Last week we took an insider’s peek at how Incredible Mood was sourced and manufactured.
This week we’ll peek behind the looking glass to see how a few bumps in the road with getting the product made were overcome.
- What’s it like to track down and source boutique ingredients
- Some of the things that can go wrong when a product is manufactured
- What the marketing process looked like before it was sold
So with that being said…..
The Hunt for Methyl Folate
Methyl folate, also known as 5-MTHF and a bunch of other alphabet-soup kind of names is a tricky ingredient because there’s only a few suppliers that sell it for human consumption and it’s a lot more expensive than its pedestrian counterpart folic acid.
But for people who struggle with mood control you really can’t substitute one for the other. Without it the whole methylation cycle begins to crumble and for affected people its presence is the difference between night and day.
Here’s what the process looked like:
Jonathan: With regards to the Creatine quote:
I appreciate the detailed feedback form you gave……this is a nitpick I have with a lot of other manufacturers. They give you a price but don’t go into any detail about the specifics of the ingredients they’re using.
This is also a competitive offer and one I’ll consider.
One other note: can you guys cost effectively source methylfolate? It’s different than folic acid, and fairly expensive. I’m fine paying extra for it, but the trouble lies in getting it in small quantitites. It’s an important ingredient though.
This is not a cheap one hahah.
Methylfolate is $—– per kg, 1kg MOQ about a 6-8 week lead time through —-.
Jonathan: So for the time being is methylfolate kinda off the shelf for this quote?
Manufacturer: Methylfolate is kind of out of the question unless you want to purchase the material yourself and then send over to us the amount needed for your product.
Greetings. I seem to be weening on your tit a lot these days……I apologize for my neediness.
Hopefully these questions will be winding down here pretty soon.
But I ask: do you know of someone besides DSM and Gnosis that supplies supplement grade methyl folate?
There are 1,001 labs that make R&D stuff in small quantities, but nothing that’s approved for human consumption. It’s driving me crazy. I think it’s all the mixed-geometry stuff.
This is a bit of a critical point, because I’m trying to decide if I should bite the bullet and go with ——– (good, but I hate to pay —– for 1 kg of 5-MTHF…..that’s about 50,000 bottles worth, about 45,000 more than what I need) or waive the white flag and go with folic acid. That’d also kill me.
So I’m looking for my white knight that makes 5-MTHF in smaller quantities.
I’ve gone through Chem Exper and IndiaMart……so far very little.
Desperate and Hopeless
Supplement Industry Guy: No problem at all!
Those are the two I know. Sorry.
Not sure if you are aware but folic acid is a global disaster right now. ***** is not selling to anyone because China is getting hit with environmental citations and so prices went from ~$50kg to over $400kg. Ridiculous! I don’t know of a non Chinese folic acid on the market right now and hear of no relief until 2016. China controls so many vitamin markets it is scary. Maybe ping ***** for ideas as well?
Jonathan: My last issue I need sorting out: I’m trying to source methylfolate and so far it hasn’t been easy.
I know DSM and Gnosis stock it butI’m trying to find a lab that’ll make it in smaller quantities for me.
I’ve contacted over 30 labs and so far it’s a big, gelatinous blob of “confusing.” The best I’ve found so far is ******, who will supply 100g for $1,000, although I’m not sure if it’s complexed to calcium or some other salt. Most of the people who supply it only do so for R&D.
Any leads on this? I think I’ve checked with most of the major distributors like Parchem and PAT and am having to get pretty esoteric here.
Supplement Industry Guy #2: As far as the l-methylfolate is concerned, I will look into finding a small source.
One issue that comes up, is that many places sell versions of it that are a mix of forms that are usable by the body and forms that are not.
Merck sells calcium bound l-methylfolate as Metafolin and Gnosis sells Quatrafolate which is glucosamine bound.
Here is a letter that explains what some companies sell:
So if you buy from one of these small sellers you will need to have it tested to make sure you are getting the real deal.
As you can read on the label, I ended up going with Quatrefolic Acid (a wise choice in hindsight).
Here’s how the pre-sale of the product developed…….
Charlie: Hi Jonathan!
