Why a collaborative ingredient partner and formulator relationship is key to success, writes Krishna Rajendran, CEO of Karallief
Behind every successful business are strong relationships with customers, employees and suppliers. For too long in the supplement industry, the relationship between formulators and ingredient partners has been transactional as opposed to relationship based.
The benefits of a long-term relationship with a trusted ingredient partner are especially important today for formulators/consumer brands; consumers are no longer willing to rely on the historical usage and effectiveness of botanicals and, instead, demand scientific proof that a product is safe and does what it says it will do.
Many ingredient partners use the reputation of the ingredient instead of conducting studies to show safety and efficacy. However, consumers have become much better informed in the last few years.
They increasingly want more scientific data and evidence and are less influenced by flashy marketing. The 2020 pandemic pushed consumers to do further research and take an even more active interest in their health.
As they started demanding more facts, formulators also started asking for more hard data from their ingredient partners to back up any claims being made.
Working in tandem with a herbal ingredient partner can help formulators to meet this new marketplace demand. By viewing the ingredient partner as part of their own team, formulators can reap the rewards of the relationship at all stages of product development.
By working with an ingredient partner right from the start of product development, the formulator can take an active role in shaping the progress and testing that will ultimately benefit them when they are ready to commercialise the product.
Ideally, the two should start to work in a closely integrated way well before the product is even going to be launched to consumers. The formulator team should know about consumer needs and wants; as such, they can better assess trends and products that are likely to be in demand in the future.
Day in and day out, consumer research is what they do. So, they can feed this valuable information to their ingredient partners who can then leverage their vast herbal science and R&D expertise to develop new products.
When there is this type of a collaborative relationship in place, the formulator can guide the ingredient partner towards developing a more tailor-made product. For example, formulators can share their insights on the useful endpoints to measure in clinical trials.
This eliminates the frustration of having to adjust a product that doesn’t have strong structure/function clams that could be used while marketing to consumers.
By working in a collaborative, integrated manner, formulators can ensure that the final product is in-line with what they can readily and seamlessly market to consumers.
Once the product is developed and tested, the next stage is manufacturing. Companies that have worked together during development will have more open communication and transparency about manufacturing timelines and expectations.
The importance of a strong relationship came to light during the COVID-19 crisis. Formulators who didn’t have a collaborative relationship with their ingredient partners really struggled because of the lack of transparency about manufacturing bottlenecks, whereas formulators who had a more integrated relationship understood the "on-the-ground" situation much more clearly and could adequately plan to minimise disruptions.
Furthermore, ingredient partners have capacity constraints. When supply overwhelms demand, ingredient companies are faced with a decision in terms of who to prioritise; and, more often than not, they choose to focus on their closest partners.
When looking for a partner to create a collaborative relationship, formulators should seek ingredient partners that have an experienced, diverse team. Strong ingredient companies employ doctors, naturopaths and herbal scientists that, in turn, have solid relationships with high-level research institutes.
This breadth of experience means that a formulator can rest assured that several sets of eyes with diverse viewpoints have been involved in the product development and clinical trial testing.
When an ingredient company has this level of expertise, it has the ability to help educate formulators on specific ingredients and how different herbs and botanicals can work synergistically to create a more effective product.
When selecting an ingredient partner, formulators should also find one wherein they can directly work with the research team that developed the products. This ensures that the formulators are working with the people who completely understand the intricacies of the product rather than working with mass market middle entities who deal with hundreds of products and may not have the detailed intricate knowledge of each one.
When formulators make a commitment to a collaborative rather than a transactional relationship with an ingredient partner, they inherently reduce the number of ingredient partners they work with.
The relationship can then deepen and focus on quality rather than quantity; and, by doing this, the formulator can depend on the team behind the ingredients and the consistent quality of the ingredients supplied.