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Saturday, Jul 2, 2022

Supplement Maker Bulks Up on Contract Deals

When Adel Villalobos reeled in his first multimillion dollar order last year for a health supplement, he knew his contract manufacturing company would take off from there. The deal was a key reason his Lief Labs brought in $5.4 million in revenue last year, a 151 percent increase that landed it at No. 6 on the Business Journal’s Fastest Growing Private Companies list. Villalobos, 42, said the key to his success has been simple. “We have a reputation for being very transparent, very loyal, and a real business partner (to our clients),” he said. “About 95 percent of my business has come from word of mouth. My own clients recommend me to people.” The Valencia company makes vitamins, herbal products, protein supplements, energy drinks and other products for brand-name companies such as Nuretix in San Diego and Power Performance Products in Granada Hills. Indeed, the Valley is home to a cluster of supplement makers, such as PureTek Corp. in San Fernando, Natrol Inc. in Chatsworth and Pharmavite in Northridge. And this year’s list includes nutrition food manufacturers Lenny & Larry’s and New Horizon Health Inc. Marcia Schurer, president of Culinary Connections, a Chicago food consultancy, said that the multibillion dollar nutrition and health food industry has been a big deal for some time now. “Anything that is marketed to improve one’s health attracts consumers who are looking to know more about it,” said Schurer. “Los Angeles and San Francisco have always been on the forefront of things that are healthy probably because people who live there generally like a healthier lifestyle and tend to consume healthier foods.” Lief Labs is actually the second manufacturing company for Villalobos, who has a biochemistry degree from Cal State Northridge and 17 years’ experience in chemistry, quality- control and product development. In 2002, he started a business in Chatsworth called Avidia Consumer Group that also manufactured dietary supplements. The company struggled for nearly two years and was in serious jeopardy of going bankrupt when a San Diego client, Alpha Nutraceuticals Inc., bought him out and paid off the debt. After staying on with Alpha for five years, he struck out on his own again in 2007, with the help of several partners, the majority of whom he has bought out leaving him with 90 percent ownership. Lief Labs has expanded to three warehouses in the same industrial park – one where raw materials are stored, and two locations for laboratories and manufacturing. Todd Fromin, co-owner of Power Performance, has used Lief Labs since 2007 for his company’s manufacturing needs. His company sells dietary supplements and protein powders said to burn fat, boost energy and provide other health benefits. “I would consider Adel to be a partner and a consultant in addition to a manufacturer,” Fromin said. “Adel wants your product to not only be made but to succeed, (and) he has never given me a reason to go to another manufacturer.” By the end of this year, Villalobos anticipates Lief Labs’ annual revenue will triple to $14 million. Delicious and nutritious Lenny and Larry’s, owned by Chief Executive Barry Turner and President Don Croutch placed No. 19 on the list with 75 percent revenue growth to $7 million last year. The Northridge snack manufacturer sells high-protein baked nutrition snacks. Among their top sellers are the Complete Cookies, a vegan, non-GMO cookie. The company distributes nationally and internationally through retailers such as Sprouts Farmers Market, Whole Foods, Coffee Bean and 7-Eleven. It also sells through 24 Hour Fitness. “A lot of high protein bars out there are not all natural,” said Croutch, 62. “But we can be in the Whole Foods of the world because we are all-natural and in 24 Hour Fitness and gyms because of the protein. We’re one of the few companies that can cross over.” Turner, 53, said the company, founded in 2007, saw a jump in sales after it improved the design of its packaging a few years ago, which made its products more appealing and last longer. “What really happened is we did a packaging change with our cookie and it increased the shelf life,” he said. “Because it stands out on the shelf it helped us gain bigger distribution.” New Horizon Health in Westlake Village, reported a 46 percent increase in revenue to $7.6 million in 2013. It is No. 28 on the list. The company is operated by co-founder Len Foley, who also teaches meditation and is co-founder of Longevity Now Conference, one of the largest health and wellness events in the United States.

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