Hope all has been well. Not sure if you saw it yet, but I placed another order for Purple Dragon today. I’ve been letting all my co-workers try it, and they all like it. So I bought another bottle for the office, hopefully the first of many 🙂
As I was ordering, a light bulb went off. Maybe there’s a mutually beneficial opportunity here. I know we’ve chatted plenty of times before — but mostly about green drinks 🙂 — so let me give you a bit of background about myself:
I graduated college with a degree in Marketing in 2008. Since 2010, I’ve been working for a company that imports disposable gloves and other single use medical & food service items. It’s a small company, or lean I should say – we did $19 million in sales last year with a staff of 25 employees (half of them work in the front office, and half work in the warehouse or drive trucks).
My role is Sales Coordinator – which involves sales support, customer service and marketing, though ultimately I do everything from taping up boxes to attending national trade shows (by myself). I’ve attached my resume to give you a full snapshot of my skill set.
Essentially being the “right hand man” and primary liaison between the two gentlemen that own the company and our inside/ outside sales team, over the years I’ve learned a lot about selling, networking and getting products on shelves.
I’ve even dabbled on the product development and purchasing side – I communicate with our manufacturing facilities overseas quite a bit and have been involved in several private label projects.
I’ve also been wanting to break into the natural products industry for some time — it’s my true passion. I spend literally most of my free time researching herbs and experimenting with supplements. Today I took L-Tyrosine, Maca, Sensoril, drank some Purple Dragon mixed with Schizandra powder, took a squirt of a homemade Goji/ He Shou Wu tincture and a shot of liquid sea nutrients… then hopped in shower and got ready for work 😛
Point being, I would love to combine my experience in sales with a unique, quality driven, accessible natural products company like yours. I would be more than happy to go to local health food stores (I live in New Jersey) and pitch your line of drink powders to retailers. I volunteer at a Health Food Co-Op as well and mentioned Incredible Greens to the store manager today. He said he would be interested in bringing them in as a new SKU. It would probably be a small order, but hey, every sale counts 🙂
So perhaps we could work something out whereas I sell your products on a commission basis, or even do some general moonlighting if you need assistance and it’s in my wheelhouse (ie copywriting). I’m a little green in terms of the natural products industry – it would probably help for you to provide an overview on retail procurement, standard terms, caveats, etc… however I’m very eager to learn and I’m confident I could add value once we’re in motion.
Let me know your thoughts!
Thanks for reaching out.
The short answer is yes, I’m interested.
The other side is……give me a little bit of time to mull over exactly how I think it ought to work.
I actually was thinking of putting together some sort of initiative for this exact type of thing today……so your timing is very good!
Let’s stay in touch and bounce some idea off of each other.
And I did notice your order….thank you!
Jonathan: Hi Charlie,
Haven’t forgotten about you.
I was wondering, did you have any particular long-term goals WRT to our potential working arrangement?
Looking to get started in the natural products industry? Maybe start a supplement line yourself?
I think knowing this will probably make it easier to ease into a good working arrangement.
Also, where are you located?
Charlie: Hi Jonathan!
In the long-term, yes, I would be very interested in the natural products industry. What intrigues me the most is the herb trade and ingredient sourcing. Are you familiar with Chris Kilham? He’s a rock star to me, lol. That’s the side of the business ultimately I’d like to break into. Working with cultivators and suppliers to identify and source high quality plants and extracts. I know you’re very knowledgeable on ingredient sourcing, in fact, your blog post on the subject happens to be a favorite of mine.
Starting a supplement line myself is an idea I’ve kicked around for a while, but I’m not really sure if there’s light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.
It seems like an incredibly competitive space from what I gather. Would you agree? I consider myself to be a very knowledgeable consumer (spending more on supplements than groceries? that’s me) and still, almost every day I see companies I’ve never heard of pop up on Amazon selling in whatever product category I happen to be browsing – many of them already with hundreds or thousands of reviews. I’m guessing they are mostly private label jobs and e-commerce based brands, as I’ve never seen them on the shelves of say Vitamin Shoppe or catalog retailers like Swanson Vitamins.
Point being, it almost seems like there are more health products to go around than there are people to buy them, and I’m not sure if throwing my hat in the ring would accomplish much. It’s possible, but not probable. Unless I had some proprietary super formula or a groundbreaking marketing plan that I knew would set the world on fire.
