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Case Study: The Keys to Manufacturing Success

By: Mac Smith
Posted: February 6, 2013, from the March 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

As the founder and owner of skin care brand Brazilian Peel, there are many decisions I need to make to ensure the success of the brand and the products. And one of the most important is my decision about what contract manufacturer to work with. Beauty brands that work with contract manufacturers definitely develop a partnership with their manufacturer, meaning sharing goals, challenges, opportunities, solutions and more, and consequently, choosing the right contract manufacturer is essential.

There are three requirements for being my contract manufacturer: I believe you can make what is needed, you come recommended by someone I trust, and you are easy to work with. The success of Brazilian Peel and the growth of its parent company Advanced Home Actives are based on this model. Developing and deploying new products takes great partners with strong and comprehensive trade relationships, and building and nurturing trade relationships leads to the successful design and delivery of innovative products.

In starting out, the dynamics of new product development are exciting, but the complexity can be daunting for a small company or brand. Meanwhile, most contract manufacturers survive on the volume of large beauty brands. This work drives the formalized disciplines of good manufacturing practices, but can also lead to a loss of flexibility and creativity when bringing on new products.

But what if you are starting from scratch? How does an entrepreneur find the right people to help build an emerging brand, providing the network of resources to launch a brand and keep it on retail shelves? How do you leverage the infrastructure and experience of contract manufacturers to keep overhead low while growing a brand from the ground up? The following is the story of how Brazilian Peel did it, learning lessons and solving challenges along the way.

Getting Your Feet Wet

Brazilian Peel started with a skin care product, an at-home glycolic acid peel, and found the way to commercial success. Developed after my hairstylist had a bad experience at the dermatologist’s office—irritation and redness following an incorrectly neutralized glycolic peel—I worked to create a self-neutralizing glycolic peel technology that didn’t need the second step. After developing a prototype that worked in the lab, it was time to look into scaling up for commercial exposure and release.

However, my collaborators and I didn’t know anybody in the beauty industry. In an attempt to gain greater knowledge and access to this arena, I joined the local chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC) and met some well-established ingredient suppliers who referred me to experienced chemists, one of whom was a Fellow in the SCC. I also met a seasoned marketing and branding expert who gave me a crash course in the economics of different beauty marketing channels. I came to respect and trust them, their experience and their knowledge, and they helped lead me to the next level in the development of what would become Advanced Home Actives.

Making a Match

After two years of developing and clinically testing the technology behind Brazilian Peel, a specialized packaging solution was needed for the product. My branding partner found a company with an ideal solution to this problem, and, after approaching it with a proposal to license the packaging components, we ended up with a full turnkey contract manufacturing deal. It had extra capacity, was a medical device manufacturer and was interested in load-leveling its extra capacity. Essentially, it was a perfect fit. Medical device manufacturing required very strict quality controls, validation protocols and lot traceability. The company also had the distribution and warehousing capabilities necessary for fulfilling orders for our products.

The icing on the cake was its ability to fill the specialized dual-dispensing packaging Brazilian Peel required, and as an added bonus, it provided leveraged purchasing power for ingredients, secondary packaging and shipping. This contract manufacturer delivered world-class elements of every manufacturing operation, from engineering, purchasing, scheduling, maintenance, quality control and assurance and shipping. All three of my criteria for working with a contract company had been met.

It was a match made in heaven that lasted two years until the manufacturer was acquired by a major multinational firm that had recognized the value of the organization. Thus, Brazilian Peel and Advanced Home Actives had to find a new partner.

Switching Gears

Through relationships with supply chain team members, we found a new contract manufacturer—220 Laboratories in Riverside, California—almost immediately, and within three months, had quotes for manufacturing our existing products based on detailed specifications of the formulas Advanced Home Actives owned, including two OTC acne drug products.