Make the chemist's life wonderful again!

Hi Everyone,

First of all, I love this forum, its people and collective brains that continue to share and help each other.  :)

I had a question for all the formulators that have worked with startups and "new genius idea' founders or even experienced business owners with no science background.  

  1. What, in your opinion, are questions that founders/business owners should already have answers to when coming to you for formulating or developing a product?
    (I know many business owners/founders don't know a thing about chemistry or even interested in how it works, they just want an end product that works and meets their "vision").

  2. What are the things that would help you achieve formulation success with least amount of errors or revisions?
    (they get charged for having more than 3 revisions before approving the last one. Many don't know what they want and end up wasting their money and the chemist's time & energy).

  3. What are some of the definitions/terms you realize are used incorrectly by business owners when they approach you (thank you marketeers :D ). 
    (e.g. "natural" ingredients, "organic", "harsh chemicals" etc)
Objective:
  • Make chemists happy and focused on innovating & producing the right formula with constructive feedback without unnecessary back & forth and disputes with founders/business owners
  • Simplifying the language of chemists vs. business owner to ensure we mean the same thing when we use a certain term.  
p.s.  questions can apply to any industry, although cleaning/detergent & cosmetic businesses are the prevalent industries.

Thank you & Happy 2021 all ..... :)

Comments

  • zan666zan666 Member
    p.p.s  I realize I tagged it to formulation instead of general. Couldn't reassign it :/ (sorry). 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Here are three crucial things...

    1. Money - How much do you have to spend? How much do you want the final product to cost? Don't tell a chemist that you want them to develop a product for you "on spec" and that you'll make them a partner & give them part of the business. >90% of brands fail due to bad marketing & sales. A chemist is not going to count on you to be successful for them to get paid for the work they did.

    2. Benchmark - Your idea and product are not unique. Someone has already had the idea. If you can't find an example of someone who is already doing what you want to do that means one of two things...

    a. Using current technology, it's impossible to make
    b. It's a bad business idea that has proven to be unsuccessful in the marketplace

    That doesn't mean you can't be successful but it does mean that you can't expect the chemist to come up with a formula that looks, feels, smells, and performs different than anything on the market. It won't happen. So, it is CRITICAL that you find a product that is already for sale that has the characteristic you want to emulate. This could be more than one product (e.g. the fragrance of this product, the color of this one, the performance of something else). But if you want to streamline the development process you need specific targets for the development chemist to hit.

    3. Claims - What do you want to say about your product? Specifically, what story do you want to tell. That will help the chemist know what ingredients to include. 

    That should get you started.
  • zan666zan666 Member
    Thank you @Perry for the quick reply.
    Those are some really important points. 

    1. I would expect every chemist to get paid for their work. Most  formulations cost an avg of $3-4K. I'm surprised about founders giving them part of the business because its just not good for the company itself in the long run! Fixed cost for formulation makes more sense, IMO. 

    2.  The sample products that have the characteristic needed are clear, however, do you think its unrealistic to expect the chemist to improve on one specific aspect i.e. performance without it being an impossible task? This could me increase in concentration? or perhaps asking them to apply a certain tech / process typically used successfully in another industry to this product making the formula possibly patentable? 

    3. The claims I find tricky. These days different terms are interchanged to mean different things to people. Lets take biodegradability, when someone says "I want my product to be biodegradable", that is just too general as ultimately how long it takes for the ingredients to biodegrade, whether it leaves no harmful toxins when it does breakdown etc, matter for a company that claims its product is 'truly 100% biodegradable & has no harmful toxins when it breaks down". 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Just a couple of comments...

    1.  It's very common for people to approach chemists and tell them they don't have any money but they want to launch a product line. That's why it is important that when someone starts a brand, they have some money.

    2. It's not unreasonable to ask for improving on some aspect of a product. Just don't expect that it is possible. Often it is not. It's also often not possible to move technology from one industry to the cosmetic industry. For the most part, if there was an obvious transfer that could lead to a valuable patent, someone has already thought of it. That's not to say that is always the case, it's just almost always true. P&G, L'Oreal, and Unilever have scientists who's main job is to find technologies in other industries & adapt them to the cosmetic industry if possible.

    3. Claims are important because they are what is going to get your consumer to buy the product. If you are saying only things that everyone else is saying, people will be less interested in buying your product over someone else's. Claims are nice though (at least in the US) because it's up to you to figure out a way to support that what you are claiming is true. Your scientists can help with this but it is the product marketer who should know what claims they want to make that will entice their consumers to buy. Claims generation is not something you should expect your chemist to do. But it is reasonable to ask them to figure out how to support a claim you want to make (if that's possible).
  • Such a good question. I would also add a question on how much they think they are going to sell. Some would want to start with something like 500 jars of a moisturizer which translates into 25kg. I am not sure it’s possible to find a manufacturer who would run the equipment for 25kg. And if the client wants to make the product in house it’s a whole different story.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    Perry said:
    ... P&G, L'Oreal, and Unilever have scientists who's main job is to find technologies in other industries & adapt them to the cosmetic industry if possible.
    ...
    What big corporations often do, especially in cosmetic industries but probably everywhere like automobile industry and agrochemistry, is to 'harvest' patents for the mere reason to be the first and only one having access to a new tech and not necessarily trying to actually use it. As long as it slows down competition, it's already a win. For big corp with established products and production lines, new technology can be hard to adjust to and even if it actually slows down overall progress and development of the entire industry, it can be a win for a single company.
    Besides, many new techs are too expensive and/or too elaborate to be of actual use in an industry such as cosmetics...
  • PhilGeisPhilGeis Member, Professional formulator
    edited January 7
    From the big company cosmetic experience, I'll offer that it's both acquisition and development - rarely acquisition only to block others.   Cosmeticss are so dynamic that first to market with a unique product/claim/compelling ad is much more of a win than slowing others - even if possible. 
    As consumers are more convinced of extravagant claims when combined with extravagant precetag, technology cost is often not a barrier.  But advertising (even to puffery) is a factor in convincing without great technology.
  • ozgirlozgirl Member, PCF student
    @zan666 One of the biggest questions you need to ask is "what is your timeline for development"? Non-cosmetic chemists do not realise that it takes time to develop and properly stability test products.

    This along with the money aspect Perry mentioned is definitely what I would clarify from the start.
  • Bill_TogeBill_Toge Member, Professional Chemist
    the best client is one who knows exactly (or has a good idea of) what they want, doesn't change the brief substantially, and is actually committed to buying the finished product
    the grief comes when you make sample after sample for them, only to have them rejected because they don't really know what they want; or they approve a sample for production then change their mind further down the line and make you start again
    UK based formulation chemist. Strongest subjects: hair styling, hair bleaches, hair dyes (oxidative and non-oxidative) I know some stuff about: EU regulations, emulsions (O/W and W/O), toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoos, other toiletries
  • chemicalmattchemicalmatt Member, Professional Chemist
    Well, at risk of shameless self-promotion, @zan666 you can just read my article here and get the whole skinny on contract manufacturing and entrepreneur relationships.

    Do This, Not That! - HAPPI
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