In the short-term, my goals are to learn more, network, challenge myself (I’ve been at the same 9-5 for five years, my life is like Groundhog’s Day!) and perhaps generate some side income.
Speaking of ingredient sourcing, the company Amazon Forest http://amazonforest.net/ is located 10-15 minutes from where my parents live. I’ve stopped in there a couple times to buy herbal powders. They are really friendly people and they all know me now! Really beautiful office too. Also, the company that owns the patents to Sensoril and TruFulvic is in the next town over from my apartment. I sent them my resume a few weeks ago but they haven’t responded yet.
Looking forward to chatting!
Thanks for this.
How far are you from NYC? I’ll be in NYC in the summer and I might be able to drive by and meet you.
I’m familiar with Amazon Forest…..they’re one of the bigger botanical distributors on the east coast. They feed A LOT of the manufacturers on Long Island. I believe the company you’re talking about is Natreon. I actually got a chance to meet the founder of the company at the last SSW…..he seems like a decent guy.
I’m beginning to put together a marketing plan for Incredible Mood (you can see it here: www.healthkismet.com/incredible-mood) to try and get it into grocery stores, and I’m thinking you’d be a valuable guy to work with. I’m going to visit a few manufacturers when I get into NYC, and after that I’ll choose one and start making it.
I think that’ll be a good time for our paths to dovetail and discuss ways to work together. If you’re good at marketing you could really be a big help because it’s not something I have a great instinct for, especially when it comes to showmanship.
My general attitude about these things is to start small with something we can both credibly stick to, and then discuss options at specific dates to see how things are going after that.
This way it can turn into whatever it’s meant to turn into w/ minimal amounts of collateral damage if things go south.
It’d be fun to meet you in person too.
Let me know your thoughts on this.
Charlie: Hi Jonathan,
I’m about an hour train ride from NYC. I could meet you anywhere in the general vicinity. That would be awesome.
Yep, Nateron is the company in New Brunswick. They are down the road from where I live. Pretty cool that you met the founder at Supply Side West. I’m not sure how big of an operation they are, I just get a kick out of realizing a company like them is in my backyard.
I agree with your general attitude of starting small and seeing how we get on. I’ve learned myself that in sales sometimes it’s better to try getting on base instead of swinging for the homerun.
Your marketing plan so far looks really good. It’s my understanding that getting products on grocery store shelves is a tall order, but hey, I’m always up for a challenge. Don’t get your hopes up just yet, but I may possibly have some inroads with Wakefern – they own Shoprite, a massive New Jersey supermarket chain. I have a family member that worked in the OTC drug industry and sold product into them for many years. I’m just speculating right now, but perhaps I can leverage that into something.
Are there are any substantiated claims that can be made on the Incredible Mood ingredients? That could be a game changer. I myself am a firm believer in the power of natural medicine, but of course the FDA isn’t so easily convinced. So if it were possible to make a product claim, based on say 5-HTP, I have to figure Jill Housewife would be more likely to buy a bottle while on her weekly supermarket trip.
The formula looks pretty interesting – and I must say the inclusion of creatine in the “411” section definitely taught me something new today. I’m pretty adventurous with the stuff I take, but I had always figured creatine was for bodybuilders and stayed away from it. At some point I’ll go over the formula mechanics with you in more detail, though I’m fairly knowledgeable on the other ingredients. 5-HTP for instance I was taking consistently for about 3 years. About a year ago I was taking New Chapter Rhodiola too.
Anyway, I’d be more than happy to meet and assist you however I can. As I said, grocery stores will be a tough nut to crack (as I’m sure you’re already aware) but perhaps with a little “showmanship” and some kismet, the mission will be accomplished!
Jonathan: Hey Charlie,
That all sounds great. I look forward to us meeting.
As for label claims, do you mean clinical research around the product? Or something along the lines of “May Improve Cognitive Function?”
If it’s the latter, then yes. If it’s the former, then no. I actually spoke with one of my old professors about something like that and he strongly recommended against it.
I think we’ll have fun discussing the possibilities of us working together, in whatever form that may be.
I look forward to us meeting, and stay in touch!
After meeting one of the first tasks we decided to complete was the launch of an instagram page for Incredible Mood.
Charlie: Hey Jonathan!
