Elan Sudberg, Alkemist Labs

Alkemist Labs Co-founder and CEO shares the mission and thoughtful actions that help lift up not only his company, but the industry as a whole.

25th anniversary logo in green and orange letters

“From the beginning, I wanted not only the Alkemist team to be happy working here, but also their teams (husband, wife, partner, offspring, siblings, parents, dogs…) to be happy that they do. As we grew, matured, and built our team, our culture remained a priority.”

Alkemist Labs, founded in 1997, is an established leader in botanical identity testing, phytochemical potency analysis, and contaminant screening, encompassing all herbs and fungi in commerce. Full method transparency, personalized technical support, and unrivaled customer service are our hallmarks. With our undisputed expertise in this very specialized area of testing, we help clients in all aspects to ensure that they know exactly what is in their products.

Elan Sudberg, CEO of Alkemist Labs

An Excellent Mission

Our mission is to provide the Alkemist Labs Level of Quality and Confidence through Expert Analysis to People who Strive for Excellence. This means we work with, and for, the best of the best, who insist upon accurate results.

More recently, in the last decade, we have also made it our mission to bring transparency to all areas of natural products industry testing. This includes our education tools, designed to demystify testing and help companies obtain accurate results. Therefore, we support regulatory compliance and illustrate their quality commitments to consumers.

Growing Through Mentoring

While we may be the biggest little lab in the industry, our testing is complicated. In the plant and fungi identity world, interpretation is nuanced. It’s not as simple as testing for numerical specifications. Since one does not become an expert Alkemist technician by acquiring degrees alone, we take mentoring our leaders of leaders very seriously and make it part of our development plan. If I wasn’t willing to ‘let go of the vine,’ then I’d still be doing the work my team does now, and they do it better than me. We make it a point to give everyone a chance to develop, up to their highest capabilities and desires, so that we can release other talent to continue to develop.

company logo in black letteringMeeting the Highest Standards

Alkemist Labs has ISO 17025 accreditation, by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA). The Lab has also met the AOAC Analytical Laboratory Accreditation Criteria Committee (ALACC) guidelines that are newly revised (to include criteria specific to testing dietary supplements). Both of these independent benchmarks further substantiate Alkemist Labs’ stated commitment to the highest standards of testing. For hemp and cannabis, we are listed on the USDA website and registered with the DEA.

Natural products are complex, requiring more than a combination of different analytical techniques. They also require the expertise to know when and how to apply those analytical techniques accurately. Our ISO/IEC 17025 flexible scope accreditation means outside specialists have confirmed our expertise. Our Certificate of Analysis is transparent and comprehensive, including everything you need to reproduce the analysis, and defend the results in front of auditors: full method and data disclosure. We also provide de-jargoned versions of test results suitable for disclosure to consumers, which our clients are increasingly including in their transparency programs.

Our support ranges from guiding you through selection of reference materials, to determining which tests are appropriate, to facilitating resolutions if testing discrepancies arise. The end result is you having confidence in your products, and the tools to demonstrate it to regulators and customers. Our four-day turnaround time for identity testing keeps your production schedule on track.

Advocating for Excellence

I am a staunch advocate for best practices, constantly pushing the industry to keep improving. To that end, we’ve worked to demystify testing, identify vulnerabilities, and call out bad practices when we spot them. And for the last seven years I have been encouraging the industry to practice what I named Next Generation Transparency™.

The company and I have been honored with numerous awards. These include the 2019 NutraChampion award for “working tirelessly for the dietary supplements industry, most of it behind the scenes, to elevate the conversation around testing and product quality, not just with Alkemist Labs but also by Elan’s selfless participation in numerous industry associations, committees, and initiatives,” and the AHPA Herbal Hero award. Just recently, it was announced that I am being honored with the 2022 NBJ Efforts on Behalf of the Industry award. I don’t work hard to move the industry forward for accolades, but appreciate the recognition of the work.

