality is built into the entire process, from the fields where our botanicals are grown, through the harvesting, cleaning, processing, to the moment the product goes out the door. It requires testing, testing and more testing.
I have been with Nature’s Sunshine for 18 years, and I have never once been asked to compromise our quality. No one has ever said, “We don’t want to have this product go on backorder. Can you just accept a little dirt?” I have never been asked to do that. That is my commitment to you—we will NOT compromise on quality!
I give you my personal commitment and the commitment of everyone at Spanish Fork, of everyone at the Home Office: we will continue to provide you with the highest quality supplements in the world. We are likewise committed to providing you the very best customer service. Believe me, with my health issues, I know how important it is to have the highest quality products.
We are very proud of our facility, and we invite everybody to see it. If you haven’t been here recently, please come back. Reacquaint yourself with the facility so you can tell everyone about it. We are open for tours Monday–Friday. If you’re coming to Utah for vacation or business, please schedule a tour. A personal guide will show you our state-of-the-art-equipment, where your products are made and where they’re tested. We look forward to seeing you!
You Get What You Pay For
A Few More Reasons Why NSP Quality Is Unbeaten
The following information was taken from a recent presentation given by Lynda Hammons, Vice President of Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs for Nature’s Sunshine Products.
Consider The Source
There’s a saying: “Garbage in, garbage out.” If you start with mediocre material, there’s nothing you can do during the manufacturing process to improve quality. Sourcing is critical to the quality of Nature’s Sunshine supplements.
Every year, NSP scours the world in search of the best fields and crops for each botanical. Some companies own their own fields. But Nature’s Sunshine has decided not to own any fields, because if we did, we would have to go to those fields every year and get that crop, no matter how good or how bad it was. Instead, we go to different harvesters and find out where the best crop is that year.
The Best Of Facilities, The Worst Of Facilities
NSP is committed to bringing our customers the very best botanicals from all over the world. And we don’t take our suppliers’ word for the quality of their facilities. We travel the globe to audit our suppliers firsthand and make sure they are building quality into their entire practice.
Managers often ask about different geographic regions with regard to quality. Some of the best botanicals are grown in China. Lynda says, “I have seen some of the worst facilities in China, and I have seen some of the best facilities in China.” She adds that she has also seen some of the worst and best facilities right here in the United States. “Managers need not be concerned, because we audit our suppliers to make sure they follow good manufacturing practices,” she says.
Nature’s Sunshine invests heavily in these audits. It is not cheap to travel so much. But it is critical to see exactly where the botanicals and materials are processed. Says Lynda, “We closely scrutinize all of their processes: how they harvest, how they process material, how they clean the herb material and their equipment. We take time to look at minute details that other companies may skip.”
Evaluating Vendor “Facilities”
“When we first contact a supplier, they typically say, ‘We’ll put you down for an hour tour of the facility.’ We tell them, ‘It’s not a tour. This is an audit. It can take a minimum of a day, and it can take two days.’
“We look at their equipment. We look at their documentation. We look at every step throughout the process to make sure they are following good manufacturing practices.
“One of the first places I check is the restrooms. I go to both the men’s and the women’s, and I look for soap and hot water. You would be surprised at the number of potential suppliers who fail an audit because they don’t have one of these.
• During an audit in China, the facility did not have any soap because they said people would steal it. FAIL.
• Last year, we went to an audit in Florida, and a Ph.D. met with us. He knew the raw material very well. I went into the restroom, and they had no hot water. It wasn’t even hooked up! The worst part was that they did not appear to realize they needed hot water for personal hygiene and to clean their equipment. We didn’t even complete the audit. FAIL.
“Many suppliers ask, ‘What are you going to the restroom for?’ Obviously, other companies are not going into their restrooms during audits.
“I’ve earned a nickname in the industry — The Terminator — because it is very hard to pass one of my audits. I’m proud of that because it means Nature’s Sunshine quality is extremely difficult to match.”
Sustainability Is Key
As a manufacturer and distributor of natural products, NSP feels it has a stewardship to help maintain the environment and preserve natural resources for future generations to enjoy. Last September, Nature’s Sunshine personnel traveled to the Atlantic Coast in Canada to observe the wild-crafted kelp harvest. The upper portions of kelp float on top of the water. Lynda and NSP’s Manager of Purchasing, Ellen O’Neal, spent some time with a local harvester traveling in the boat. The man used a special rake to cut off only the top of the kelp. If he had pulled the roots out, the crop could not continue to thrive. His harvesting technique allowed the kelp to grow back, and in several years they can harvest again from the same location.
We also worked with a biologist the company has on staff who travels to each of the harvest sites and documents where that company is harvesting every year and how much they harvested, so they will not go back there too soon. That company is taking steps to make sure they have kelp and other sea products available for the future. Sustainability measures are something we consider on every audit.
