87.5 F
San Fernando
Saturday, Jun 3, 2023

Pharmavite Readies Soy Bar

Over the past 36 years, Northridge supplement maker Pharmavite has established itself as a major player in the $22- billion vitamin- and mineral- supplement industry. The private company, owned by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. of Japan, lays claim to the best selling vitamin line in the country, Nature Made. Now Pharmavite is dabbling in an entirely new venture a nutritional bar called Soyjoy it plans to launch next month. “This is the line,” Jim Jordan, executive vice president for Pharmavite, said as he walked a visitor on a tour of the company’s new Valencia manufacturing facility, a 60,000-square-foot facility devoted entirely to the production of Soyjoy bars. The company has inked a five-year lease for the nondescript Technology Drive plant with the intention of churning out as many as 140,000 Soyjoy bars a day in apple, berry, mango coconut and raisin almond flavors. The concept behind the bar, Jordan said, is to offer a healthy, nutritional snack made with whole soy and dried fruit to those on the go. “All the other ones are covered in chocolate,” Jordan said of his competitors. ” these are baked,” he said, pointing to the massive, 20-foot oven baking sheets of sticky batter. The bars roughly the consistency of shortcake contain about 130 calories and four grams of soy protein. But the real selling point is what they don’t contain trans fats, artificial flavors, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or gluten, to name a few of the less healthful ingredients sometimes found in snack bars. The bars will retail for $1.29 and are expected to hit shelves next month in grocery stores, pharmacies and other outlets. Long time coming The addition of Soyjoy is a notable divergence for the company, founded by a pharmacist and salesperson, who in 1971 opened a facility in North Hollywood and began pitching vitamins to drugstores. In 1988, Otsuka bought the fledgling operation and a year later opened a plant in San Fernando. In 1993, Pharmavite started leasing production and distribution facilities in Valencia. Today, the company has six facilities in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys that churn out 11.5 billion tablets, capsules and soft gels each year. Pharmavite has three main labels: Nature’s Resource, the vitamin and supplement brand Nature Made, and Olay Vitamins, a supplement introduced in 2003 specifically for women. Jordan said the idea for Soyjoy came last year from Otsuka executives. Similar bars are popular in Japan and the company wanted to gain a toehold in the U.S. and China markets. And they wanted it fast in August Otsuka told Pharmavite to have a production facility ready by November and start manufacturing by January. Pharmavite officials looked at several spaces in the Valley before it eventually found the warehouse in the Valencia Commerce Center. It needed lots of work to be ready for production, Jordan said. With such a short deadline, the city stepped in to hurry the permit process. “It was just a plain warehouse,” Jordan said. “We had to do extensive renovations because we were taking a distribution facility and turning it into manufacturing.” It would eventually cost $13 million, much of it for the kitchen and lab equipment, the serpentine-like conveyor belt that transports raw batter through the 90-foot oven and onto cooling racks and to develop the packaging for the bars. The line was ready by December, when the company brought in 43 new workers for the operation. Carrie Rogers, economic development manager for the city of Santa Clarita, said the additional jobs are a major boon for the city. “Our goal is to have a diversified economy providing high-paying jobs,” she said. “We definitely view them as a good corporate neighbor.” Crowded field Soyjoy enters a crowded and quickly growing segment of the supplement industry. The U.S. nutrition bar market generated $2 billion in 2006, according to the trade publication Nutrition Business Journal. Most products have been marketed to on-the-go adults, and Soyjoy will do the same. But Pharmavite is also relying heavily on the marketability of soy itself. Vice President of Business Development Tom Zimmerman said soy conjures images of health, which is why the company chose to use the word in the bar’s name. “We also wanted a name that was descriptive and fun,” he said. The company also launched an aggressive marketing campaign capitalizing on Pharmavite’s existing client base. The company also plans to give out 15 million sample bars in spas, college campuses and other high traffic spots in the next few months and is working with airlines to make Soyjoy bars an in-flight snack. That push is needed because Soyjoy currently has no brand identity, Zimmerman said. “It’s a real marketing challenge,” he said. “That’s why were spending so much money on sampling.” It’s also been a challenge for Pharmavite officials versed in pills and powders to understand cooking, ingredients and fresh packaging. “We knew a lot about vitamins but we didn’t know a lot about baking,” Jordan said. For that reason, Pharmavite hired Leroy Lovier, a longtime food service professional, as director of plant operations. Lovier traveled to Japan for training. The tactic has paid off Zimmerman said the company is well positioned to enter the market in March and is confident the Pharmavite history will help its latest product succeed. “We have 30-year relationships with these customers,” Zimmerman said. “When we bring a new product to the market it’s got a lot of support behind it.”

Featured Articles

Related Articles