West: Supplemental growth

 In NC Trend

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By Mark Jost

Propelled by double-digit sales growth in recent years, Gaia Herbs is undertaking a $5 million expansion of its Brevard headquarters as customers seek natural remedies for everything from allergies to reducing stress. The provider of natural and organic herbal supplements generated $46 million in sales for 2015, part of a $37 billion U.S. industry, according to Nutrition Business Journal, a trade publication.

The 1,000-square-foot addition is not as much about size as it is about preparing for future growth, says Brian Traylor, director of operations. CEO Ric Scalzo started the company in 1987 in Massachusetts. Ten years later, it moved to Brevard, where about 150 of its 250 employees work at its main 35,000-square-foot manufacturing plant (“Nature Gets Nurtured,” July 2014). Sales have increased annually at about 20% over recent years, Traylor says. “Obviously, a lot of positives come along with that, but one of the negatives is that you can quickly run out of space and capacity.”

Gaia’s 430 products are sold online and in about 2,300 stores nationwide, including large retailers such as Publix and Whole Foods and smaller independent health-food stores and co-ops. Best-sellers include Adrenal Health, which promotes sleep and helps the body cope with stress, and Turmeric Supreme Extra Strength, which is used to treat a variety of ailments including allergies, joint pain and indigestion.

The expansion includes a new utilities building to support plant operations and the addition of a third extraction and concentration unit where ingredients for supplements are removed from the herbs. The company expects to add up to a half-dozen workers in the near future, with additional hires likely in the longer term.

A commitment to quality is spurring the growth, according to Traylor. “Gaia has built a reputation as being a premium supplier in the natural products industry,” he says. Transparency is a key tenet at the company, which offers a website where customers can trace their products back to a lot or batch number and learn more about the ingredients and how they are cultivated and harvested. “I think people look to us as being that benchmark for product quality and consumer confidence. That definitely plays a part in our continued growth and that people trust the product that we put out.”

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