Mother Nature Doesn’t Always Cooperate
A couple of years ago, NSP had a difficult time sourcing black walnut because it had been so rainy. We received black walnut material from a supplier, but it did not contain the active constituents in the proper ratios. So it was rejected. We can assure our customers that with every
lot you’re going to get the same beneficial active components because we test for them in every lot.
Harvesting Is Tricky
The timing and technique of the harvest can also play a role in quality.
• If you harvest peppermint on a shady, cool day, it has different actives than if it’s collected on a sunny, warm day.
• The heat level in cayenne peppers varies according to the temperature at which it is grown. Good cayenne peppers need very hot days and cool nights. A supplier in Puerto Rico tried to grow cayenne peppers there. they sent them to us for testing. the peppers looked beautiful—very red and shiny. But when we bit into them, there was no heat. Puerto Rico’s climate did not have the cool nights the peppers needed to grow properly and produce the correct amount of capsaicin.
Quality Through Testing Purity, Safety And Potency
Nature’s Sunshine produces the highest quality natural supplements. But, what does quality really mean? Our quality boils down to three things: purity, safety and potency. We can proclaim our products’ purity, safety and potency with confidence because we test for these things every step along the way. In fact, we have over 600 tests at our disposal to ensure that our customers get the very best.
NSP Products Are Pure
Purity testing is absolutely critical. One aspect of purity testing includes making sure that we obtain and offer the correct species and part of the plant that offers the most health benefits. A few years ago, NSP tested a sample of St. John’s Wort that was purchased from a large national retail store. Our testing revealed that it was the wrong species of St. John’s Wort. That particular bottle may have been inexpensive, but it was also an ineffective product! Nature’s Sunshine has the labs, and we test every lot of material. You can be 100% assured that you will get the correct species and the correct part of the plant.
Purity testing also guarantees that you get what is listed on the label and nothing else. What else might you get with lower quality brands? Try dirt, rock or insects. NSP’s suppliers tell us that if they can meet our standards, they can meet any standards because ours are the highest in the industry. We pay more to our suppliers because we require our raw materials to be cleaned. This is an extra step in the harvesting process, but we aren’t looking for the cheapest raw materials, we’re looking for the purest raw materials.
Did You Know?
Raw botanical materials are paid for by weight. Some suppliers will grind up dirt, stems and rocks that are attached to the botanicals because it adds weight. It also lowers the amount of beneficial active ingredients. NSP routinely rejects these adulterated raw materials.
NSP Products Are Safe
Our customers are concerned about their health. Many have compromised immune systems. Offering safe products is essential, and we have built our reputation on that. NSP tests for foreign materials and for micro-contamination, such as salmonella and E. coli. When harvested, botanicals need to dry properly; if they are milled while wet they are susceptible to yeast and mold. We test for these too. NSP also tests for heavy metal contamination, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and PCB.
Testing Is the Only Guarantee
Organic growers strive to offer crops free of chemical additives. But even organic material requires extensive testing because pesticides can travel in the air. The recent E. coli outbreak in Germany that killed over 20 people came from an organic sprout farm. An organic label isn’t a guarantee of safety. An NSP label, backed by extensive testing is your safety guarantee.
NSP Products Are Potent
Potency testing guarantees that every lot is going to have the same beneficial active constituents in the same beneficial amounts. A potent product assures consistent results.
What Didn’t Make the Grade
One of the most common questions Lynda Hammons is asked involves rejecting material. Currently NSP rejects about two percent of raw material every year. The Quality Assurance department and the Purchasing team have worked very hard to reduce that number over the years by finding the highest quality suppliers and developing strong partnerships with them.
Some Examples of Recent Rejections:
• An incoming lot of slippery elm failed the gel test, which means it didn’t meet activity criteria. The inner bark of slippery elm is the active ingredient. In this case, the inner bark was mixed with the outer bark and it didn’t have the correct activity and potency levels. So it was rejected.
• One particular lot of oat straw was rejected for mercury and dirt contamination.
• A shipment of ginseng contained the pesticide quintozene and was rejected.
Hallmarks of High Quality
NSP is fully compliant with all FDA regulations and international regulations. That means you can be assured that as you grow a global business, Nature’s Sunshine meets all regulations.
NSP works continually to develop and improve products, equipment and processes. Over 10 years ago, we used a piece of equipment called a DCP for testing mineral purity. The DCP could detect contaminants down to parts per million. We subsequently upgraded to an ICP that could test for parts per billion. Today we use an ICP mass spectrometer that can test for parts per TRILLION, which is the equivalent of one drop of water in five Olympic-size swimming pools!
NSP always pays its bills on time. This not only makes us a good company with which to work, but it assures quality. For example, if a crop is limited one year, our suppliers come to us first with their best materials.
In 2009, NSP received the prestigious NSF certification. NSF is an independent international certification company. They visit twice a year to inspect and audit Nature’s Sunshine’s manufacturing facility, procedures and products.