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One of the strongest health food and herbal manufacturing companies in the nation is about to flex its muscle and become even healthier.

Murdock Madaus Schwabe - or Nature's Way, as its product is more commonly known - is spending $6 million to double its manufacturing site in Springville, for a total size of more than 230,000 square feet in production, marketing and administrative facilities."The herbal category is a fun category and is absolutely exploding," says CEO and president Derek Hall. "The U.S. consumer is saying, `Give me natural, I'm tired of synthetic.' And that's really our story."

Hall said the company grew from a one-item product in Mesa, Ariz., and moved to Utah in the late 1970s under the direction of founder Tom Murdock. The company moved to Springville in 1984, where it has grown over the years into a multimillion-dollar industry with more than 400 products.

"We're the leading and the largest herbal manufacturer in the U.S.," Hall said.

A north wing was added to the building in 1989, and now the company is doubling its production size with this year's 122,000-square-foot addition. Ground was broken June 6.

"We're very excited about this," Hall said. "We're on schedule, and the foundation and walls are poured. We expect to be inside in October and completely finished by March."

The new facility will predominantly house production and manufacturing capabilities and will provide office space for future growth.

"We're doubling our size, but we're not doubling our staff," Hall stated. More than 300 employees work at the plant.

The new construction will meet special requirements necessary for the herbal/vitamin supplement producing industry, Hall said.

"We'll need clean air rooms, and we have to address all issues relative to dust, contamination and disposal," he said. "Our processing consists of using all raw herbs. It's as much for control as it is for marketing and presentation point of view.

"We buy the herb in raw form so we know exactly what we're getting and there's never any question what we're getting through the back door," he said. "There's never any chance that we're going to get some product that somebody tries to slip something by us. That can't happen here."

With the new addition, Hall said one of the company's concerns will be equipment use in the manufacturing process.

"We're putting in a two-level manufacturing system, on both the first and second floors, with capabilities for the same equipment on each floor," he said. "It cost us $100,000 alone for the special footing system to support the bearing walls which support the weight of the two-tier manufacturing equipment."

Hall said Nature's Way will be able to add another 120,000 square feet if needed.

"This plant should last us through the turn of the century."

The company does business in 25 countries and heavily uses distributors on the West Coast that carry product and inventory.

The Utah County facility houses research and development, production, scientific study and five marketing divisions: international; private label; professional; mass market - under the label Naturalife; and the Nature's Way division, which is the health food division.

Hall said his company's goal is to remain 100 percent natural, with no synthetic ingredients.

"Our vision is to keep people healthy, and the American switch to natural is helping that move."

He added research and science are an integral part of the production process for his company.

"This makes us unique in that we can not only bring products that are good for you, but they're backed by science and research and clinical studies," he said.