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Successful Innovation in Natural Health Products

When selecting a consultancy partner, ensure the organisation specialises in the nutrition business, breathes innovation and has the resources to support all phases of product development from concept to launch.

In 2015, Vietnamese company TH Herbals successfully launched a line of functional beverages in the U.S. market—an example of fruitful innovation through international cooperation. analyze & realize GmbH (a&r) acted as a gateway from Asia to the West by actively supporting each step of the development of the products from concept to launch, including clinical trials conducted by its own contract research organisation (CRO) in its own study centre.

Innovation is a multi-pronged process—and one of the most important ways to generate added value, strategic competitive advantage and growth. In the nutrition business, innovation is most obviously realised in new product development; however, existing products and product lines will also benefit from the multitude of possible innovative approaches. Innovation comes to life when consumer demand is in sync with technical and regulatory feasibility and business viability.

Innovation through new product development may include conducting clinical trials to substantiate product-specific health claims for EU markets, expanding indications or target markets, changing the product formulation (e.g., by including new ingredients) or redesigning the packaging. The EU market, in particular, offers its own challenges due to the constraints imposed by the current regulatory environment. Deciding on the most suitable category for the new product (with all that this entails) is the most challenging step in successful innovation in this market.

European particulars aside, picking the right innovation strategy and the best way to employ the chosen strategy is crucial. Translated into practice, this involves defining a tailored approach that takes into account the product characteristics, the competitive environment, the regulatory opportunities, the actual product portfolio—as well as marketing and sales abilities of the manufacturing company—in order to maximise the chances for individual success.

There are myriad requirements, each of which has its own internal cascade of stipulations. Partnering with an experienced consultancy can help to find the most appropriate starting point for the product development journey, to assist with staying focused when horizons and demands expand, and to expedite timelines for getting new products to market.

An effective consultancy should be capable of keeping both the client's individual requirements and all steps of product development in sight at all times. It should think outside the box in order to bring the best possible service and fast track innovation to its clients.

Irene Wohlfahrt is a scientific consultant with analyze & realize GmbH; Volker Spitzer, Ph.D., is vice president consulting and strategic innovation; and Wolfgang Hoeffer, Dr.med.vet., is managing director. a&r is a leading contract research organisation (CRO) and consulting group specialised in the development of natural health products, e.g., nutraceuticals, dietary supplements and natural medicines for clients in Europe, America and Asia. Services include creative strategy and product development, precise regulatory support and clinical trials tailored to the characteristics of natural products. Subscribe to a&r's monthly news digest at a-r.com/subscribe.

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