Article by: Perry Romanowski

There was an interesting discussion on the SCC Linked-In group about what cosmetic chemists expect from suppliers. If you are a new cosmetic chemist you might not be familiar with some of the terms or what benefit raw material suppliers can have for you. Here are some ways your raw material suppliers can help make your job better. But first, let’s talk about how you will interact with a supplier.

Making supplier contact

There are basically four ways that you will connect with a supplier.
1. Sales person calls you
2. Distributor contacts you
3. You meet at an industry trade show or event
4. You contact the supplier
No matter the method, it almost always leads to a face to face meeting.

Education

Raw material suppliers should be experts in the field of whatever type of chemical they are selling. So, the surfactant suppliers should know about all surfactant chemistry. Preservative suppliers should be experts in preservative chemistry. You can ask them to give you general background information. Of course, they will push their own materials but that seems like an even trade.

Samples

When you hear about a compound or a sales person introduces it to you, they can also provide you with a (typically free) sample. They do this because it is the best way to ensure that you evaluate their raw materials and increases the chances that you will use it when you launch a product.

Technical support

When you run into a stability problem or batch problem, the raw material suppliers should be willing and able to help you fix the problem. If you run into a problem you can’t solve right away, contact your supplier.

Regulatory paperwork

With the way governments are changing regulations, the job of a cosmetic chemist is becoming more and more one where you have to track down and collect paperwork for every raw material you use. Your raw material supplier is the source for this paperwork. Use them.

Innovation / New product ideas

Suppliers should be bringing you potential new product ideas and you should request them if they are not. Why would they give you new ideas? Well, they make money by selling chemicals to you. If they suggest an idea that you ultimately launch, they will (or should) get orders for some of their chemicals. Suppliers are an excellent source for new ideas but remember, they want to sell chemicals so they’ll give this idea to other companies too.

Industry news

Suppliers are like the bees of the cosmetic industry. They go around to all the different manufacturers picking up inside information and depositing the information to other places around the industry. At times, they may accidentally spill a secret, a bit of gossip, or some other useful bit of news (say a new job opening). When you build a personal relationship with your supplier, you’ll be more likely to learn inside information. Of course, this also raises the possibility that they will learn info from you that gets shared with other places around the industry so beware.

Perks

In an effort to cultivate relationships, suppliers will often take you out to lunch or dinner or otherwise entertain you as a potential client. Most companies do not have a problem with this and remember that there is no quid-pro-quo. That is, just because someone does something nice for you does not mean that you are otherwise obligated to use their stuff. Of course, some companies do not allow their chemists to accept any perks from suppliers so be sure to learn what your company’s policies are regarding the acceptance of gifts.

Suppliers can be a great resource for cosmetic chemists. Use them respectfully and wisely, and they can help make your job much easier.

How have suppliers helped you? Β Leave a comment below

6 comments

  1. Liliana

    Thanks for this article, Perry! You know what I find really funny about this ? The expectations of formulators from their suppliers are the same whether we’re talking about China, Germany or the US πŸ™‚

  2. Eliza

    Perry, I envy you LOL My experiences with suppliers differ A LOT now that I try to build my own company, than back when I was working for one (fairly big). The big one received all kind of free samples, perks, even tickets to trade shows and loads of information.

    Now I’m struggling with building up good working relationships with suppliers. The big ones won’t even bother to return my emails and calls. Because of the small quantities I need, I have to rely on small (local) re-sellers and working with those companies takes a lot of getting used to. No free samples, bad customer service, missing or unreliable information, orders getting lost and not refunded or adulterated materials that are so old they are pass their shelf life and cause problems. Most problems I’ve encountered with fragrance/perfume raw materials suppliers, really the worst!
    But I do keep holding on to my dream πŸ˜‰

    1. Duncan

      Just a thought here Eliza, do you think there is a market for a reseller that sources particular materials and holds all the appropriate data. One that knows what the small formulator needs, and can do small pack sizes, (oh and one that can do custom formulation and naturally etracted products as well)

      You might have just given yourself a niche

      1. Eliza

        That is a lovely idea, Duncan, I have been looking into it! The only problem I have is that it takes a lot more capital and time to build up stock and good relationships with the main suppliers than making a few perfumes and selling them.
        It is a nice niche indeed though! πŸ™‚

        1. Duncan

          Bit of vicious circle, common to all new businesses. To get taken seriously as a purchaser you need to be pulling material through the door in a reasonable volume (or in the case of a new material in a new product at least have some projected volumes), and to keep your overheads low, you need to be flogging it out of the door as soon as possible.

          As for fragrances http://www.sensoryperfection.co.uk/ might be worth a look if you want off the peg materials

          1. Eliza

            You are very helpful, Duncan, thank you!
            I looked into some leads but I think what holds me back is that I’m not much of a seller. I like making stuff too much πŸ™‚
            I also know sensoryperfection, they sell pre-made fragrance oils, and besides allergens they won’t reveal much about the actual ingredients in such a ‘micriway blend’ LOL

            Right now I’m getting my stuff either from US, Germany or the Netherlands, pure raw fragrance materials that is (like linalool and other alcohols, several kinds of musks, esters, aldehydes, ketones etc.). Then I can make my own concoctions, following my own formula that I can tweak if there are problems with upscaling.

            Most of my problems are with natural and botanical materials anyways, like essential oils, absolutes, concretes, extracts and waxes. They are hard to analyze and easy to adulterate.

            I hope to start on a perfumer chemist’s degree soon.
            Thanks again!

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