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Secret of the Niche

By: Kevin F. Gallagher
Posted: June 7, 2011, from the June 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

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We view our role in successful new product development as acting as catalysts for helping brand owners find the next niche. This depends on our ability to be able to help in the new product development process in a variety of ways. We’ve learned to be flexible and respond to not only our customer’s needs but also the needs of the consumer and the marketplace. We can help our customers take advantage of different kinds of opportunities, depending on their own strengths as well as opportunities presented by changes in the dynamics of the market.

Sometimes a new niche starts with an analysis of the market and other times it begins with a technological breakthrough that leads us to help define a new performance claim that we believe will resonate with consumers. Along the way, we’ve discovered that we need to better understand the consumer goods market and, at the same time, be willing to make the investments required in science and technology to be able to identify and measure new performance claims. This means that we have developed, in addition to ingredient technology, substantial performance claim expertise to serve our customers and ultimately the consumer’s needs.

We can mention a couple of examples that illustrate these points. In our research efforts on hair conditioning, we discovered that a new class of conditioning agents can be made that are substantially more hydrophobic (water repelling) than the previous generation of these ingredients. Since effective hair conditioning depends on depositing a water repellant substance on the hair, we believed that we were on track to develop a generation of ingredients with enhanced conditioning and performance properties. Since this water repellant behavior also made these ingredients less irritating, we thought that we could expand the use of this chemistry into skin care products where it had not previously been exploited.

We designed a conditioning agent based on optimizing this water repellant behavior. When we developed the ingredient Incroquat Behenyl TMS (Behenyl Trimonium Methosulfate), we discovered that it could significantly improve the wet combing and detangling properties of the hair. We first discovered this using instrumental measurements; then we were able to confirm these results using consumer studies in our hair salon. We were able to develop a dramatically strong correlation between the instrumental and subjective studies. We found that the “total work of wet combing” correlated very well with the subjective salon evaluation of “wet combing” and that the “peak combing force” had a very high correlation with “detangling” evaluations in the salon. By working closely with our customers, we were able to help them create the new “detangling conditioners” niche that has resulted in a segment of the conditioner market that now accounts for more than $100 million in retail sales. This also proves that niche doesn’t have to be small.

In a similar fashion, Croda’s Sederma division was able to take advantage of new discoveries in wound healing and skin regeneration to help introduce anti-aging peptides as important ingredients in personal and beauty care. These peptides are modeled on the important “messenger molecules” that the skin releases as a trigger for the skin to repair itself (Sederma US Patent 6,620,419).