GFR Pharma

Meeting the growing demand for high-quality, Canadian-made supplements
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Lance Pelletier

The market for Canadian-made supplements and natural health products has taken off in the last several years. In Maple Ridge, British Columbia, GFR Pharma is meeting this ever-growing demand. The company was established in 1998 by Richard Pierce in an effort to produce higher quality health and sports nutrition, vitamins, supplements and powder formulas.

With an unwavering commitment to superior product quality and exceptional, value-added customer service, GFR Pharma has grown from a small operation to a full-service contract manufacturer, packager and formulation expert of tablets, capsules, powders and liquid forms of natural health products for the Canadian, U.S. and global markets. “We are attracting new clients from all over the world who want quality, Canadian-made products,” says Pierce.

GFR Pharma holds a manufacturing site license from Health Canada and is recognized as a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) facility. Other industry qualifications include certification under Pro-Cert Organic and KosherCheck. GFR Pharma is also a registered Dairy Processing Establishment with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), allowing the company to export dairy-based powder products to the European Union and Australia.

The desire to do it better

All of these qualifications that make GFR Pharma a premium contract manufacturer today stem from Pierce’s desire to deliver a better product. After opening his own gym in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the early 1980s, Pierce started importing whey and soy protein powder and other fitness supplements.

He quickly found he was displeased with the product quality and/or manufacturer’s choice of ingredients, so he did his homework and began to mix his own formulas. Pierce originally sold the products from his home, one bag at a time.

His goal was simple: make a higher quality product. “Always make your products as if you were making it for Mom,” says Pierce, president and CEO of GFR Pharma.

In 1984 Pierce established his first company, a successful nutritional supplement business with 45 employees. He eventually sold this business and established GFR Pharma in 1998 as a full-service, private-label manufacturing facility to provide other brands with the same level of quality and service he expected for his own products. Today he owns several other entities in the industry, including GFR Pharma’s sister company, GFR Ingredients.

Making room for increased capacity

Over the last 17 years, GFR Pharma has built its private-label customer base to include many large national and international brands in the health and sports nutrition industry. The company has outgrown its now 50,000-square-foot facility and is preparing to move into a new 140,000-square-foot manufacturing, warehouse and lab facility.

A key part of the expansion strategy was the addition of Tom Tardi as an equity partner in early 2015 in the capacity of chief operating officer. “With more than 30 years' experience and a passion for the nutraceutical industry, Tom brings a wealth of knowledge, leadership and the day-to-day operations skills necessary to move us to the next level,” says Pierce. Tardi has overseen the building of new production facilities around the world for previous companies and will be ensuring the company's operational excellence will be maintained in the planning and development of the new manufacturing site.

Value-added services

As a full-service manufacturer, GFR Pharma makes growing a brand easier for its customers by assisting with everything from formulating and sourcing raw ingredients to manufacturing supplements and packaging in a variety of formats. “We’re more than just a contract manufacturer,” says Pierce.  “Our team delivers comprehensive solutions and keeps innovating to help our clients stay ahead of their competitors.”

“Other contract manufacturers may have similar equipment and facility capabilities as we do, but what sets us apart is first, our strict quality standards, and second, our exceptional service,” adds Julie Garcia, vice president of sales and marketing for GFR Pharma. “We offer a number of value-added services other contract manufacturers do not, such as help with formulation, regulatory advice and export documentation.”

Garcia says GFR Pharma views its customer relations as more than a contract — as a partnership. “We’re investing in partnership relationships; we want our customers to grow so we can grow with them,” she says.

Part of building this partnership is clear, consistent communication throughout the development process. “We walk our customers through everything from product development, onto the finished product and our process is very transparent,” says Garcia. “We’re looking to make it a win-win. If a customer walks away with a product that they can go to market with and they can stand behind that product with no doubt about its quality, then we’ve done our job.”

GFR Pharma’s approach was recognized by Natural Health Products Canada in 2012 when Pierce received an Industry Leader Award. But Pierce frequently reminds his team: “No matter how big we get, we have to remember our original company goal to provide quality products at a competitive price,” he says. “When we help our clients succeed, we all win.”

With established clients and an expansion plan in the works to further business, GFR Pharma is poised for strong growth in the health supplement industry.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
BFL Canada
MC Freight Systems