Former President and CEO of Soft Gel Technologies, Inc., Ronald Udell died on June 19, 2018, at the age of 69. Udell had more than 35 years of experience in the nutrition and natural products industry. Many of his colleagues considered him a pioneer in providing innovative, clinically tested delivery systems through softgel capsule technology.
Udell was born on July 2, 1948, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His family moved to California in his youth, and he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in 1973. Udell was first introduced to the natural products industry in 1981, when he started working as a food and beverage distributor. Over time, he used his marketing skills and operational experience to focus on delivery systems for supplement ingredients such as coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and vitamins, and in 1994, he became the president and CEO of Los Angeles, California-based Soft Gel Technologies. In his 20 years at Soft Gel, Udell steered the company through periods of both declining sales and rapid growth. His vision and tenacity helped build a high-performance company with a robust clientele, new ingredients and formulations, and a global reach.
Udell was also president of Chemco Inc. (now known as OptiPure), a distributor of botanical and other ingredients for the natural products industry, from 1994 to 2014, and previously worked for Chemco as a broker. Chemco imported botanical ingredients including standardized herbal extracts as well as combination formulas to support weight management and mental health.
Jingang Shi, CEO of Beijing-based ingredient manufacturer EPC Natural Products, recalled Udell’s mentorship and innovative spirit. “When I started in the supplement business, he always reminded me of the true value and unique benefit any new herb extract could contribute to human beings and the industry,” Shi wrote (email to M. Blumenthal, September 4, 2018). “He introduced many new ingredients from Europe and Asia into the US market and played an important role in educating the industry. Ingredient suppliers loved to work with him because he appreciated authentic products.”
In 2015, Udell served as the director of business development for J+D Labs’ Pharma Manufacturing facility in Vista, California. Two years later, he became the director of business development for Captek Softgel International, a position he held until the time of his death. In these roles, he oversaw the manufacture of softgels for a variety of clients, including mass-market brands, multi-level marketing brands, and health professionals, among others. He also assumed marketing duties for new products.
“Ron was a good friend and colleague and was a consistent supporter of the nonprofit educational work of the American Botanical Council. He would sometimes promote ABC to various industry colleagues to suggest that they too support ABC,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC. “On a personal basis, he was very generous by providing me with free softgel capsules of CoQ10 for my personal use for many years.”
Over the course of his career, Udell registered 10 patents related to softgel delivery for product formulations and ingredients, including vitamin E, solubilized CoQ10, and carnitine. In 2005, Nutritional Outlook magazine awarded Soft Gel Technologies a Natural Product Award for its CoQsol-CF ingredient, a more bioavailable form of CoQ10.1 The new formulation used citrus peel extract, D-limonene, and vitamin E to prevent crystallization during the manufacturing process, and Udell oversaw the development of this new ingredient as president of the company.
Anthony Udell, Udell’s nephew, worked with his uncle for 10 years at Chemco. “Ron was presented an opportunity to promote some nutritional items that few people in the United States had any real knowledge of,” wrote Udell (email to M. Blumenthal, October 11, 2018). “He studied how CoQ10, ginkgo [Ginkgo biloba, Ginkgoaceae], and fish oil could help people, and he also realized, if marketed correctly, [that these products] could be a good business opportunity. What started as possible line extensions ended up being a very successful business. Ron took a chance and was open to something new and different. Based on the end result, he should be considered as a true trailblazer in the nutraceutical industry.”
Udell’s daughter Shana Sadowsky remembers her father as a devoted family man and an intrepid worker. “My father loved working and loved the industry,” she wrote (email to M. Blumenthal, August 20, 2018). “He was very good at selling and was highly knowledgeable. He also loved his family including his children and grandchild, Ella. He was a collector of classic cars and loved dogs.” Ron Udell is survived by his four children, Scott Udell, Shana (Elon) Sadowsky, Gabrielle Udell, and Allegra Udell, and his granddaughter, Ella. A memorial service celebrating his life was held in Los Angeles, California, on June 24, 2018.
- Nutritional Outlook Staff. Natural Product Awards. Nutritional Outlook. December 21, 2005. Available at: www.nutritionaloutlook.com/omega-3/natural-product-awards. Accessed August 29, 2018.