Don’t change it if it isn’t broken is a saying that many of our parents would quote. This may have been the case in times gone by but standing still is not an option for most companies. So why do companies change the formulation of what is seen as a successful product? The reasons are varied, but can generally be summed up in the following 6 categories:
We see many companies using ‘new improved formulas’ all of the time. Sometimes this is to keep their brand in the spotlight, other times to reduce their costs, but to be truly successful a brand needs to be able to back up their claims (as L’Oreal says, 'here comes the science bit, concentrate') to gain customer trust whilst providing effective and stable products.
L’Oreal’s success can undoubtedly be attributed to its ability to constantly evolve (it currently has over 500 brands and thousands of individual products1). It has over 4000 experts in cosmetic formulation and other disciplines, which enables them to back up their claims with scientific data. It may be deemed as the ‘boring stuff’ but this gives customers confidence in the products they are buying. Here we see Unilever using science to innovate in the hair care market.
Sometimes key ingredients become hard to source, or the way in which it is produced/extracted becomes too expensive (e.g. jojoba); with natural ingredients you also have the added challenge of variants which may affect the formulation, and as customer trends move towards more naturally sourced goods, this could cause major quality control and reliability issues for brands. Here we see scientists from the University of Bath study the properties of sustainably sourced ingredients for cleaning products. Being able to confidently make these changes and adapt your formulations accordingly means a win-win situation for both company and consumer.
Legislation and consumer lobbying has forced some companies to change their formulations – for example, to remove parabens and other chemicals believed to be harmful, or to reduce ingredients such as sugar or colourants to produce a healthier option. Understanding how your product works and the implications of any changes can keep you ahead of the curve should these legislative changes happen. Companies in the automotive industry are constantly improving their formulas to address global legislation whilst also maintaining product performance in a range of different local conditions. A perfect example is Lubrizol’s work on designing engine oil additive formulations compatible with gasoline particulate filters.
Lifestyle changes have had an impact on how people consume products – eating on the go, needing airport size containers, or the growth in online shopping and home deliveries. Being able to adapt to these changes quickly will help grow your product portfolio and maintain customer loyalty. In this example we can see how the science behind Unilever’s ice-cream has helped them understand the impact of modern day shopping and storage practices on their product. This knowledge will help them to adapt their formulation to maintain a high customer experience and maintain brand loyalty – let’s face it, who wants a bowl full of ice when they’re eating ice-cream!
All of these changes involve modifications to the formulation to make sure the customer experience is maintained, and the quality, stability and effectiveness remains. Maintaining key properties and performance is critical for industries such as pharma, food or automotive where safety is key, but also to widen brand success.
Where logistics, supply chain or manufacturing issues are concerned, it can often be cost that drives these changes. Changing, or improving a formulation or a manufacturing process to save money or to enhance performance means replicating real environments to validate what truly happens and discover any adverse effects or unknowns.
Key to developing high-performing products and processes is a true understanding of the underlying science, particularly at the atomic and microscale where structure and chemistry can strongly influence function. High-resolution analytical tools are vital in gaining this understanding and this is where Diamond can help.
Synchrotron methods can provide higher resolution, greater sensitivity and higher speed measurements than those available in a home laboratory and essentially represent the "Formula 1" of analytical techniques.
The techniques are broadly classed in three different categories; diffraction and scattering based techniques exploring structure of materials; spectroscopic techniques providing information on materials chemistry and imaging techniques allowing direct visualisation of materials, which can be non-destructive or with high chemical sensitivity. These techniques can be employed to explore products under a wide range of different processing conditions allowing you to replicate specific challenges and resolve problems.
Using the state-of-the-art instrumentation and drawing on the expertise of the staff at Diamond, we can help you fully understand your products and stay ahead of the curve. Please do get in touch to discuss your project ideas, big or small - we’d be delighted to help.
Supporting all of these state-of-the-art facilities is the Industrial Liaison Office, comprising a team of highly experienced scientists dedicated to supporting our industrial clients in accessing Diamond. We offer services ranging from full service; a bespoke experimental design, data collection, data analysis and reporting service, right through to providing facilities for you to conduct your own experiments.
We’re always happy to discuss any enquiries or talk about ways in which access to Diamond’s facilities may be beneficial to your business so please complete an enquiry form, or give us a call on 01235 778797. You can keep in touch with the latest developments by following us on Twitter @DiamondILO or LinkedIn.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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