The online forum, titled Innovation in Dietary Supplements, took place yesterday. The Panelists were Tim Avila, a longtime industry consultant who has helped shepherd many new ingredients to market, Paul Jarrett, co founder and CEO of BuluBox, a firm that helps supplement companies sample their wares in a more focused and data-driven way, and Sergio Radovcic, founder and CEO of Styr Labs, a personalized nutrition company that gleans reams of information from its customers via things like customized wearable devices. The forum can be listed to on demand by clicking here.
Innovation continues to abound
Avila said he has seen new things come and go in his 30 years in the industry. To the question of whether innovation had slowed or come to a stop, his short answer was “No.” Avila said there is significant and increasing amounts of investment capital lining up behind innovation, which is a sign that the smart money backs his notion.
Jarrett, whose company sends out subscription sample boxes and crunches the data that it gathers from consumers via that activity, agreed with Avila. Behind the scenes, powerful forces are lining up to drive a greater pace of innovation in the industry.
“We are pounding the pavement with getting new products out to consumers and we’re watching this transformation from the ground up,” Jarrett said. “We been at this six years, and in the past year to 18 months I’ve never had so many investors calling me, asking me about what we’re doing and asking about innovation in the industry. There are some amazing new product ideas, things with technology embedded in them, like AI.”
Compressed development cycles
What’s different today, Avlia said, is that development cycles are compressed, and buyers walking the aisles of trade shows looking for ingredients to show up in the traditional cycle of new product launches might be looking in the wrong place. The rapid information feedback loops that have been made possible through technology have transformed how ingredients are developed and find their way to market. In the past one way that developers might gauge whether they’d hit the mark with a new ingredient or whether it still needs some tweaks was how buyers reacted at trade shows. That’s almost passé now, Avila said. You still have to find buyers for your ingredient, of course, but reams of information have already been incorporated in the development process before an ingredient is ready for prime time.
“The development process has changed radically in my time in the industry. Back when I started you’d have some technical people like me, maybe some marketing people and others in a room and we’d try to presume things about the audience whereas today the audience is a participant in that process,” Avila said.
“From the spark of the idea, from the time of invention, you can instantly start getting input from all the stakeholders to get better outcomes, a better shaping of the idea,” he said.
Skipping the trade shows
Jarrett said that what he’s observed is that some of the new, innovative ideas in the industry are coming through doors that didn’t exist five years ago. Some of the ingredient and product innovators are new to the industry and don’t know how things are done, so to speak. And they don’t care, either.
“The transition is happening so quickly, that a lot of the new players in the market have no idea of the normal channel of the trade shows. Things like who do you talk to get protein, for instance. So they are pioneering their own complete pathways of how things should be done. They’re not interested in trade shows. They have their own complete Amazon strategies mapped out. They won’t do anything until they have their IP all in place,” he said.
Bridging the information gap
Radovcic said that the more thorough and focused gathering of data is transforming how nutritional products are conceived and developed. Rather than relying on what people say they do, developers will have more of an insight into how they actually behave when it comes to nutrition.
“A data scientist can tell you what was the last credit card you used. They can tell you what cell tower your call went through. But I can’t tell you what you ate for breakfast. Our aim is to bridge that first gap,” Radovcic said.
The forum can be heard on demand here.