First, I received the Incredible Greens and Incredible Berries – thank you!! I am enjoying both tremendously. I’ve found they mix really well with Almond milk too. Delicious! Next on the agenda, I’m ready to build the Incredible Mood Instagram page. What do you feel an appropriate timeline would be? Start pounding the pavement a month before launch?
What I’ll need to get started:
– Incredible Mood logo, any other visuals/ graphics associated with the marketing (I grabbed as much I could from the web page, though the higher resolution the better)
– Presale link, optimized for mobile preferred- Any specific direction you want to provide, eg. emphasize this, stay away from that.
Beyond that, I’ve got a pretty good feel for the product from the website and will use the same language/ style I see on the page.
My plan is to start with a few posts introducing the product, then a mix of inspirational posts and ingredient related posts (ie Methylcobalamin – The Better Absorbed B12). Down the line, once the product is available, I’ll be doing interactive posts as well, ie. post a picture of something that puts you in an Incredible Mood and receive a promo code, posts like that.
I’m really excited to work on the Instagram page and I’m confident it will bring a whole new audience to Health Kismet.
Jonathan: So were you planning on setting up an entirely separate blog for this with your posts?
I’m on the road right now and am not in a position to receive something through the mail, but in a week or two it’ll probably be written and posted.
I don’t have an Incredible Mood logo, but attached is the Health Kismet logo.
The pre-sale link will be on the current product page, but I haven’t gotten to that. I’m actually on vacation right now and will get around to that the week when I’m back.
I’ll be sending money to get the sample created for Inc. Mood pretty soon. It’ll take a while to get all the ingredients in so the development time might take a little longer than usual…..I like that…..it’ll give us more time to acquire sign-ups.
Charlie: Hi Jonathan,
The posts I meant were Instagram posts.
Pretty pictures with bite sized information about the product and ingredients. There wouldn’t be a need for a blog, it would all be hosted on Instagram. The posts are useful in that if somebody was doing a search for “Vitamin D” on Instagram, the Incredible Moods Vitamin D Instagram picture would appear. Similar to the Real Mushrooms Instagram account that I showed you.
I think email sign ups is preferable to direct pre-sale. I see the Instagram account more as a way to generate interest and awareness. Then from there, customers receiving the email marketing will be in more of a prime position to buy.
By the way, when I do start posting content to Instagram, I’ll send you a web link so you can see the posts anytime even without Instagram. As soon as I have the sign-up link I’ll get started. I’m already kicking around some ideas for pictures and captions. I agree, more time to acquire sign-ups is certainly a good thing!
Have a great vacation!
Just checking in.
The product page is just about ready to start accepting pre-orders: www.healthkismet.com/incredible-mood/ (can’t get the one button center-aligned, but that’s a different story)
The launch page for instagram is next.
As for previoius prize packages, I found out that I CAN’T do free shipping with certain orders with the pre-sale software, so what I’m thinking instead is $24 w/ free shipping for existing customers, $30 w/ free shipping for website visitors after the original free shipping offer is given to existing customers.
Assuming most people only buy 1 and a few buy 2 or 3, this ought to come out to about the same.
The only issue is that w/o the offer of free shipping I can’t afford to give anything extra to people who want to buy 3.
Last time you mentioned something about posting contest entries to facebook walls to see who gets the most likes. Can you elaborate on that a little more?
Charlie: Howdy Jonathan.
Are we officially officially ready to take pre-orders? Let me know.
I’m going to make an annoucment on the Instagram page. I see your Facebook posts are still on “custom”. Want me to go in and see if I can fix it? I think I know how to make them public again.
I would definitely go with Free Shipping for existing customers… and new ones. Nobody wants to pay for shipping. Always better to build it into the price. Maybe people who Buy 3+ get a discount code for their next purchase? Are you able to do something like that? I agree, there should be some sort of incentive to buy three or more, though I understand there’s not that much meat left on the bone either. Re: the Facebook contest – it’s an idea I’m forming in my head. Not sure how feasible it is. But basically, this:- You encourage users to post a picture of them doing XYZ for a chance to win prize ABC.
– Each of them posts it and tags you.
