From Concept to Consumer

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    I like to say, “you cannot teach experience, you have to live it”. Over the course of almost 30 years in the Dietary Supplement, Functional Food and Food industries, I’ve been fortunate to have experienced all the components of a successful contract manufacturing business firsthand, and to align with mature and respected brands on ideation, formulation, and marketing strategy.

    The easier component is the birth of ideas, the more difficult and time-consuming component is bringing those ideas to fruition in the form of a finished concept. There is no shortage of brands with a vision, but not as many with the financial resources and patience to survive the trials and tribulations of this process.

    The evolution of a concept to market is as follows:

    • Ideas are born across the war rooms of marketing and brand management, the fair-haired men and women that drive commercialization.
    • Those managers provide their respective product development groups with a wish list of preferred ingredients, some with clinical evidence, patents and trademarks, marketing copy and label claims, and required price points that enable cost effective retail sell through.
    • Product development then begins the unenviable task of delivering their wish list and criteria to a contract manufacturing partner, and the fun begins. Those vendors have the painstaking task of identifying what is achievable based upon their respective knowledge of competitive brands, cost of goods and manufacturing, and regulatory oversight.
    • After phase 1 of the cycle is complete, the vendor delivers their findings to the brands product development group, and the product developers have an even more painstaking role in notifying the brand and marketing managers that they cannot have everything they asked for, which is inevitable.

    Then the process progresses to phase 2, and after multiple iterations we have a formula that appears to be ready for the market with all the finer points having been effectively vetted. Marketing then has to decide based upon their criteria if the formula is market worthy. If the brand decides to move forward, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) is executed, PO placed, with forecasting provided to the vendor. I can say without any doubt that I’ve never met a marketing group that is happy about projecting and forecasting into the foreseeable future until the concept has been validated by retailers and consumers alike.

    Next up is the vendors regulatory group providing their assessment and blessing over requested marketing copy and label claims with this process based upon their knowledge and research in evaluating similar formulas, FDA warning letters, and the temperature of the FDA, etc.  Risk for a brand and contract manufacturer alike is a valid concern, as raising the attention of the FDA and/or FTC can result in a warning letter that becomes public knowledge, not to mention the financial implications that comes with this. Once the vendor and the brand have a mutual understanding, supply and quality agreements are executed, outlining terms and thus protecting both.

    The next step requires the vendor to send samples to the brand for organoleptic (ie flavor, texture) evaluation and testing to confirm that the formula is palatable and safe for the consumer. Lastly, the vendor fulfills the PO and formula is shipped to a fulfillment center for distribution to retailers and consumers.

    In closing, this process is not for the faint of heart and can take as much as six months from concept to market. Then the brand and vendor hope and pray for success which can prove to be extremely profitable for both.


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    Drew Luce
    Drew Luce
    Drew Luce boasts 28 years of exemplary experience in the Dietary Supplements, Functional Foods, and Food sectors, having served as Chief Operating Officer, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, and Partner at RFI, LLC in Colorado. His extensive tenure at RFI, LLC saw him play a pivotal role in strategic alignment, fostering industry relationships, and generating revenue surpassing $15 million. Armed with a Bachelor's degree in Business, Political Science, and Public Administration from Montclair State University, Drew now serves as President of, utilizing his expertise in sales, marketing, brand strategy, product development, quality assurance, regulatory compliance, and financial management to benefit clients and the industry at large. Recognized for his strategic planning, team leadership, and business development skills, Drew remains a prominent figure in the global consumer healthcare arena, consistently driving growth and success in supplements and functional foods through innovative solutions.