Hard shell capsules to launch health product company into new markets
JANET Groves, chairman of GR Lane Health Products, is proud of the progress the healthcare product manufacturer has made over the past 80 years.
And the firm she leads, which was founded by her grandfather in 1930, is now developing new products for the future.
Now the company is looking to create hard shell capsules for the first time thanks to an investment into new machinery at its factory in Sisson Road.
Janet puts the firm's success down to the trust between family members, directors and staff.
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The relationship seems to be epitomised by her 60th birthday present from employees – a hot air balloon ride over the Cotswolds, which she hopes to do later this year.
She particularly wants to fly over Painswick, where she now lives and owns an art gallery.
Although modest – she has no inflated ego – Janet is quick to point out the company's successes over the years, including the acquisition of Lincolnshire-based Jakemans in 2007. The menthol sweets, which help sooth throats and chests and clear airway passages, have helped LanesHealth break further into the American market.
And the fourth generation family company has further ambition for its other brands, which include plant oil mix Olbas and herbal remedy Kalms.
Janet said: "We have new products in the pipeline. Developing in new markets is a long term process. There are different regulations and licences in different countries."
The company has recently invested in a new machine for hard shell capsules which will allow it to use pure powder instead of the binded mixtures that are used in tablets and allow it to move into new markets.
Trials and tests have also been completed on a new mixture machine, which will help the company mix creams for products, such as toothpaste.
LanesHealth, which has more than 10 different brands, has been supplying international markets for more than 30 years.
It sources products and ingredients from different countries around the world, puts them together in its Gloucester factory, and exports to around 30 countries including Greece, Poland, Cyprus, the Middle East and Australia.
LanesHealth was also selling products to China but has run into conflict with the country in recent years over animal testing, which the firm refuses to take part in. Links with companies in the emerging superpower still remain however.
Products are also sold in pharmacies, health food stores and the major supermarkets in the UK.
Janet remains hands on as chairman and a director. She sits on the new product committee, which meets monthly to discuss new opportunities and formulas as well as family and general director meetings.
Her son Jonathan, 33, works in the marketing department and daughter Rachel is a shareholder.
Janet's sister Judy is also a director and involved in company strategy. Judy's eldest son Robin has been working for the past six months in the sales team.
Janet's typical day will start at 8am when she will keep up-to-date with changing food regulations and plan for director meetings. She is a member of three trade associations.
She said Government red-tape was harming for many manufacturers in the industry, including description laws on the back of health products, but safety was paramount.
Descriptions on the benefits products can have cannot be included without the correct medical evidence.
Janet said: "Sometimes the consumer is not helped by that because all the consumer will do is go online and find information that is not correct. But it has to be accurate and it has to be correct. Chamomile tea is a good example. It will help you sleep. Is there any problem of telling people that? You don't need research for that. There is scope in letting consumers have as much information as possible through evidence."
She added supplement manufacturers were "finding life tough" with regulation at the moment. Janet used to spend time at her grandfather Gilbert Lane's business during school holidays at the age of 10.
She joined the business in 1977 as customer services manager, three years after the company moved from Horton Road to its current site to expand and meet requirements of the new Medicines Act at the time. She formally became chairman in 1996.
LanesHealth employs 140 people, which includes the sales team. A total of 119 work in production in the factory. The company has an annual turnover of around £23million.