– You (Health Kismet facebook page) share their posts to your own wall
– The picture that gets the most likes, comments, and shares (sum total of all three) wins
I think this would cause your follower’s friends to engage a lot more. More shares, more comments, more likes. More exposure.If you would like me to write the copy and try to oversee the contest, I’l give it a shot. You’d want to make sure the privacy settings are set on Public before you start anything, though. You can see how things are coming along on the Incredible Mood Instagram:
At the moment; 90 followers, decent engagement. I’ve got a long way to go yet, but in my opinion it’s shaping up nicely.Talk to you soon. Have a great weekend!
Jonathan: Your timing is impeccable, I just wrote you.
Yes, we can officially take pre-orders now. I agree free shipping will just be part of the package.
Existing customers will get a chance to pre-order for $24, after that the price will be set to $30 w/ shipping included.
I’m not sure about the coupon code for next order……although I agree that something for getting 3 would be nice.
If I had to guess 90% will buy 1, a few will buy 2 or 3, and we might get a few people who ante up and get 12 or more.
But most bottles will come as one-sies and twosies.
I’ve never done a Facebook contest…..afraid too actually because I don’t think it’d go anywhere. I don’t think I get a lot of Fbook engagement in general, but I’m willing to try something new.
You’re right that we ought to get the Fbook stuff working before we do anything.
The Instapage page is also up, let me know what you think: http://incrediblemood.instapage.com/ I tried to keep it short and sweet.
The Instagram homepage looks nice!
Always willing to hear your thoughts.
Charlie: Hey Jonathan,
You know, I’ve been told I have a knack for good timing 8)
You’re right, the contest might be a little ambitious. Alternatively, you can offer some sort of promo code for everybody that shares your posts? That’s definitely simpler and a hell of a lot easier to pull off. Nice job on the Instagram landing page! I have linked it to the Instagram account. Let me know how much traffic/ sign ups we are getting. I’d be very curious about the analytics as time goes on.
Jonathan: Thanks Charlie.
I’ll keep you in the loop and pass along the info.
I like the idea of a contest, but I think something might be best that’s easily digested. I’m going to look into software for doing it……I know there’s something out there.
I like the idea of a contest to win a certain amount of money or free products or something like that…….and a Facebook share or tweet gives you more entries to win. That seems reasonable enough and easy to implement.
I think the one sticky point will be something to giveaway at 3 bottles. I agree with you that most people won’t buy 6 or 12 of something they’ve never tried, but you can probably nudge people up to 3 with a good incentive…..but it’s hard to offer anything other than free shipping.
Thinking out loud…….maybe buying 3 bottles gives you extra entries into the contest?
Interesting thought. What do you think?
Charlie: How about, each bottle purchased is a contest entry?
Jonathan: I like that!
I’m actually thinking a bigger aggressive prize would work well.
The idea being it has to be something big enough for people to care about.
To give first movers an incentive each bottle can get two entries instead of one.
Charlie: Whoa – $1,000!
Hell, I would be tempted to buy a few bottles with that prize 🙂
I like first movers getting an incentive of two entries, but, I also like the idea of some sort of social media “share” tie-in counting for extra entries as well. I’ve entered contests in the past where you get additional entries that way. Like the company Facebook page – get an extra entry, tweet the link – get an extra entry; etc. Certainly worth looking into, if your software has those capabilities.
If your budget permits – then the $1,000 prize will certainly get people talking. How many more bottles would you have to sell to recoup?
I would also suggest some sort of runner-up prize; maybe a bottle of Incredible Greens, Incredible Berries and Purple Dragon, so it doesn’t seem like an “all or nothing” type deal.I’m really enjoying how the launch has taken shape so far. Keep me posted!
Jonathan: Hi Charlie,
So after typing that number in and thinking about it……..it makes me really nervous. It’d have to work very well in order to pay for itself.
How much of an allure would $500 have?
I’m thinking we could use something like this: http://invitebox.com/.
Basic idea so far:
Existing customers + e-mail subscribers:
1 Grand prize: $500
3 Second Prizes: $50
6 Third Prizes: 1 Bottle each of a product of their choice
Existing customers will have a window of opportunity (maybe 3-5 days) to make a purchase for $24 w/ Free Shipping + have their actions count for more entries in the contest. All people who get referred will also have the same options in the same timeframe.
After that the price will go to $30 w/ free shipping, and each action will be worth less.
