A New Take On Innovation

A New Take on Innovation

By: Nate Ensrud

Working with a contract laboratory that focuses on innovation means you have a partner who will continue to deliver new ways to make your life easier. They can deliver better results, an improved experience, and enhance your output through meaningful partnership.

Innovation often means developing new methods – a trending ingredient, a previously unknown risk, new technology – but innovation also means something more. To us, it means that we are challenging ourselves to think critically about our testing, to discover the key that will unlock additional value for each of our customers. When seemingly unrelated innovations come together with this type of critical thinking, exciting things happen. Here’s one such story.

Let’s start, as we always do, with our customers. Truly listening to customers nearly always reveals the same critical factor to testing – time. Time is money, as they say, and the time that ticks by waiting to receive results from testing is a central concern. It impacts the ability of our customers to start using an ingredient in manufacturing, to release a product for sale, or to get their valuable products in the hands of their customers. We hear this time and again. Today, it is one of the first questions we ask about in our innovation planning: “Is there a way to take a test that may take three days to run and get it done in two days, or one day…or one hour?”

The topic of turnaround time in testing isn’t exactly a trending topic, but let’s talk about another challenge that is – sustainability. It’s not a buzzword. It is a central concern for every business, including for us and for our clients. Our long-term impact on the world around us weighs on our thoughts, now more than ever.  A laboratory may not be the first type of business or industry that comes to mind when discussing sustainability. After all, we don’t have big smokestacks or out of this world energy bills. Chemical use, however, is a huge component to running a large laboratory. Many are environmentally costly to produce. Like other industries, we seek ways to minimize our environmental impact while we continue to deliver results to our customers.

From these independent thoughts – turnaround time and sustainability — came one unique solution: Supercritical Fluid Extraction coupled with Supercritical Fluid Chromatography (SFE-SFC). Non-polar compounds can be difficult to test because they require complex, difficult extractions to prepare for testing. They are also incredibly common analytes of interest, because many vitamins and numerous contaminants are non-polar. The bottom line is this type of testing has historically involved lots of steps with lots of chemicals.

And now, here is the happy ending to the story of multiple challenges — SFE-SFC allows us to extract samples in a single step with minimal chemical waste, and because the steps are completed on the instrument, it means it’s done swiftly and efficiently. Just like we talked about in that discussion, the outcome of this innovation was indeed a test that started with two days of extraction and instrument time that can now be done in a matter of hours. Check, check and check!

Starting in 2019, Food Integrity and Innovation will offer this innovative testing utilizing the SFE-SFC technology on vitamins D2, D3, and K1 in supplement products. We’re also developing methods for common contaminants like patulin and aflatoxins, and we will continue applying this technology as often as is appropriate so that we can offer a host of faster testing with less environmental impact to our clients in the future. And you can bet, we’ll keep challenging ourselves, over and over, to think critically on behalf of our clients.