Another thing we do well is focus on our company culture. From the beginning, I wanted not only the Alkemist team to be happy working here, but also their teams (husband, wife, partner, offspring, siblings, parents, dogs…) to be happy that they do. As we grew, matured, and built our team, our culture remained a priority. We pay attention to internal culture and employee satisfaction, and share their successes. We’ve even received third party confirmation in the form of TINYawards that we’re doing that well.

The TINYawards are an annual, global award that recognizes organizations putting forth the time and effort to invest in people-first cultures. Winners are chosen based upon data collected anonymously from staff through the TINYpulse program, an anonymous employee survey tool designed to increase communication and transparency, measure and improve culture, and reduce company turnover. Alkemist Labs has been using
TINYpulse for the last four years and proudly displays the latest
Happiness score on the company culture page of the website.

25th anniversary logo in green and orange lettersMarking a Milestone

We are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year and this landmark coincides with some important new developments.

We’ve just expanded our services to add contaminant testing to our suite of services, alongside identity, potency, and hemp testing. The company now has the instruments and expertise to screen for heavy metals, pesticides and residual solvents to the highest standard with the most sensitive equipment and test methods.

New services available include:

  • Heavy metals (elemental impurities): Growing plants can pick up contamination, including heavy metals in the soil and environment. Alkemist Labs’ capabilities enable us to satisfy both USP <561> and Prop 65 limits.
  • Pesticides: Although pesticides are considered a single category, it takes four separate analytical instrumental analyses to test for all those substances listed in USP <561>, which sets criteria for sampling.
  • Residual solvents: USP method <467>. Headspace GC/MS, the most sensitive and most precise instrument, allows detection of even extremely low levels of solvent contaminants.

And after seven years of encouraging industry members to share their test results as a demonstration of quality, Alkemist Labs is launching Alkemist AssuredTM. This is a two-tiered program to help ingredient suppliers and finished products companies do just that, with several companies having signed up already. By focusing on botanical and fungal products, Alkemist’s program is unique in the industry and spotlights the quality and transparency for plant and mushroom testing.

Level One: Next Generation Transparency™ Reports for Consumers: Participating companies display test results and Certificate of Analysis reports in Next Generation Transparency™ consumer-friendly formatting on their website for either B2B customers or consumers to see, and refresh them at least every six months.
Level Two:  Alkemist Assured™ Seal: Brands wishing to further demonstrate their quality commitment and assurance may also apply for the use of Alkemist Assured™ seal on product marketing materials, website, sales materials, etc. In addition to the requirements for the level one NGT program, level two requires that participant companies utilize Alkemist identity, potency, and contaminant confirmation testing services for raw material and blended ingredient quality.

Looking to the Future

Since I was a cognizant child, I have had an appreciation for the power of nature and its plants and fungus. My father was a practicing herbalist and an early adult “aha moment” included: “Herbs work and have many powerful and important chemicals to offer us.” Later as we started the lab the “aha moment” evolved into: “cheaters cheat and if left alone they will destroy earth’s many gifts, and it’s up to me to provide a viable solution to mitigate that risk.” Today my “aha moments” are even more frequent and respectfully utilizing powerful gifts from plants. I feel like my personal mission to help protect our industry is stronger than ever.

After we launched Alkemist Labs, I quickly came to understand the importance of trade association involvement. We’ve been members of AHPA forever, which makes sense given botanicals are our area of expertise. I’ve been on the AHPA board for multiple terms, chaired several committees, and we sponsor many AHPAs events. We are also members of the other significant industry associations, and serve on the board of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). This group does excellent work on quality initiatives in that product segment.

Words of Wisdom

There is another endangered species we need to address and worry about. It’s not as cute or furry as some of the others because it’s a conceptual idea not a creature.

As my good friend Scott Steinford wrote, “Transparency is the vehicle by which Trust is communicated.” Since you already test with the industry’s most trusted labs, why not share the data with your clients and earn their trust.