It is no small feat for a global corporation with 24 offices and production facilities on four different continents to respond effectively to a fast-moving pandemic like COVID-19.
For nutritional and pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturer, Lonza, the challenges posed by COVID were a fundamental test of the company’s core mission: “providing solutions that improve quality of life by preventing illness, enabling healthier lifestyles and supporting a safe environment.”
Like many other companies in the natural products sector, the Basel-based company had to contend with a rapid surge in demand for its ingredients and its array of capsules and dose delivery technologies at the same time as the epidemic was disrupting supply chains and manufacturing procedures.
Securing Supplies, Optimizing Safety
“From securing our supply chains, to optimizing the health and safety of our factories, to delivering quality products to our customers and ultimately to consumers and patients, globally, Lonza is continuing to work tirelessly to meet the health needs of the world during this time of uncertainty,” says Vaughn DuBow, North American manager for Lonza’s Hard Capsule, Ingredient, and Dosage Form Solutions portfolios.
“As the major supplier of the worlds hard-capsules for both pharmaceutical and nutraceutical applications, we understood from the start that we had to remain open, no matter what.”Vaughn DuBow, Lonza North America
Among the company’s top-selling branded ingredients are Carnipure™ L-carnitine, the arabinogalactan and flavonoid-rich ResistAid™ and UC-II® undenatured collagen. Through its Capsugel brand, the company also manufactures literally billions of capsules of diverse forms and materials for the global supplement and pharmaceutical industries.
“Lonza recognizes its essential role during this crisis and fully embraces its responsibility to provide,” said DuBow. “As the major supplier of the worlds hard-capsules for both pharmaceutical and nutraceutical applications, we understood from the start that we had to remain open, no matter what. Lonza’s people have tirelessly dedicated their time to ensuring that we could continue to deliver on the world’s healthcare needs, and that our people remain safe and healthy while doing so.”
He said the response efforts centered on three main objectives: ensuring the safety of Lonza’s workforce, securing the company’s vast supply chains, and providing its client companies with real-time market data on the evolving pandemic so they could make more informed and intelligent business decisions.
Mitigating Viral Spread
Like most major corporations, Lonza quickly instituted protocols to mitigate spread of the virus. These included:
- Indefinite restrictions on employees’ local and international business travel, and replacement of meetings with virtual alternatives to the greatest possible extent.
- Encouraging office-based employees to work from home whenever possible.
- Advising employees on minimizing the risk of infection both at work and at home via frequent email updates and reminders of health and safety services.
- Requesting that any employees experiencing symptoms inform their line managers and self-quarantine for 14 days.
- Increasing safety measures in our factories, offices and distribution centers.
- Providing sick pay for those who contract the virus, and paying all hourly and salaried staff affected by temporary work stoppages in full for a minimum of twelve weeks.
In the manufacturing facilities, Lonza’s managers implemented a host of special measures to safeguard employee health and safety:
- Creation of Site Operational Zones that assign cohorts of employees to specific operation zones. When employees arrive to work, they report directly to their zones and work in those zones for the duration of their shifts. Employees are not allowed to visit other zones. Restricting employee movement around the facilities reduces potential for exposure and transmission.
- Mandatory temperature screenings: From the beginning of the pandemic, Lonza instituted frequent temperature and symptom checks prior to employees starting their work.
- Mask Mandates: Lonza employees are required to wear face masks at all times while in the workplace.
- Social Distancing: Employees must maintain 6-foot (1.8 M) distances between colleagues and practice social distancing while at work.
- Frequent disinfection of work spaces
- Wide Distribution of Hand Sanitizer Stations in all Lonza facilities.
- Mandates to Stay Home When Ill: Employees are encouraged to stay home from work if they are feeling even minor symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
As is the case in healthcare, everyone in the business sector is trying to understand how the pandemic is playing out in different communities across the globe, how it is affecting consumer behavior, and how it is impacting the various sectors of the economy.
Consumers Seek Resilience
Beginning in March, Lonza’s Americas Region marketing team began a series of four surveys to gauge the consumer landscape relative to COVID-19. They gathered data from 1,000 consumers via Suzy, a real-time market research platform.
Participants were between the ages of 18 and 72. At the time they were surveyed, they were current consumers of immune supplements, sports supplements, RX/OTC products, or some combination thereof.
“Nearly 20% of respondents believe that taking drugs like Tylenol and Advil will support their immune systems and help to protect them against COVID.”
The data indicate that three-fourths of consumers have increased their immune supplement use over the course of the pandemic, and 50% had increased their immune supplement purchases between May and June compared to March through April.
- 44% increased their purchases because they are fearful that immune support products may be less available in the near future
- 45% are concerned about a second wave of COVID and want to protect themselves and their family members
- 74% are seeking continued or enhanced immune support
Lonza’s AMER marketing team discovered that nearly half of consumers have had no change at all in their sports nutrition supplement regimens in the past 6 weeks while 46% have increased their usage and 8% have decreased their usage.
Regarding OTC products, one-third of respondents indicated that they have increased their usage/purchases in the past 6 weeks while 7% have decreased their consumption. This category included drugs like Tylenol (acetaminophen), Advil/Aleve (ibuprofen), and allergy drugs like Claritin and Allegra.
What was truly striking was the finding that nearly 20% of respondents believe that taking drugs like Tylenol and Advil will support their immune systems and help to protect them against COVID.
That belief, spurious and unscientific as it may seem, reflects the high level of concern about COVID within the general population, and the strong desire people feel to take extra measures to protect themselves.