With decades of experience as manufacturers within the nutraceutical industry, we’ve seen nearly everything at least once. Particularly over the last decade, we’ve spent a large amount of our time and effort helping first-time supplement companies and brand owners bring their products to market. Over the course of that process, we’ve encountered and handled almost every mistake and pitfall imaginable.
10 Most Common Mistakes Made by Nutraceutical Newcomers
Mistake #1: Being more concerned with price than value when choosing your manufacturing partner.
Most companies (in almost every industry) start with the same thing: a budget. While having a set budget from the start has its advantages, it can also have its drawbacks. Companies that choose to place all of their focus on the per unit price of their product run the risk of foregoing quality and value in an effort to save a few extra dollars.
One of the most common misconceptions out there is that a few dollars less (or more) per unit has the potential to make or break a business. While this may be true for big box companies looking to make their way into a large chain of stores or pharmacies, the same can’t necessarily be said for a small company looking to place their first 1,500 – 2,000 bottle order.
Mistake #2: Not having a specific target customer.
Every product needs at least one factor that sets it apart from every other product out there; every product needs its differentiators. The catch? It’s near impossible to establish your product’s unique selling propositions without first establishing who your target customers are.
Just to drive the point home, here’s an example of the difference between a vague target market, and a specific target market:
Vague: I want to create a multi-vitamin that appeals to everybody. Anybody can take it. Broad-spectrum. We’re going to market it to everyone.
Specific: I want to multi-vitamin that appeals to crossfitters. I want it to meet their unique nutritional/dietary needs as atheletes and weightlifters.
Ideally, your target market should be a unique group of consumers who are linked by a common need or desire. Establishing the right audience gives dietary supplement companies the ability to market efficiently and effectively — as well as ensuring that there’s someone that the product can be sold to.
Mistake #3: Not knowing what you don’t want in your product.
We think this is so important that we’re going to say it again: Knowing what you don’t want in your product is just as important as knowing what you do want in your product.
One of the first things we’ll get from a company looking to bring a product to market is a list of what they want their product to be — they want it sweetened naturally, to be free of this allergen, it should be vegan, etc., etc. Requests such as these are fine and well, they’re even encouraged.
Things usually only prove difficult or uncomfortable for all parties involved when the company receives their product’s batch sheet and tells their manufacturer something like, “We wanted it naturally sweetened, but we didn’t want it to contain xylitol,” or “Rice flour can’t be one of the fillers because we wanted it to be grain-free.”
The easiest way to avoid situations like these (which can amount to whole batches of product being scrapped) is to do the necessary research and establish early on which ingredients and components you want in your product along with the ingredients and components that you don’t want in your product.
Mistake #4: Deciding to design and print your labels with your own graphic designer.
In a world where shaving a few dollars off final cost is almost always a welcome thing, it can be tempting for even the most established of businesses to side with their in-house or ususal graphic designer.
When it comes to launching a nutraceutical product or a dietary supplement line, choosing to go with a designer who is not familiar with designing for print or with FDA regulations is almost always a mistake.
The reason why we chose to italicize the previous sentence is this: There are few things more frustrating (or less budget-friendly) than having to pay for a second set of labels because the first set couldn’t be used.
The best ways to avoid having a label that isn’t print ready or isn’t FDA-compliant (non-compliant labels legally cannot be used) is to work with your manufacturer’s in-house designer. By working alongside your manufacturer’s design team, it becomes possible to avoid the headache of re-printing labels unnecessarily.
Mistake #5: Not giving yourself enough time for the manufacturing process.
Lead time (or production time) is a factor that is great at influencing the decisions of young brands and company’s. While shorter lead times may look promising on paper, in practice they have a tendency to bring about issues and delays that could ordinarily be avoided.
Typically, the lead times for products within our industry look something like this:
- Capsules & Tablets: 8 -10 Weeks
- Powders: 12-16 Weeks
These lead times are not the result of the production process or its limitations. These times reflect the procedures and measure necessary for ensuring that a product — especially a new one — is manufactured correctly the first time.
Bringing a product to market is an elaborate process that calls for an incredible amount of communication and coordination. Building an ample lead time into your business model is a great way to ensure that you and your manufacturer are able to accommodate every step of the manufacturing process — including any unanticipated road bumps.
Mistake #6: Not preparing a list of qualifying questions for your manufacturer.
Without asking the right questions, there’s no way to know if you’re working with the best manufacturer for your product or business’ needs. Typically, manufacturers will provide brand owners with the information that they need to know in order to for the manufacturing process to happen and little more.
Establishing the ‘right’ qualifying questions is a matter of knowing what your product’s and company’s needs are along with being able to recognize the industry best practices and methods. Gaining knowledge about the latter can be done by speaking with several different manufacturers and by doing your own independent research.
Mistake #7: Being unaware of the regulatory environment or the associated risks.
One of the top misconceptions concerning the nutraceutical industry is that it is unregulated. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As a whole, the industry is regulated by the FDA and by the good manufacturing practices and other regulations that they have established. While there are companies and brands that manage to fly beneath the radar, they operate with targets on their backs. The FDA and other government agencies actively enforce their regulations in order to keep consumers safe.
This is another area where asking the right questions to can help you establish that your product won’t contain any banned or high-risk ingredients and that your brand isn’t making any unsubstantiated claims.
One of the simplest and most effective means for understanding the regulations and risks involved is to seek legal guidance concerning accepted practices and repercussions for violations and infractions.
Mistake #8: Being too unique.
While the problem of being “too unique” can be applied to several of the steps necessary for bringing a product to market, one of the most common areas where we’ve seen being overly unique become troublesome is package design.
“I want my packaging to be a square bottle with a triangular cap that has glow-in-the-dark metallic shrinkwrap, built-in micropyrotechnics, and blue-tooth capabilities. Oh, I also want the cap to be childproof.”
Having a product that stands out on the shelves is great, but even in the competitive world of supplement branding there are instances where less can be more. For those looking to have unique packaging, it’s important to remember that with custom packaging comes extended production time, set up charges, and bottle minimums that usually number in the tens of thousands. For a brand owner looking to put out a 1,500-2,000 bottle line, paying premium prices for 25,000 bottles of custom packaging is rarely the best option.
Mistake #9: Trying to re-invent the wheel.
For new brand owners, the desire to do something with their product that’s never been done before can be tremendous. The pitfall here is that, more often than not, if something hasn’t been done (or isn’t currently being don), there’s likely a good reason as to why. Whether financially complicated or fatally flawed from some other logistical standpoint, there’s almost always a reason.
Typically, the place where we tend to see new brand owner’s efforts to reinvent the wheel miss the mark completely is with flavoring and delivery methods. When it’s first laid to paper, an idea can seem fantastic, but the realities of a supplement that has everything the target customer could ever want means things like a twenty-gram serving size or a taste that under the best of circumstances can only be deemed “ less than palatable.”
The bottom line here is: There are ways to make the wheel your own without reinventing it.
Mistake #10: Not knowing your wants and needs ahead of time.
Going into the manufacturing process, the simplest way to avoid unnecessary mistakes, costs, and delays is to take the time needed to outline every aspect of your product line. Before you’re ready to manufacture you should have a clear idea of who your product is for, what ingredients it can have, which ingredients it can’t have, how it should be packaged, what the master case should be, how it should be shipped – these aspects and any others that are relevant to your unique situation should be addressed as early on and as thoroughly as possible.
No matter how familiar a person or company may be with the nutraceutical / dietary supplement industry, there is no greater mistake than choosing to go into an opportunity without being fully prepared.