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Vitamin maker IVC powered by Chinese investment

International Vitamin Corp CEO Steven Dai talks to New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno during her recent visit to the company's facilities. Last year, IVC won an award for its contribution to the New Jersey economy. Photo: China Daily


New Jersey-based International Vitamin Corp has expanded its work force since being acquired by a privately held Chinese pharmaceutical company in 2010.

IVC, which makes vitamins and health supplements under contract to retailers and other store-brand purveyors, has also drawn the attention of government officials in its home state.

"New Jersey's manufacturing heritage and leadership as the home for life sciences make our state an ideal location for International Vitamin Corp," Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno said during a visit to IVC's factory in Freehold on Dec 19.

"New Jersey's work force - the most skilled and highly educated in the nation - and our pro-business, pro-jobs policies are why IVC remains and expands in New Jersey, providing jobs for New Jersey workers," she said.

CEO Steven Dai hosted Guadagno on her tour of IVC's production line and packing operation, and he praised the state government for being "very supportive of foreign investment".

"That is part of the reason for our high-speed development," he said.

Later, Guadagno told China Daily that the state welcomes foreign investment and pointed to this summer's opening of the Office of International Business Development and Protocol, which will try to attract foreign companies to invest in New Jersey.

In mid-October, IVC received an Award of Excellence from the New Jersey Business and Industry Association for its contribution to the state's economy.

The company was founded in 1955 as American Vitamin Products, and merged 40 years later with International Vitamin Co. In 2002, it was acquired by Massachusetts-based Inverness Medical Innovations Inc (since renamed Alere Inc).

In 2010, Aland (Jiangsu) Nutraceutical Group, a private pharmaceutical maker from eastern China's Jiangsu province, bought the assets of what had become Inverness' Medical Nutritionals division and renamed it International Vitamin Corp. At the time, it was announced that the deal was worth about $63.4 million in cash plus closing costs.

Since 2010, IVC has been importing chemical powders from China as ingredients for its products. Dai said the company has improved its position to No 2 from No 5 in the US private-label vitamin industry based on what he says is a combination of employment and sales.

Since the acquisition, IVC has increased its local head count to 410 from 280, the CEO said. He declined to provide figures but said sales have doubled over the past two years.

Michael Richtmyer, who has worked at IVC for more than 10 years, currently as vice-president of operations, said he and other managers are satisfied with the company's new owners.

"I don't see any difficulties working with our Chinese investors," he said. "We may have had some misunderstandings at the very beginning, especially during telephone meetings, but we're good now."

Dai defined IVC's mission: "Producing excellent-quality products for our customers is our secret to success."

He said IVC-made products - most bearing the brand names of drugstores and other retailers - are monitored by the US Food and Drug Administration, while the company's production facilities are subject to inspection every two weeks.

IVC's contract customers include Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Walgreen Co, Costco Wholesale Corp and Rite Aid Corp, as well as ShopRite and Wegmans supermarkets.

"We have never failed an inspection," Dai said. "I want to let everyone know that 'Made in China' can be a good phrase."

The CEO said IVC is creating a "template" for Chinese companies' handling of technology transferred through foreign acquisitions. In the case of Jiangsu-based Aland, the transfer involves moving from the business of raw-material production into higher-value products.

"The industry is globalized," Dai said. "We are not only able to bring raw materials from China to the West, but also to provide Western consumers a high-quality 'Made in China' product."

IVC's success in New Jersey has encouraged Aland to seek expansion in the United States, according to Dai. He said the parent company intends to buy another American vitamin company in 2013, though he wouldn't disclose details.

IVC plans to expand into China as well.

"We have more than 3,500 formulas right now, most of which were inherited from the original company," the CEO said. "We want customers in China to enjoy the same quality products as customers in the US."

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