Valencia nutritional supplement manufacturer Lief Labs is expanding once again, and its sales have increased 70 percent compared to last year, Chief Executive Adel Villalobos told the Business Journal.Sales drivers include Vitamin C and immune support products in March and April, and in later months, weight loss products.“As information on COVID became more available and the medical world began to realize what the risk factors were, being overweight is a very big risk factor for COVID. Staying home and closed gyms caused people to gain weight, which was counter to combating COVID,” Villalobos said. “Normally, weight loss (demand) is more in January and February for New Years resolutions.”To meet heightened demand, Lief leased 40 percent of a 52,000-square-foot industrial building in IAC Commerce Center at 28790 Chase Place — adding to its 112,000-square-foot headquarters at 28903 Avenue Paine, which it leased in October 2018.The new facility has 1,630 square feet of office space, a modern warehouse facility and 10 dock doors. Chase Place will be used for raw material storage and supply chain management, a company spokesperson said in an email.Villalobos said Lief’s vendors suffered with capacity and especially plastic packaging when it comes to the dietary supplement supply chain. Raw materials for plastic packaging are usually shipped from China.“Pre-COVID bottles, lids, these were fairly inexpensive items in our cost of goods. We were able to get those within a week, less than a week. Because of the demand for the raw materials that make plastics, packaging goods, the lead times went to eight weeks to 12 weeks,” he said.Having lasting relationships with vendors helped, and convincing clients to change packaging to something more readily available helped smooth out wrinkles in supply management.Added Villalobos: “If we were always shopping around for the lowest price in a packaging supplier, then we would jump from supplier to supplier, and that doesn’t leave enough time to build good relationships. We are very relationship driven.”Lief was represented by Los Angeles property management company Ashland Pacific in its latest lease and moved into the Chase Place space on Oct. 1.
Employee count increased alongside increased demand, Villalobos said, with roughly 60 people brought on since the beginning of the year. But a larger employee count has been stymied with a fear of returning to work and in some cases, unemployment paying better.“It’s hard to find employees when there’s a heightened level of fear,” explained Villalobos. “I think COVID should be respected, but … there are ways to return to work and follow best practices.”The company appeared on the Business Journal’s Fastest Growing Private Companies list last year, starting in 2008 with just 8,000 square feet and soon leasing more than 30,000 square feet in several buildings in the Santa Clarita Valley. In 2017, Lief consolidated its operations to a 47,000-square-foot facility on Industry Drive before growing once more to the Avenue Paine address.“As one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s valued employers in the health and wellness sector, we are thrilled by their commitment to stay and grow in our region,” Holly Schroeder, chief executive of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp., said in a statement.