Supplement Perspectives

R&D is Crucial to Marketing Specialty Ingredients

Mitch Skop, senior director, new product development at Pharmachem Laboratories, explains why that’s the case.

Pharmachem is primarily a company built with mortar and machinery, processes and technologies, so when we consider working with a specialty ingredient, our bar is set quite high. The ingredient, the category, the supply chain...everything, every detail has to be just right for us to consider assuming the responsibility of putting it under the Pharmachem name.

We like to think that it’s our meticulous review process that has enabled us to go so far with so many of our specialty ingredients worldwide, that we’re very careful and trustworthy. Care and trust is exactly what’s marketable.

Anecdotal Evidence Doesn’t Cut It

The days of launching and marketing an ingredient strictly based on anecdotal evidence are long gone. As a company we can’t afford it. As an industry, we can’t afford it.

Forty years ago, companies marketed products with little to no data. DSHEA helped squash some of that, but don’t be surprised even today at the number of data-less consumer products on shelves right now.

When you think about it, without research what do you really have to market? I would venture to say nothing. Without research demonstrating that an ingredient is safe and effective, and providing a specific point of differentiation, you basically have a commodity product. Forget marketing in this case; it won't work!

What you can market is innovation, and that is a result of research and development. The innovation doesn’t necessarily have to be an ingredient. It could be a manufacturing process, or a packaging technique. The point is, you have to invest time, energy and resources to develop something of value to the customer.

And, all of this work is for the long haul, not for the quick buck. Long-term brand building revolves around quality, efficacy, safety and eventually the trust of the consumer—and when you have the first three, you have a much higher chance of ensuring you have the fourth. Products that gain consumer trust last for years and years, making the process worth the effort.

Great Ingredients Don’t Come in a Neat Package

It would be great if someone presented us with a patented ingredient in a great category with published studies and GRAS status. Unfortunately, new ingredients don’t come to us in neat packages with a bows on top. Often, we have to start from the bottom and build. Often, we discover ingredients that are partially developed that show some market potential.

Before we even consider launching a new ingredient, it must pass a rigorous process involving approximately 40 critical tests and evaluations. If it fails just one test, it can be disqualified. Before we even begin to evaluate a new ingredient, a raw material checklist has to be completed to our satisfaction. Of course, we need to see safety studies and clinical studies showing efficacy. Even when we have the research information, we must determine if it is pertinent and accurate.

We enjoy offering ingredients with 100 percent transparency and 100 percent traceability, “from farm to bottle,” so to speak. This ability then makes it much easier for our marketing partners to deliver credibility, substantiation, and ultimately to grow consumer loyalty.

While this is a rigorous and time-consuming process, when an ingredient passes, we may really have something quite worthy for our—and your—investment. With that validation, we can confidently launch an entire branding program based on patents and studies that may exist. Branding can include a variety of marketing activities, from trade news releases announcing successful studies of your brand, to trade advertising of the brand’s uniqueness and benefits. White papers can be developed and disseminated. You can sponsor direct marketing activities to key audiences from e-blasts to industry seminars.

Finally, as suppliers we can develop licensing agreements with key customers that ensure the specialty ingredient is marketed consistently and appropriately to fully capitalize on, and protect the valuable brand you have developed.

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