Choosing Your Raw Material Suppliers
So– you think you have found the most amazing ingredient that will transform your line? Think it will make you the supplement of choice for heart health? Joint care? Mental well-being? Here are a few tips to help you sort through the hype and make rational decisions about bringing new ingredients on board:
1. The Company — Who are they? Who are their scientific advisors? We buy from people. Are these people you want to be in relationship with? Are they a good culture match with your company? Perhaps you like working with very large companies; perhaps you are more comfortable working with smaller ones. If they are a new company, do the executives bring credible experience and integrity with them? Do they have the financial backing to stay in business for the long term?
2. The Facility – Where is the product produced? Where is it warehoused? You don’t want to wait 6 wks for an ingredient to be shipped overseas if you don’t have to. Who does their audits? Are they willing to share the reports with you? What certifications do they have? Are they willing to send you copies? What else is produced in the facility? What else is produced on the same line? Can they package product for you, or is it strictly a bulk raw material operation?
3. Quality Control – How long has the company been producing the product commercially? Can they provide you at least 3 certificates of analysis for review? Do their cofas include the specifications on the sheet for ease of approval? How much batch to batch variation is reasonable to expect? Is the minimum specification reflected in their marketing material? Or does their marketing material reflect one batch that was particularly high in a certain marker? What are they willing to commit to? What is the regulatory status of their new ingredient?
4. Scientific studies – Are they marketing based on “borrowed” science? Are their claims based on test tube data, animal studies, or human clinicals? What are YOU comfortable with? Depending on your channel of distribution and your comfort with risk, you may or may not be willing to bring them in.
5. Down to Business – Are you looking for an ingredient that has some patent protection behind it? Are you looking for a licensing agreement or exclusivity arrangement? If an ingredient is core to your line, do you have it protected through a supply agreement, or are you ok with a “gentleman’s handshake”?
In the end, choosing the best raw material suppliers to work with is a blend of objective data review and subjective gut feel about the company and the people. Providing your team sufficient time to make a careful assessment can save you large amounts of time and dollars down the road. Your brand and your reputation depend on bringing the right partners on board.