In Response: How to develop effective-and affordable-products.

November 2, 2011
Karen E. Todd, RD, CSCS, HFS

Facts that should be considered when developing a new product formulation.

As a formulation scientist, how many times have you developed an efficacious product formulation-only to have the ingredients or levels pared back to little or nothing of your original concept because the product can’t be marketed or is too expensive for consumers? The most successful formulations arise when formulators work closely with their marketing team to develop products that offer unique attributes and provide healthful solutions consumers will want to purchase.

Here are some factors that should be considered when developing a new product formulation:

  • Does the product contain high-quality ingredients?

  • Does it have efficacious dose(s) of ingredient(s) backed by clinical science?

  • Is the cost of the efficacious dosage affordable to most consumers-or to only a few?

  • Will it be widely available? Where will it be sold: online, a retail store, a doctor’s office, a specialty health food store?

  • Does the product formulation match the marketing claims?

  • Is it unique or patented?

  • Is it a single-ingredient or multiple-ingredient formulation?

  • If it’s a single, can you develop a unique delivery system/method?

  • If it’s a multiple-ingredient product, do the ingredients work together in a synergistic or complementary fashion?

Let’s examine a few of these points. For example, some will say that a single-ingredient product isn’t as novel or unique, but to the contrary, you can utilize that ingredient in a variety of delivery forms that make it unique-for example, an easy-to-swallow tablet, a chewable product, or even a beverage. When using a single-entity product, you can also leverage the science and structure/function claims developed around that ingredient by the ingredient manufacturer.

If developing a multi-ingredient product, try to combine ingredients that work together. For example, omega-3 fatty acids, which can assist in membrane support in brain cells, may also work synergistically with other ingredients to support brain health.

Another example is glutathione, which is considered the body’s most powerful intracellular antioxidant. Glutathione’s ability to support the regeneration of vitamins C and E makes combining these three nutrients together a natural fit.

However, try not to combine nutrients that supply the same basic nutritional benefit. An example here is supplying vitamin C from multiple sources: pure vitamin C, rose hips, or acerola cherry. All supply vitamin C, and using all would simply duplicate the effort. When choosing among somewhat similar ingredients, choose the nutrient that offers multiple benefits. In this case, rose hips or acerola would provide additional phytonutrients that would be beneficial above and beyond just providing vitamin C.

Be mindful, however, that a particular combination of ingredients can potentially have both positive and negative attributes. While they may not always be well-defined, try to understand the ingredients’ mechanisms of action or the specific biochemical interaction by which the nutrient(s) works or expresses its effects.

Avoid delivering nutrients that have contradictory effects. Although they may not be dangerous, combining contra-indicating ingredients could decrease the activity of each nutrient. An example of this is gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), which acts as the main inhibitory neurotransmitter that is used for calming effects of the brain. Caffeine acts directly opposite to GABA in the way that it increases the excitatory neurotransmitter and inhibits GABA release. Chose one or the other of these nutrients, depending on the desired benefit your final product is to elicit.

It’s also helpful to work with researchers who can conduct scientific studies using your formulation. There are also third-party laboratories that can test your product to ensure it meets label claims, does not contain unsafe levels of contaminants, and is free of banned substances if for use by athletes.

In summary, work with your marketing team to identify a product formula that contains:

  • An efficacious dose of active ingredients backed by science

  • Nutrients with novel or complementary uses or delivery systems

  • But avoid combining nutrients with duplicative nutritional benefits or that have contradictory mechanisms

In the end, the formulation developed will be your masterpiece, with attributes truly fit for a queen but affordable to many.