What's the Process for Manufacturing Vitamin Supplements?
Vitamin supplements can be procured from plant or animal products or produced synthetically in a laboratory through chemical reactions. For example, vitamin A can be derived from fish liver oil, or it can be synthesized from acetone. Similarly, vitamin C can be derived from citrus fruits or rose hips or synthesized from keto acid.[i]
Commercially available vitamin supplements are easy to synthesize artificially since the raw materials are more readily available than their natural counterparts. It is important to note that there is no chemical difference between the purified vitamins manufactured from plant or animal sources and those produced synthetically.
Does the Manufacturing Process for Vitamin Supplements Differ with Each Type?
Regardless of what type of vitamin you plan to produce or whether you use chemical or natural raw materials, the process of manufacturing vitamins remains the same. For example, the process of manufacturing a vitamin C supplement and the process of manufacturing vitamin D3 supplements would remain the same; the only differences would be the raw material used and the delivery format – powder or tablet. But, the core process to manufacture vitamins does not change.[ii]
How Are Vitamin Supplements Manufactured?
The vitamin production process follows 10 essential steps, depending on the particular vitamin you are trying to make, the raw materials will vary.
What kind of vitamins do you wish to bring into the market? Depending on your answer, you can decide on the appropriate doses of raw material ingredients and deliver an evidence-based supplement backed by appropriate structural and functional claims.
- Preliminary Checking
The second step is sourcing high-quality raw materials and other ingredients from vendors. These “other ingredients” include essential substances that will play different roles, such as binders, fillers, flow agents, etc., and differ based on whether your finished product is a powder, capsule, or tablet.
Reputable vendors of raw materials provide a contract manufacturer with a Certificate of Analysis – a declaration of the material’s content and purity. Most multivitamin manufacturers check the raw materials themselves or send them to an independent laboratory for analysis. If you're producing natural vitamin supplements using herbs, they must be sampled for identity and potency, and any possible bacterial contamination as well as heavy metal content.
Raw materials usually arrive in the form of fine powder and may not need preliminary processing. In case the ingredients are not finely granulated, they are passed through a mill and ground. Some vitamins come preblended with a filler ingredient like microcrystalline cellulose or maltodextrin to produce a more even granule that simplifies the next processing steps. When working with new ingredients, laboratory technicians may produce test batches to determine if pre-blending is necessary.[iii]
- Wet Granulation
For vitamin tablets, particle size plays a significant role in determining how well your formula will run through a tableting machine. If the raw vitamins arrive from the distributor milled to the appropriate size for tableting, there is no need for a wet granulation step. Otherwise, the fine vitamin powder is mixed with different cellulose particles, made wet, and dried in a dryer. Once dried, the formula may be in chunks. In a case like this, the powder will need to be run through a mill to ensure that it’s appropriately sized. The mill forces them down a small hole to achieve the desired granule size.
- Weighing and Mixing
Once the vitamin ingredients are ready, they are weighed out on a scale. On a formula batch record, the required weights of each ingredient are listed down. After weighing, the ingredients are placed in a mixer for approximately 15-30 minutes. Samples are then taken from different sides of the mixer and examined to ensure even distribution and proportion of all ingredients. When making a large batch, the first three or four slots in the mixer are checked and then re-checked periodically.[iv]
Once the batch in the mixer has been approved, the mixture is moved to an encapsulating machine and put into a hopper. Initially, a test batch is run through the encapsulating machine to ensure that the capsules are of proper and consistent weight. The finished vitamin mixture is then compressed into tablets, sometimes with a coating, or encapsulated in preformed gelatin capsules based on the brand owner’s requirements. The vitamin capsules are even checked visually for splitting or dimpling. If the tests show no errors, the entire batch is run through this process.
- Polishing and Inspection
The vitamin capsules are then circulated on a belt through a series of soft brushes. These brushes wipe out any surplus dust or vitamin powder from the exterior of the capsules. Once polished, the capsules are poured on an inspection table that has a belt of rotating rods. The rotating table may be 2-4 ft (0.6-1.2m) in diameter. The vitamins fall in the grooves between the rods and rotate as the rods turn, allowing the inspector to see all sides of the vitamin. Capsules that are too long, split, dimpled, or otherwise defective are discarded.
A rotating table fitted with holes on its outer edges holds dies that are the shape of the desired tablet (oval, round, animal, etc.). These dies are interchangeable, so you can choose the shape as long as the proper dies are installed. Vitamin powder from the filling station fills the die, and when the table rotates, the filled die moves into a punch press. 4-10 tons (3.6-9 metric tons) of pressure is exerted on the vitamin powder when the halves of the punch meet, and the vitamin powder is compressed into a compact tablet. The number of tablets made every minute is determined by the speed of rotation of the table. Once compressed, the tablets are ejected onto a vibrating belt to remove any loose dust.[v]
The solid tablets are taken from the tableting area and placed into a coating pan – a wide rotating pan surrounded by 1-6 spray guns and is operated by pumps. These pumps spray coating over the tablets as they revolve in the pan.
- Packaging and Labeling
In the packaging area, coated vitamin tablets are passed through a row of machines. The machine is set to count out the required number of capsules or tablets per bottle. The capsules or tablets fall into a bottle that is passed to the next machine to be sealed, capped, labeled, and shrink-wrapped. Each bottle is labeled according to its contents, recommended usage information, and expiration date. These finished bottles are then set in boxes and ready to be shipped.
Quality checks are conducted at many stages of the vitamins manufacturing process to ensure that the highest quality supplements are manufactured. All of the vitamin tablets or capsule ingredients are checked for identity and potency before being used.
Steps Taken During the Quality Control Process:
- Adhering to strict testing procedures
- Thorough testing for ingredient purity and contaminants
- Comprehensive monitoring schedules
- Analytical chemistry-based laboratory analyses
- Ensuring compliance with good manufacturing practices (GMPs)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you manufacture vitamins?
A: Once you have decided what kind of vitamins you want to produce, the process of manufacturing includes sourcing, pre-blending, wet granulation, weighing and mixing, encapsulating, polishing, inspecting, tableting, coating, packaging, and labeling. At different stages of the process, quality checks are conducted to ensure the highest quality of supplements is produced.
Q: What are vitamins made out of?
A: Vitamin supplements are made of nutrients derived either from 1. natural sources (such as vegetables, animals, minerals) 2. nature-identical synthetics (nature-identical molecular structure manufactured in labs) 3. absolute synthetics (manufactured in labs but different from naturally found nutrients) 4. bacterial fermentation (genetically altering bacteria) 5. food culture (grown in yeast or algae) or food-based.
Final Notes on the Vitamin Supplement Manufacturing Process
Due to the incredibly intricate nature of vitamin manufacturing, many new brand owners prefer partnering with an experienced contract manufacturer who can guide them through every step of the way. The manufacturing process will generally take 12-16 weeks for new orders and 8-12 weeks for existing/re-orders. Factors that can affect lead times include, but are not limited to, the type of product you're looking to manufacture, the number of bottles you want to produce, and the availability of raw materials.
You may now have several questions about the vitamin supplements manufacturing process. Our team is here to help you – with over 50 years of industry experience we would be happy to assist you! Call 855-492-7388 to speak to one of our representatives or send us your request to receive a free price quote for your vitamin supplements if you already have your requirements in place!