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7 Ways to Build Better Partnerships with Suppliers

Health and nutrition brands can work with suppliers throughout the development process to ensure efficient, successful products.

5 Min Read
7 Ways to Build Better Partnerships with Suppliers

New product launches provide not only massive growth for the health and nutrition industry, but for individual brands that create new products for end-consumers. While finished product brands define "new products" differently, usually launched in the last 12 to 24 months, improving brand market share with new launches yields fantastic dividends. Having said that, the timing of the launch—which begins with "ideation" and ends with a product available to end-consumers—often runs painfully longer than is necessary. Having worked with brands across the industry, and having worked at a brand (Garden of Life) as the research and science manager, the process of going from idea to launch typically gets delayed during the decision-making process surrounding raw material selection, substantiation, formulation and communication. If a brand wants to launch a product, and it needs to engage raw material suppliers, the brands tend to hide information from the supplier rather than leveraging the massive brain power within the supplier.

Ironically, when a brand sells its finished product, it lets everybody know nearly every aspect about its product so the product will sell effectively. Imagine if you could enjoy those sales of finished products dramatically earlier because of more effective engagement with suppliers.

My suspicion is that trust between most brands and ingredient supplier sales reps typically isn’t to a level that will allow for the most effective partnership. If you are a brand struggling with relationships with ingredient supplier sales reps, please participate in this survey and give your feedback on your biggest frustrations with ingredient supplier sales reps.

Despite trust being an issue, a partnership flame can be fanned between brands and suppliers.

1. Create a Product “Brand Script" for Suppliers

Develop a brand script so raw material suppliers can support your launch in the most effective way. A product brand script essentially takes the product a brand wants to make and provides a clear definition of who it’s targeting, and how it will help that demographic attain health goals or eliminate health problems.

2. Provide a Path from Ideation to Launch

By providing supplier sales reps with a clear goal of the product a brand wants to launch, it allows the supplier and the brand to brainstorm an innovative solution. The better the ingredient sales rep understands the steps in the product development process, the more opportunity he or she has to add value throughout the launch. The process of launching a dietary supplement inside of a brand is specific, and it’s in a brand’s best interest to give its suppliers as much detail of the process as it can. Clarify who from your team they're going to talk to along the way, so that you can maximize the speed at which they respond. Give them the steps from your idea to finished product launch.

3. Clarify the Innovation Desired from the Supplier

Clearly define what innovation categories and types a brand needs for a product launch. Innovation categories usually fall within five major areas, including health, marketing, manufacturing processes, organoleptic and cost savings. A typical product launch engages multiple innovation categories. Identify them clearly for your suppliers, so they can put their teams to work on the brand’s behalf as quickly as possible.

4. Have Each Department Create an Ingredient Request Package

During the launch, every department that engages in the process of creating a dietary supplement has a number of needs, but many of those departments don't define what they need from the supplier. Pull those quality documents forward early in the request process. Bring those regulatory and safety issues up front so the supplier and the ingredient sales rep are able to most effectively deliver what's needed to help a brand launch a product quickly.

5. Ask Specific Ingredient Manufacturing Questions 

Will this ingredient work in a liquid formulation? Can it be differentiated from similar ingredients in the marketplace? Is there a possibility for blending with other ingredients?


Often, requesting documents becomes a default, but brands don't ask other questions about desired products. You might call it a“dream” of what the product can do. These questions really focus on functional or process capabilities of ingredients. If  brand needs customization, then the ingredient sales rep can evaluate that possibility more efficiently if they know what it needs. I recommend understanding their limitations around customization, so you can know if it is possible without too much effort. In any case, the main goal is get them the ingredient process questions sooner to expedite response times and collaboration for a great launch.

6. Get a List of Combo Ingredients and a "Do Not Combine" List

Often in the dietary supplement industry, combination finished products launch more frequently than single-ingredient products. Ask an ingredient sales reps about the best combinations for their ingredients. What does it recommend? Since the ingredient supplier understands its product and what would go well as well as potentially what wouldn't go well with it, a brand can gain some serious momentum in the marketplace by asking for a combo list and a “do not combine" list.

7. Provide a "Wish List of Claims"

This last point is a no brainer. It’s in a brand’s best interest to give its suppliers a wish list of what it wants its product to be able to do for the consumer and what label claims will be allowed. What a brand says is directly related to what’s in the product, so a brand needs to give its ingredient supplier a wish list of claims. I used these seven categories of claims when I was in the position of launching products: nutrient content, does contain (organic, kosher, etc.), does not contain (clean label), structure/function, story of ingredient(s), ingredient process and uniqueness claims.

Consumers need more great products in the marketplace, and the sooner brands can launch, the sooner consumes can benefit while brands generate great revenue. Identifying specific ways to collaborate with suppliers expedites the process for everyone involved.

Francisco "Cico" Rodriguez is an industry veteran with experience in different parts of the value chain, from quality control at a manufacturer and brand, to research and science manager for Garden of Life, to an ingredient account manager at Danisco. After a successful ingredient sales career, he started an ingredient sales coaching company, Ingredient Sales Insights, where he helps ingredient sales reps build their skills, improve relationships, accelerate projects and boost their sales. Rodriguez specifically trains them in the process of developing and launching a dietary supplement from within the brand. He lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, with his wife, daughter and newborn twin boys.

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