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The Necessity of Testing in New Product Development

Chris McLeod
  • Testing is not a new concept in the beauty industry, as claims substantiation, regulations and more have made it a requirement for some time. But getting testing methods and costs involved earlier in the product development process can help a project go much more smoothly.
  • Advising on different types of tests and the different requirements of different beauty products is one way a beauty testing company can help in the product development process.
  • Language can be a tricky issue in product claims, so be prepared to do what is necessary in order to defend the wording you want to use.
  • Make sure all the development effort you put in up front isn’t derailed down the line by testing that is more costly than expected. You can do this by getting testing companies involved earlier in the product development process.
  • Claims often help beauty products achieve an edge over competitors, but if you don’t have the right testing to back it up, all that work can be worthless.

As consumers and industry regulations continue to demand transparent, audited and legitimate business systems within all consumer industries, the beauty industry is often at the forefront of this movement. This makes the field of beauty and cosmetic product testing, in particular, more and more in demand each day. Beauty products, whether they are developed by multinational corporations or by niche market boutiques, have one common factor—the necessity of claims substantiation tests to provide third party verification of a product’s intended benefits.

Recently, the implementation of new FDA and European regulations have ensured consumers are extensively protected from on-pack claims, be it against overzealous efficacy statements or under-tested safety protection. This has led to a significant increase in beauty companies and brand owners seeking the services of testing companies.

Due to the importance and necessity of the testing process in new product development, one would expect the knowledge of this industry sub-field to be largely understood by product developers and formulators, brand marketers, managing directors and owners of beauty companies. However, finding an in-house beauty manager with a well-informed, up-to-date knowledge of the testing process is less likely than one would expect. And more and more, this general knowledge of product testing is an essential prerequisite to planning and the new product development process.

Of course, an ideal world consisting of all beauty company employees fully understanding claims substantiation will likely never exist, and thankfully, this is where testing companies and product testing consultancy services come into play. It is also now all but essential to have third-party verification of claim substantiation to provide legitimacy for the tests, products and relevant product information files that will be under examination by the appropriate regulating bodies.

But, as an example, even though beauty brand owners know testing companies provide their expertise and full facilitation of each testing procedure at any point, more of these companies’ areas of expertise are being incorporated into the product development planning process at initial conception.

In a nutshell, a general understanding of beauty product testing processes highlights the need to bring testing onboard early in the development of something new in order for brands to save time and money in bringing the best, most efficient, cost-effective and refined product to the market. The following examples illustrate.

Testing for Safety Claims

For this first example, having someone available to you who understands the difference between a human repeat insult patch test (HRIPT) and a primary irritation patch test (96-hour patch test) will save both time and money. The difference between the two, in terms of claims that are substantiated by each test, is that an HRIPT substantiates “hypoallergenic” claims as well as the standard derma-type claims that a primary irritation patch test also covers, such as “clinically tested,” “dermatologically approved” and so on.

However, in terms of study time line and cost, there is a difference of five weeks and $5,000 between the two test types because of necessary protocols that must be adhered to. If the product’s hero claim has to do with its hypoallergenicity, then, of course, the HRIPT tests are necessary. But if the product’s main selling point is within its efficacy claims rather than its safety claims, it would be advisable to contemplate which of these tests would be better suited.

The HRIPTs are better, more robust product tests in terms of providing clear assurance of safety for the consumer, but it is always beneficial to weigh the pros and cons of both tests depending on the product or brand’s position in the market. If your beauty brand puts five different formulations through safety testing, there is a parity of $15,000 between five HRIPTs and five primary irritation patch tests, for example.

Careful Wording

No matter the size of the company, a budget will be set for a certain project from product conception to product launch. This often requires an understanding of why the test protocols that are run as implemented can help in saving the company money. For example, changing the wording of “reduces dark circles” to “reduces the appearance of dark circles” could save three weeks of time and $7,000—the former is a bolder statement and requires instrumental and visual expert assessments; the latter is a perception study.

Another example that has a slight wording alteration but which changes the whole concept of a product, range or brand is the usage of these two phrases: “This formula, containing argan oil and vitamin E, moisturizes the skin and reduces wrinkles over time” compared to “This formula contains argan oil and vitamin E—ingredients well-known for their moisturizing and wrinkle-reducing abilities, respectively.” The former directly links the moisturizing of the skin and wrinkle reduction to the full formulation, putting a distinctly scientific marketing angle on the product through a bold statement about how the product can actively enhance skin. It would require moisturization and anti-wrinkle studies lasting approximately 11 weeks and costing around $15,000. The latter statement relates the efficacy statements to the respective ingredients, puts a nature-led marketing angle onto the products as it informs the consumer of the natural properties of the ingredients, and would mean no cosmetic testing is required to substantiate this statement so long as full bibliographic evidence for each efficacy-ingredient correlation is incorporated into the product information files. This change would save $15,000 in testing but it also changes the type of product, range, brand and consumer demographic that is being marketed to.

The marketing angle of said products is of paramount importance to the brand, and, to testing companies, is always substantiated according to the intended on-pack claims. However, this advice hopefully gives an insight into how wordplay can make a definite difference in cosmetic testing and why interaction with testing houses early is incredibly important.

This next example also focuses on the need to get testing involved early on in the product development process.

Let’s say the managing director at Company Z provides a specific budget for an “anti-aging” range due to its marketplace popularity and profit-making ability. The range will contain a moisturizer, eye serum and cleanser that, over several months, will be formulated by the product development team while the advertising, marketing angle and consumer demographic is decided upon by the marketing team. It is at this stage of the new product development process that testing companies receive the majority of inquiries from new clients. For this example, after producing the appropriate study design, a testing company could quote work that would cost something like $150,000 for three products in an anti-aging study.

Now imagine Company Z’s budget could not incorporate $150,000 for testing at this stage, and thus, all the time, effort and enthusiasm for this project would have been in vain because the budget will not stretch to substantiating the one necessary claim that has directed the whole project. In the majority of cases, Company Z will have to go back to the drawing board.

The reason for this price is as follows: Each separate SKU has to be individually tested, even if a formulation differs by only a 0.5% fragrance or preservative level because of the need for individual product information files for each product. Plus, “anti-aging” is a complex claim that needs the analysis of wrinkle reduction, moisturization levels, skin elasticity and skin tone/hyperpigmentation, which all require different instrumental assessments, study protocols and volunteer panels.

Know Your Testing Needs

The necessity and importance of contacting a product testing house as early on in the process as possible is clearly evident in order for these facts, needs and numbers to be known at project conception. A hugely important and beneficial area for a product and brand in the beauty marketplace is the use of such big, bold claims in order to draw in consumers. If a company decides on a marketing angle and specific claims for a product with the prices for these studies budgeted accordingly, the necessary testing protocols will be implemented as advised, provide an edge over those other companies that do not utilize on-pack claims, and will not abruptly halt the project when the appropriate testing study quotes are produced.

Understanding testing procedures and their impact on costs, marketing, strategies and other factors is key to making good, well informed product development and marketing decisions from the onset. And knowing all the needs and necessities of a new product development project, including that which is addressed by testing, enables the best, most efficient, cost-effective and refined product to be launched into the market and succeed in the marketplace.

Chris McLeod is a consultant in claim substantiation within the cosmetics, personal care and toiletries industry, having learned his trade at global consumer product testing house Aspen Clinical Research. Serving as the company’s business development manager, he started in product development and cosmetic research before applying his trade directly to journalism. McLeod is now the cosmetics business product manager at HPCi Media, overseeing the commercial expansion of the global cosmetics information company as well as writing regular articles for its various publications.

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