Developing a New Product
When it comes to developing a new product, there are certain steps that you should take - whether this is the first or the fiftieth product you’ve come up with.
When you’re first starting out, you usually have some idea of what you will make. Whether it’s soap, lotion or another cosmetic, you’ve got inspiration...but what will you do with it? Later on when you already have a product inventory, there are always possibilities to expand your product line.
Let’s take a look at how to get the most out of the research and development phase so that you can make the best possible product!
1. Find Reliable Sources
Making a product for the first time can be daunting. Even if you have made other products before, you want to be sure that your ratios, ingredients, and all of the other essential parts of the formula are just right. Finding reliable sources is key to the process of new product formulation.
Online resources abound, but there is also a lot of misinformation. Right off the bat, be wary of any advice telling you that a product or ingredient can cure or diagnose a disease; and absolutely do not market it in that way if you choose to use that ingredient or make that product. Suppliers and vendors can be a source of new product information, but often their information is geared toward how to use the ingredients they sell.
That said, there are many reliable and unbiased sources available, both online and in print. See the sidebar for our top pick resources for new product formulating.
2. Source Your Ingredients
One of the biggest expenses in the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry is undoubtedly the cost of ingredients. Most of the ingredients for popular products are food-grade; buying high quality ingredients that will deliver the best experience is imperative. Searching and comparing prices is time consuming, but well worth it.
A helpful method is to make a spreadsheet listing all of the ingredients you will need. This way, you can write the prices you’ve found at different companies side by side. Make sure that you also include the price of shipping; this all plays a factor in the cost of producing the final product.
While you’re checking prices, don’t be afraid to ask where they came from or how they are processed. That can sometimes make a difference to your product, your marketing or your the way your customer perceives the product when they are deciding to buy.
Keep in mind that HSCG Members receive discounts from many vendors; you can find available discounts by logging in and then visiting the Where to Buy Supplies page.
3. Understand Your Equipment and Space Needs
Making a product is not just about the ingredients, but the space needed to produce the product as well as the equipment. Most products can be made at least in part in your home, but also consider ventilation in the space and the ease of cleaning. If your space is not properly ventilated, and cannot be sanitized well, consider making appropriate changes to your space or renting a separate space.
When it comes to equipment, smaller scale handmade products typically don’t require industrial equipment. But if you will need additional equipment to make this new product, make sure that you figure the cost of additional equipment needed in the calculation for the cost of the final product.
4. Make a Sample and Try It Yourself
Here in the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry, makers wear many hats-one of them is a test subject! It may seem like common sense, but before you market your fantastic new product, make sure that you try it out on yourself first; this will give you an idea of exactly how it performs . If you have friends, family or focus groups of customers who can also give you feedback, consider using them. The information you get back will help you tweak it if necessary, and market it properly. Pay special attention not just to the functionality of the product, but to the experience; both should be up to your highest standards.
5. Take meticulous notes
Even if your initial experiment doesn’t work - or especially if it doesn’t work - take exact and detailed notes of exactly what you did.
We’ve all seen the science-fiction movies where the mad chemist writes down notes in an ominous journal about their latest experiment --- be that mad chemist! Writing down the exact process you used will help you identify problems and subsequently find solutions. It will also help you to reproduce a product that you loved! Designate a special notebook just for formulation, or create a standard form to fill out each time you experiment.
Each experiment should include the date, time, a batch number, list of ingredients including their source(s), exact measurements, sequence of adding ingredients, stirring times, equipment used, and product temperatures (if applicable). It’s also good to include room temperature and humidity as these may affect the processing or curing time.
If you keep accurate records during your research and development phase, when it comes time to roll out your actual production, you will have the basis of your Master Formula already in place.
Bonus: make sure you’re covered.
No matter what you’re making, be absolutely sure that you will have the proper insurance to cover it. The HSCG works with Veracity Insurance Solutions to offer inclusive insurance policies that won’t break the bank; check out the Insurance FAQ and Insurance Comparison Chart for more information.
Coming up with new products is part of the fun of being a handcrafter! Just be sure that you follow a consistent research and development checklist to get the very most of your time, and the best possible products.