SupplySide China 2018

June 28-30, 2018 • Area B, China Import and Export Fair Complex, Guangzhou, China


Supplements Industry Year in Review: Cannabis, Transparency, DNA Testing, More

Over the last 20 years what we experience as a testing lab very much reflects developments and trends throughout the industry. Revisit with me what this year has brought and how that will continue in the New Year (Happy 2018, BTW!).

2017 has been another banner year for our little lab that can and will. In our efforts to continue providing the industry with expert testing of botanicals, with transparent CoAs (certificates of analysis) and world class technical support, we overcame many major obstacles, inflection points and threats.

We stood our ground with Goliath and avoided falling prey to industry consolidation, rendering Alkemist Labs one of the last small, independent labs standing. We just have bigger, slower moving competitors now. This transformation of the industry testing lab landscape is not over and will likely continue into 2018 and beyond.

We strategically chose to miss another “cannabis bus” with yet another potentially attractive partnership, making it our third or 18th opportunity to enter the “federally illegal yet state sanctioned” cannabis testing business. Not no, just not now… #frustrating

Open dialogue amongst industry leaders about the need for better communication and more transparency in specialized testing needs of novel ingredients has continued as they find their way into almost every finished product on the shelf. This will certainly be continued into 2018 and beyond as the industry matures and begins to be fully accountable for every ingredient, whether simple or proprietary. Oh, by the way—FDA is coming to talk to you about this, so be prepared.

Our 20-year-old policy on transparency is now being called “open source testing” and may be catching on with the other labs, as auditors and FDA agents continue to better understand the products they are inspecting and ask more detailed questions.

The “new kid” on the block (DNA testing) seems to be finally finding its place in and/or even out of the industry as we worked to demystify testing by re-re-re-explaining fit for purpose testing. No, DNA testing still can’t tell you the plant part or potency and YES we are still developing our testing platform for this very complicated testing service and intended to launch it one year ago. Did we mention fit for purpose testing is fit for purpose because of the time and care that happens prior to that designation?

Most excitingly, we finally broke ground on a new facility, which will nearly quadruple our corporate headquarters and lab. It’s been almost 15 years for us in the same location, confined by small spaces and inefficient lab design. We are very excited to be able to improve our working space and efficiencies and strategically add complementary testing services to better help the industry from which we thrive.

We had fun with our online adventure game, Botanical Boss, that puts the player behind a supplement brand CEO’s desk as they make testing decisions during new product development. Most people enjoyed it, but in answer to the one comment we heard that it was inappropriate because labs should always be serious: Hello, have you met us?

Lastly, our sales have grown from the previous year (thank you industry for your compliance with 21CFR Part 111 and continued trust in us).  We anticipate finished product formula testing to be the big growth area next year if rumblings from FDA inspections are the indicator we think they are.

Whew! I think I need a vacation…

Élan M. Sudberg is CEO of Alkemist Labs, a contract testing laboratory specializing in plant authentication, botanical ingredient identification and quantitative analytical services to the food and beverage, nutraceutical and cosmeceutical industries. He holds a degree in chemistry from California State University Long Beach, and has authored numerous journal articles on phytochemistry and analytical techniques for the natural products and nutraceutical industry. He is a board member of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), as well as AHPA’s Education and Research on Botanicals Foundation, and former chair of the Hemp and Medical Marijuana committee.


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