Supplements manufacturer in good health
FUTURE PROOF/Sona Healthcare:Producing quality products for specific medical conditions is a healthy way to avoid the worst of the recession
SONA FOUNDER, Ohan Yergainharsian, has always taken the long view of the firm’s development and never rushed its growth.
Yergainharsian met his Irish-born wife, Yvonne, in 1975 when they were both working in the Middle East. Sona was founded shortly after their return to Ireland during the recession of the 1980s.
His first experiences of Ireland were cast in times of financial trouble and the lessons from then have helped guide his business through the current recession. At a time when many businesses are downsizing, Yergainharsian is contemplating the expansion of his company’s manufacturing operations in Dublin.
When he arrived here in the 1980s the market for health foods and nutritional supplements was in its infancy. Initially Yergainharsian began importing foods that were well established among health-conscious European consumers.
However, he quickly found that Irish consumers ran a mile from products such as soya sausages. He also discovered that when it came to nutritional supplements, Irish people preferred them as tablets. Yergainharsian made a quick exit from food and turned his attention to developing supplements in tablet form instead. He made a number of key decisions at the outset that have stood to him since.
The first was doing everything by the book in terms of following regulatory protocols and jumping through the necessary hoops to secure a manufacturing licence from the Irish Medicines Board.
The second was only making products that meet a specific health need. For example, calcium and folic acid supplements.
The company has never dabbled in what Yergainharsian describes as “airy fairy products that promise eternal youth or instant weight loss”.
This seems to have paid off at a time when consumers have been cutting back on their spending.
“The products being hardest hit are those at the discretionary end of the spectrum,” he says. “If someone needs calcium or folic acid for health reasons it is an essential buy, not a choice. As a result our turnover has not taken a big hit.”
Over the years Yergainharsian has tended to buck prevailing trends. When outsourcing manufacturing to cheaper countries became the norm here, he decided not to follow.
“Financially, it was easy to see why people were doing it, but for me it was about quality and having control. Now things are turning full circle. Manufacturing costs in Ireland are coming back into line and, all going to plan, we will expand our manufacturing facilities in 2013. I am beginning to feel things are stabilising here and that the economy has turned a corner.”