Organic certification for contract manufacturer fits into growing trend

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

New certifications, trade organization guidances and processing aides are helping to fuel the organic supplements sector. Getty Images
New certifications, trade organization guidances and processing aides are helping to fuel the organic supplements sector. Getty Images

Related tags Organic Dietary supplement industry

Contract manufacturer Icelandirect has announced it has achieved organic certification, the company announced recently, which is part of a trend of widening organic options with the dietary supplement industry.

Icelandirect began as a fish oil importer, hence the name, that has also moved into contract manufacturing.  The company is based in Clifton, NJ.

Organic cert fits into ‘green’ move

The new organic certification is part of the company’s push to offer a more ‘green’ manufacturing solution with eco friendly packaging one of the options. The new certification under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), which the company says applies to both its product procurement services and manufacturing facilities, figures into that scheme, said Icelandirect president Brandon Miller.

“Through the USDA Organic Certification process, we have established strict production and labeling requirements, including organic verification from our ingredient sources,” ​Miller said. “By earning organic certification, we will be able to meet our customers’ needs for organic ingredients and faster development of new opportunities within the growing organic market.”

According  Nielsen sales data provided via the Organic Produce Network, for the 52 weeks of 2019 vs. the same period a year previously showed that organic fruit and vegetable sales increased 5.1% compared to a dollar increase of 1.9% for conventional produce​. Organic fruit and vegetable volume sales increased by 4.6% compared to a volume change of 0.8% for conventional items, according to the report. 

AHPA organic guidance

Demand for organic options in dietary supplements is reportedly increasing as well, though it does not necessarily move in lockstep with the market for organic foods.  But interest has been high enough that the American Herbal Products Association, in conjunction with the Organic Trade Association (OTA), published Guidance on organic dietary supplements in 2013​ and issued an updated version in 2018.

Supplements were originally outside of the scope of the National Organic Program when its rules were made final in 2000. But in 2005, the program ruled that an ingredient that comes from a compliant agricultural process could be labeled as organic regardless of end use (i.e., whether that ingredient is used in a conventional food or a dietary supplement), which opened the door for supplement manufacturers who wanted to access this still small but growing end of the supplement market. 

Different categories of claims

The guidance goes into detail on the four labeling categories, which are: “100 organic,” “organic,” “made with organic (specific ingredients)” and “some organic ingredients.” Each has a precise definition of what that label claim means for product contents. The first is fairly self explanatory, except that it extends to the processing aids of ingredients, which must be organic, too. The second category allows the inclusion of up to 5% of nonorganic trace ingredients that must come from a NOP-approved list. 

The step down to the third category introduces the 70% level, the one that is probably most applicable to supplements, said APHA president Michael McGuffin said. At least 70% of the contents must be organic for this label claim, and a company could call out specific organic constituents in the ingredient list. The non-organic ingredients or processing aids must come from the NOP’s National List, and therein lies the rub for supplement manufacturers. McGuffin said meeting these varying labeling requirements could be fairly straightforward for the makers of teas and tinctures, but it’s a lot more complicated for capsule and tablet delivery forms, where the delivery vehicle itself already makes up 20% or more of the product’s total weight. 

“I think that 70% tier is approachable in some products. Companies are going to have to address that even in the formulation stage if they want to sell an organic product,” ​McGuffin said at the time the first version of the guidance was released. 

Organic excipients

One of the issues with dietary supplement manufacture has been the dearth of organic options for excipients such as stabilizers and flow agents.  Ribus, a company that makes excipients and other functional ingredients out of rice bran, claims to have removed most of those hurdles​ with its organic lubrication agents that both ease the flow of ingredients through manufacturing machinery but can also help tablets to release cleanly from presses. 

“If you have an organic active, a 100% organic supplement in a tablet form is now possible,”​ said Steve Pierce, CEO of Ribus.

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