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Thinking beyond chemistry

Holistic approach key to how formulas succeed

Clients often ask me to fix formulas they got somewhere else. Formulas that seemed good on paper but failed somewhere down the line. From ingredient issues to COGs that don’t add up to manufacturing failures, a formula can go wrong in a thousand ways. I see launch dates delayed, profit margins vanish, and dedicated sales and marketing teams frustrated because the product didn’t come together as promised.

The question is always the same: What went wrong?

The basic answer: The formula’s technical specs couldn’t survive processing. A formula has many hurdles to clear so that a product arrives in condition to deliver a quality user experience. A formula will fail if it's not built for what happens after it leaves the lab.

The better answer: Formulas fail when they’re developed without awareness of the whole use case. A formula isn’t just chemistry. It’s not just a dream in a bottle. Inspiration only becomes real through pragmatic execution. That means combining chemical principles with mechanical principles.

This multivariable, end-to-end perspective is what I call holistic development. It’s a process that heads off problems before they happen.

Avoidable problems

Here are a few examples that came my way. All were avoidable with a holistic approach.

  • A powdered blush formula wouldn’t compress on the client’s equipment. (The formula worked fine on proprietary equipment at the large cosmetics manufacturer.)

  • A soap formula didn’t account for the foaming dispenser specified in the product concept and wouldn’t fill properly.

  • A candle formulated and manufactured in the Midwest turned liquid when stored in the South, where warehouses typically have higher ambient temperatures.

Context matters

I formulate from an end-to-end perspective for a simple reason: I’ve always worked close to the entire process. In my career, I’ve been responsible in whole or part for R&D, supply chain, manufacturing, operations, marketing, finance, and business development. From every angle, it’s more cost effective to build a successful formula up front than solve problems down the line.

A benchmark formula can’t account for your particular conditions. Even a custom formula may not perform under your conditions if it was built by someone who doesn’t think beyond the lab.

Holistic development isn’t complicated. It does mean asking relevant questions across the product process. Effective chemistry starts with the bigger picture.


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