launching a new supplement

Launching a New Supplement: Ingredients for Success

As with a growing child, constant nourishment of your product portfolio will help it grow strong and healthy, for a long life.

by Beverly Emerson

Just like a childs body requires a seemingly endless supply of food to keep it growing, new products are the fuel of a growing company. While it is important to have a platform built on solid strategy, the right people, enough funds in the marketing coffers and having all the parts working together, market sustenance is fueled by new products. Launches are what rev the engines of sales, marketing and product development.  And just like that growing body, there are numerous moving parts that need to come together in perfect synchronicity to make it happen.  To be most effective, a new product development team must include representatives from each department at the outset.  Consider some of the following questions as your team meets.

Marketing

What is the unique selling proposition of the new product? Why should consumers purchase it? This reason needs to be stated simply and clearly, using as few words as possible. Consider the claims you are planning to make.  "Works faster, tastes better, more absorbable, take it less often, contains more 'secret sauce,' easier to swallow"if it requires a paragraph to explain the benefit, consumers and retailers simply wont get the key message.

Define who is your key, target consumer. Products cannot be "all things to all people." Explore the psychographics and the demographics. Create messaging and the proper platform of message delivery (print, social media, etc.) where this target audience consumes its knowledge and respects the messenger. Also key: proper marketing (which includes competent advertising and consumer PR agencies) is not cheap. Ensure enough funds are earmarked to ongoing marketing campaigns.

Research and Development

Consider ingredients that are not well known, but have significant data behind thembut remember agricultural and botanical ingredients that become quick hits can also run into supply and demand issuelike chia seed is facing now. Look at condition-specific categories: both brain health and eye health are two potential categories with plenty of room to grow; immune health, driven by probiotics, is experiencing marked growth.

Or, you may want to take a cue from the pharmaceutical industry, which is aggressively launching lifestyle-enhancement drugse.g., drugs for eyelash growth, dark spot minimizing (complexion), occasional incontinence, erectile dysfunction and more; these are not dire conditions, but address quality of life and well-being. Many consumers may prefer natural alternatives to achieve similar results. Of course, it's important to point out the supplements are no drugs, so the cannot treat, cure, mitigate or prevent diseases.

In light of the positioning strategy developed by marketing, what does the formulation look like? What are the key ingredients you will use? Take into account the internal strategy. Does your product need to be first to market with a new ingredient, or is it OK to wait until it is well established and tested in the market? Having a guiding protocol for all new products that includes requirements for scientific evidence, organic status (if applicable) and country of origin, among others, will help the R&D team develop products faster. Consider dosage form and packaging. Energy stick packs, for example, are prime for gaining in popularity in part, because they offer a really convenient dosage form, as well as addressing one of the key desires of consumers: more energy.

Operations

Once you know whether you are creating a stick-pack, a tablet, capsule, softgel, chewable, gummy, liquid or bar, next comes the need to determine whether to produce in-house or find a contract manufacturer. If new capital equipment is required, strong sales forecasts are needed to be able to determine whether, or when, the expense is justified. One way to reduce the risk involved in developing new products is to have them produced outside for the first couple of years, until they have proven themselves, and then bring them in-house.  Make sure operations is working with the new product development team from the onset, and isnt simply expected to execute once the formula and process are passed-off" from R&D.

Financial

Its not just the manufacturing costs, cost of goods, and promotional spend that need to be considered in launching new supplements.  It is also the profit margin in light of any cannibalization that may occur among all products. If you are getting ready to launch an additional flavor of a greens product that has a lower margin, is the additional volume going to make up for, say, one-third of your loyal consumer base switching to the other product? Too often, big picture financials are overlooked in the decision to launch a new product, and the margin differential is found in retrospect a couple of years later, when sales are up, but overall profit is down.

Regulatory

In developing a new supplement, regulatory experts cant be the final review step. They, like the others, need to be an integral part of the team, brought in at the initial team meeting. Whether it is working up front to determine what claims can, or cannot be used, reviewing ingredients to determine whether a NDI (new dietary ingredient) is involved or proofing final copy, this team plays a key role. One spot that often gets overlooked is the responsibility a brand has for its contract manufacturer. According to Rakesh Amin, Partner at Amin Talati, We often talk with companies who mistakenly believe that they are not responsible for cGMP oversight at their contract manufacturer. The FDA has made it very clear in their warning letters that the brand owner is responsible for manufacturing compliance."

Sales

Creating a compelling story for retailers to bring on a new supplement is critical. Any time a retailer brings on a new supplement, it often also makes the decision to discontinue another product.  It must be worth the risk to the retailer to make the switch.  Sales presentations need to show retailers why your new joint health product is better than others in the category. Why are consumers going to buy it? Show retailers how you are going to support the product through in-store and consumer promotions. If you use distributors or sales brokers, providing real training for them will energize and educate them, helping them to be more effective in presenting persuasively to retailers.

New products, whether they are a line extension or a brand new line, continue to make your company relevant and fresh in the eyes of your consumers. They also give you the opportunity to grow your consumer base, and when launched correctly, grow your bottom line. As with a growing child, constant nourishment of your product portfolio will help it grow strong and healthy, for a long life.

Beverly Emerson is resident of Olive Tree Product Development.

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