I haven’t crunched the numbers too much, but I think we’d need to sell about 150 extra bottles to make up the cost, depending on how much of the purchasers end up being early bird specials or regular contest participants. If it was primarily early birds we’d need about 250 extra bottles. Regular time window would be about 100 extra bottles. So it all depends. The amount of people we’ll be marketing to initially will be about 1,000 people give or take.
The next step is probably to tighten up the existing copy to make sure it’s all accurate and up to date, and putting together the nuts and bolts of the contest.
Also, I’ll be back in NYC in a few weeks. Would love to meetup!
Charlie: Good morning Jonathan!
I don’t blame you – the $1,000 made me nervous just thinking about it 🙂
I think $500 has pretty much the same punch. The higher the prize gets, there would be diminishing returns after a certain point. For argument’s sake, you would get 100 contest entries with the $500 prize, but not necessarily 200 contest entries at the $1,000 prize. So scaling back the prize makes sense. Plus, I like the distribution of wealth, to me ten winners is preferable than one grand prize winner.
InviteBox looks like a great tool. I’d be interested in learning it myself. Keep me posted on it’s implementation.
I’m really enjoying working on the Incredible Mood instagram content so far. I posted this on Saturday: https://instagram.com/p/5R_ogSHdrE/?taken-by=incrediblemood
I really feel like the page is getting into a nice groove.101 followers so far!
Samantha and I are looking to set up a landing Instapage for Creativity Juice with a discount code, just like we have for Incredible Mood. Would you be able to help us with that?
Let’s definitely meet up when you are back in the city!
Jonathan: Thanks Charlie.
An alternative train of thought is there are increasing returns to scale with prize size, so the bigger you go the more successful you become.
But for now it’s a moot point. We’ll do a $500 grand prize with secondary winners.
I like the setup of the promotion. It’s both powerful (decent prize, good discounts, good incentives) and it actually shouldn’t be all that difficult to implement.
I’ll be more than happy to help Samantha with any questions she might have.
I was also wondering…..would you have any interest in writing a guest post for me? What’s unique about you is you lurk around a lot of esoteric corners of the internet, and I think it’d be interesting if you could share what newsletters, followers on Reddit, youtube channels, etc you watch that cultivate your interest in supplements.
Of course that might end up being a house secret for you if you get into the social media management stuff.
All the best, we’ll talk soon.
As it turns out, we ended up doing a contest with a year’s worth of product as the grand prize.
There were also a few manufacturing speed bumps as well, that caused things to be delayed.
Here’s the recap I had to give to people who bought the product:
Jonathan: Hi guys,
I’m writing out this e-mail because I’m getting a few questions about Incredible Mood and when it’ll be available.
When I initiated the pre-sale campaign my words were “late September/Early October”…….and we’re heading into November.
So obviously I have some explaining to do.
The most straight forward is answer is that I had a lapse in judgment and didn’t properly account for Stanford’s Law: that is, projects are always more delayed and complicated than you assume, even after you account for Stanford’s Law!
When I wrote the pre-sale letters we had just sent our deposit to the manufacturer, and after that they go ahead and buy the ingredients and then when everything’s gathered it goes into the queue. I figured 4-6 weeks was a safe bet for this timeline but I erred. There was a delay in getting some of the herbs, which knocked our spot in the line, which put us at the whim of some other delays that we couldn’t control.
At the moment I’m not aware of any other issues with the product development, and we’ve been on an “any day now” basis for about three weeks but I don’t have an exact date for project completion, other than it should happen pretty soon.
If some of you want a refund that’s perfectly fine and it’ll be granted no questions asked. I’m sorry for this inconvenience and hopefully y’all aren’t foaming at the mouth with a doll underneath your bed that has my face glued to it by now………but I can empathize with your annoyance nonetheless.
And then that same week I laid this egg:
We were labeling the product today and the labels don’t fit on the bottle. See comment from production below. Can we get the labels resized? It could maybe fit on a 32oz but your jar is about half full right now and would look more empty. This is up to you, we have the jars coming in about 2 weeks.
Me (5 minutes later): Sorry for the profanity…..so does it overflow or is it too small? Do you have a pic?
Manufacturer: That’s what I said when production told me. It’s too big we’d have to up the jar size but then won’t look full.
But nonetheless, it eventually got released and is now on sale.
Hopefully this sheds some light……what to do, what not to do, and if nothing else give you some mental gristle to chew on.