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When a company is ready to create—or make changes to—its scientific advisory board

A brand may consider changing its scientific advisory boards when the strategy is no longer meeting the brand’s needs.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don't much care where.”

“Then it doesn't matter which way you go.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland 

In the previous articles “Five critical steps to building scientific advisory boards that drive ROI” and “Scientific advisory boards and the promotional mix: blending oil and water," we discussed the reasons for creating a scientific advisory board (SAB), how to select the right SAB members and how SABs can be used to grow a business. Think of this article as a prequel with checklists to help brands determine if they are ready to start the SAB creation process or if it’s time to revise their current SABs. These questions have no black-and-white answers. Rather, they are starting points for deeper discussions with the team.

Getting ready to create an SAB

To paraphrase the Mad Hatter’s advice for Alice, if a brand knows where it wants to go, it is ready to put together the right group of individuals to help manifest the vision. If a brand doesn’t know where it wants to wind up, it makes no difference whether it has an SAB.

✓           A well-defined and universally accepted product platform or strategy

✓           A well-defined and clearly accepted scientific strategy to support the products

·       If a brand doesn’t have either of the above, it will need a person in the organization who has the right training and/or expertise to help develop that strategy. Without an experienced person in charge, it’s like having a room full of untrained musicians without a musical score or conductor. There is just noise.

✓           Apply strategies and coordinate with the appropriate individuals

✓           Unified leadership focused on the company’s vision and mission

✓           A foundational product or technology the company can build upon for a future suite of products, supported by science

·       Companies generally start with one of two approaches: They either have something innovative that changes market dynamics, or they find a way to make the same thing that someone else has somehow more attractive (better sameness). Whichever path a brand follows will dictate the guardrails surrounding future product development and how new products are substantiated. Those two areas should lead in an SAB formation. 

✓           Is the product platform getting stale? If so, a dream team to can help innovate.  

✓           A team ready to act on new scientific insights

✓           Legal, regulatory and marketing teams ready to work with the SAB to deliver better outcomes 

When to modify the SAB?

The point of the SAB is to help the company make better decisions based on more and diverse information. It also enables a brand to practice transparency and trust within the company. The SAB may not be serving its stated function if the brand frequently encounters the following situations:

·       The person who championed the ideas is dictating the direction of product reviews, rather than the SAB broaden proceeding with the best idea

·       Brands stuck in the NIH syndrome (not invented here) rather than doing of external innovation

·       The SAB is being reactive instead of proactive. A good SAB gives a brand a head start by providing information that is at least a couple years ahead of common knowledge. If the SAB only provides others’ published data, then the brand is stuck with the same information everyone else has.

·       The SAB is built on yesterday’s accomplishments rather than today’s activities? People who have done things (past tense!) aren’t as valuable as people who are currently doing things, unless they provide an advantageous conduit to those who are.

·       The SAB members aren’t familiar with the business advisory board nor the legal advisory team All advisory resources should be in alignment, and activities should be coordinated. If they aren’t moving in unison, the brand may need to revise its overall corporate strategy.

·       The SAB isn’t producing educational content for your staff use and/or to share with your market that showcases their unique areas of expertise?

·       The SAB was created to give the impression that the company has intellectual property (IP), patents and commitment to conducting research, but none of that is reality

·       The SAB was formed to get its endorsement of its company and products, and for the company to be able to publicize their association and list their credentials on the website (window dressing)

Making changes to an SAB may seem like a daunting task. Keep in mind that a well-functioning SAB provides valuable third-party credibility and validation for a company’s product platform, while evaluating, supporting and enhancing the scientific basis on which a company and products are established and marketed.

Bernie Landes, president and founder, Nutritional Products Consulting Group LLC has a 40-year history of success as a C-level and/or senior level manager and consultant in the nutritional products and wellness industries. He is currently providing ongoing support for a global client base in the natural health, nutritional products and wellness industries, with a broad range of clients focused on functional foods, nutraceuticals, dietary supplements, information technology, omni-channel marketing, personal care, environmental, and traditional food products and related services, including all areas of contract manufacturing. NPCG works with domestic and international clients to identify, acquire, develop, market and sell new technologies and products.

Mike Danielson is partner of Media Relations Agency and president of the health and nutrition division. He uses his 30 years of experience to manage campaigns that have measurable impacts on clients’ bottom lines. Danielson enjoys consulting with his clients in positioning, leveraging promotional and influence channels, brand and reputation management, consumer education and media relations. Danielson programs have had a direct and measurable impact on consumer awareness and purchasing habits. He has forged strong relationships with key stakeholders in the health and nutrition sector, moved public opinion through publicity, and encouraging positive and healthy behavioral changes.

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