I’d guess that for every person who formulates a health supplement or food product there are 1,000 people who have thought about it. That’s an incredibly shitty ratio.
For a long time the barriers to starting were straight forward: money! You needed a big ol’ production run and had to cram it down the store shelves of big retail stores. Not anymore.
Now the impediments to getting started are mostly a lack of information and the learned ability to synthesize the different units of the supply chain. You might be able to do an all-in-one solution with a manufacturer, but you usually pay a premium for the assembly. If you’re starting on a budget you’ll have to disaggregate.
Designing A Supplement: A Problem of Choice
If you’re looking to start a health supplement you’ve got a verrrrry wide variety of options to choose from. It’s a crisis of abundance. There’s an insufferably large variety of supplements out there and an even bigger list of possibilities that you could create.
So how do you create something that’s unique and still keep costs down? Health supplement manufacturing is still a fragmented business so there’s no centralized solution to the formulation process.
But for someone looking to dip their toes into the water here are three good ways to get a grip on bringing a new product to market.
1). The Reliance Vitamin Private Label Line
Technically not a new product, but Reliance Vitamin has the most diverse line up of private label products of any manufacturer that I know of. There are more than 500 total, many of which are organic, and contain patented ingredients. I’ve looked through their list and a variety of them are quite unique. It takes $500 to get started.
I’ve written before that private labeling is a perfectly legitimate option since finding the right market segment and business model is almost as important as having “the right product.” They’re a holy trinity, so if you can have a good private labeled product then you can make it work.
If nothing else it’s a good way to test different marketing angles and get a feel for your general fit before you go make something custom. For many this will be the easiest way to get started because it can be difficult to find a private label product that’s completely suited to your needs, but you can usually find one that’s close enough if you look hard enough.
2). The Formulation Station
The Formulation Station is a web based development tool designed to make it easy to design and price custom supplement formulations. I’ve used it myself and have found it very useful, as well as the staff who have also been helpful.
The tool is created by Alcrea Health, which is a supplement manufacturer based out of Pittsburgh PA. You compile lists of ingredients and their amounts, form, and submit your creation for a quote.
The tool is useful because it allows you to build your supplement off of ingredients they already have, and allow you to build off of a variety of proprietary formulas which serve a lot of different supplement functions. I don’t know of any manufacturer that has a tool like this, and it’s particularly helpful if you’re designing a supplement which has a complicated ingredient list. Sorting out the minutaie of different ingredient costs and suppliers is enough to make you pull your hair out, so being able to abstract away all those details is a very useful first step for formulation.
3). The Vitaganic Vitamin Formulator
It’s made for consumers and not entrepreneurs, but it’s still helpful to categorize ingredients for particular health puproses. It works like the Formulation Station, but allows you to start with a health problem and then work backwards to a formula which can be packaged into a vitamin.
It is not meant to be used to create specific quotes for manufacturing a supplement, but it does do a good job of drumming together ingredient lists if you want a supplement designed to treat a specific condition. You can also use it to compare relative price differences between different groups of ingredients.
To varying degrees I have used all three of these resources to get ideas for supplements, get prices for future formulas, and play around with different ingredient combinations. However I have never actually paid any of these companies any money, so take my recommendation with a caveat emptor.
However, for someone looking to get their feet wet, the above tools are a great way to give yourself concrete ideas about taking your vision to reality.