NutraLab Canada: Proud to mesh Eastern heritage with Western cultural needs

By: Mudeeha Yousaf


With the growing demand of private label natural health and dietary supplements comes the rise in contract manufacturers like NutraLab Canada Ltd, a pharmaceutical contract manufacturing company of capsules, tablets, soft gels, powders and liquids. Founded in 1996 by Chinese native Dr. Peter Ou, NutraLab Canada tackles raw material supplies and is complete with an in-house analytical lab to meet the demands of the pharmaceutical industry.

Earning a PhD from University College London in Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, CEO Dr. Ou brings over thirty years of experience from his background as an academic of medical science. From teaching medicine in China to earning a scholarship to study at the University of London, Ou was always interested in the trends of natural health in the western world, and when he arrived in Canada in ’96, he brought along with him the knowledge gained from his time spent in China and the UK.

“I spent six years in London training Western pharmaceutical companies before coming to Canada,” says Ou. “I needed to find something that maximized my interest, in not only academic research but something that helps people too.”

Before launching the Toronto-based company, Dr. Ou opened its sister company, Honson Pharmatech Group, in 1996 not knowing how quickly his business would eventually expand. Before the birth of NutraLab, Honson’s primary goal was providing OEM and private label services for natural health and dietary supplement products.

“More people are looking to live longer and a healthier life, that’s why I came to the idea that we need to focus on natural health, ingredients and products,” states Dr. Ou.

Dr. Ou and his experienced team offer only the purest and highest quality products to appeal to NutraLab’s market. Quality assurance is key to the company’s business ethics and “quality comes from the ingredients, but natural health products depend on experience, knowledge and how you identify the quality from the source of the ingredients it comes from,” says Dr. Ou, drawing on years of experience.

The so-called ‘hot’ products, however, solely depend on the markets and the times, changing as generational patterns also change. The company’s most popular products are always in flux, but their attention to detail of each product that they release remains static.

The FDA and Health Canada-approved company specializes in the production of vitamin and minerals, nutrition supplements and functional therapy remedies, which targets health-risk problems such as diabetes and joint problems. The company’s three-fold production process consists of providing the raw materials to formulate the product, manufacturing the products operations and finally developing its own private label supplement.

“We create the formula for customers and have manufactured over 1000 different products for different companies around the world, Canada and internationally.” However, breaking into the Canadian market from the get-go proved to be a challenge.

“We needed to make sure our standards are combined with Health Canada standards,” says Dr. Ou. “We try to minimize any conflict of interest for our customers.”

“The standard of product quality in Canada is as good, if not better, than any part of the world. In the US whenever you have to make a claim it doesn’t have to be backed up by scientific evidence, but in Canada you have to show how the raw materials help, say weight loss… The fact that all our products have registered Health Canada NPN is a good thing,” says the new president of NutraLab Canada, Michael Ash. “Today there is a competitive industry but we are looking forward to the industry growing.”

The Canadian market is much more heavily regulated than international markets, especially the United States and Europe, and those who export internationally from Canada are already approved by one of the toughest markets, which emphasize the company’s credibility. “We regulate a lot better than other countries do,” adds Dr. Ou.

“‘Made in Canada’ is a brand.”

NutraLab is a member of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores (CACDS), is GMP approved and has over 200 products with NPN product license numbers. They also hold a Halal certificate to cater to the nation’s Muslim clientele and use products free of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), proving that NutraLab is a customer-friendly brand.

Today, nearly 30-40% of the company’s revenue comes from exporting to over 15 different countries, and the company recognizes that there is a growing oversees market. With support from the Ontario government, NutraLab exports to international trades becoming a multi-faceted pharmaceutical company. Not only focusing on exports, NutraLab has an in-house brand that targets more popular items their customers need, giving the company a more competitive edge. Their in-house brand, MapleLife Nutrition, has emerged into a global leading nutraceutical brand and was launched to meet the growing demands of the market.

The company works closely with the Agriculture and Food Laboratory, a unit of the Laboratory Services Division at the University of Guelph, to focus specifically on national health products.

“[The AFL] is consistent in supporting NutraLab in ongoing export projects [and] makes our natural health products more high quality and recognized internationally,” says Dr. Ou.

Though, what sets NutraLab apart from other leading pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies has more to do with their team rather than their products. Their work ethics and company values stems from the fact that NutraLab is among the top 10 multi-cultural employers, and their skilled laborers are brought from international countries. Having spent years abroad training western pharmaceutical companies of the best manufacturing practices before immigrating to Canada, Dr. Ou continues the practice of training expert workers in order to make the company more intercontinental. Dr. Ou is the first Chinese to break into the industry, and NutraLab is proud to mesh its Eastern heritage with Western cultural needs.

With a net worth of more than $6 million, a growing team of over 60 employees and a scheduled move to a state-of-the-art facility in Toronto, NutraLab Canada is a growing leader in the pharmaceutical industry.