27 Oct. 21

A seven-year courtship of the Norwegian health supplements firm Vitux has finally resulted in a deal that will see the company establish a North American manufacturing presence in Windsor. Vitux will contract the local firm SofTab Technologies to manufacture its patented ConCordix Soft Chews in the company’s first expansion outside of Norway.

Vitux CEO Klaus Neumann said he expects the plant to be operational this summer. To start there’ll be 25 employees running SofTab’s manufacturing operation while Vitux will employ five people in its Windsor office. “We chose Canada over the U.S. because it’s a culture thing,” said Vitux CEO Klaus Neumann, who expects hiring to begin at the end of the year. “Canada offers some unique opportunities in terms of the marketplace. Windsor is close to the border within easy reach of the east coast of North America. “There’s also a lot of talent here and there’s an existing (pharmaceutical) industry and manufacturing. All of that was attractive.”

SofTab Technologies is a newly formed company headed by president Vancho Cirovski along with Director of Research and Quality Darcy Haggith and Medicap owner Mani Patel. There are also four other investors in the firm. Neumann said Vitux studied partnering with a larger, more established manufacturer, but felt it was a better fit with SofTab having got to know Cirovski and Haggith during the seven-year courtship. “We’ve been looking for a company and people who share our beliefs and culture and see the same opportunities we see,” Neumann said. “We really needed someone who shares our passion. Vitux is a purpose driven company.” The company has won numerous awards for its sustainability and environmental practices.

Vitux uses all natural, plant-based ingredients and no sugar in its products. The company, which employs 80 people in Norway, had sales revenue of $20 million last year. It has seen revenues grow by 40 to 50 per cent year over year in each of the past four years. Vitux products are currently available in Canada under the names Metagenics, Garden of Life, Douglas Laboratories and Pure Encapsulations. “Our U.S. sales have gone from $2-million to $10-million in two years,” Neumann said. “It was time for us to globalize. “We expect the plant here to be doing $20-million by the end of our first full year of operation (2023).” Cirovski credited the sales pitch made by Invest WindsorEssex, the availability of the required automation technology services and the opportunity for Vitux to partner with the University of Windsor on research and development as key selling points.

“It took a lot of convincing,” said Cirovski, who founded Pharmafil before selling it and has worked for Accucaps. “I introduced them to (Invest WindsorEssex) and the University of Windsor and what Klaus got out of those meetings was this community was seriously interested in supporting this.” Vitux will supply the machinery, some advisors to oversee supply chains/commercial activities and some financing to launch the project. SofTab will handle the preparations for the manufacturing space. SofTab will operate in the 15,000-20,000 square feet of unused production space in the Medicap Laboratories plant on Devon Road. The tear down and construction of clean room space is underway with the specialized machinery from Germany expected to arrive in the first quarter of 2022 to begin testing.

The budget to get the plant operational is $8 million. Haggith said Vitux’s delivery platform has intrigued him since he first learned about it when he was director of production at Accucaps a decade ago.
ConCordix technology mimics the way body absorbs nutrients from food by reducing the droplet size of the fat-soluble nutrients resulting in increased absorption into the bloodstream. The technology can be used with oil-soluble and water-soluble ingredients providing a delivery system for a variety of healthcare or medicinal products. “Having the medicine in the gel, it’s a Nano emulsion, is the magic part,” said Haggith, who left Accucaps in 2013 to concentrate on his own sport nutrition company Infinite Nutrition Canada.

“You can make the fill in four hours and put it into a blister pack. It’s done in less than 24 hours instead of at least two weeks for a soft gel. “Making soft gels is one of the more challenging forms from a cost, time and defect rate perspective. “We went to Norway to see this new technology and we were absolutely blown away.” Haggith said the ConCordix technology allows for 40 per cent more absorption of the nutrients in the product and there is no risk of reflux.

It means manufacturers can be more precise in their doses and use a smaller load of nutrients to get the same impact as traditional soft gel tabs. “The ease of use is also much better,” Haggith said. “You don’t need water, you just chew it and you have a pleasant taste you can alter.” Cirovski said there are great opportunities for growth with Windsor becoming home to only the fourth machine in the world capable of producing this technology. “They’re growing quickly in the U.S.,” Cirovski said. “We expect over the next five years, if we stay on the projections they have, to have at least two machines at this location with up to 50 jobs. “We hope for additional growth into new products and markets down the road.”

Read the original article in the Windsor Star