Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Supplement Industry Goss.. Innovation/Imitation

In my daily working persona I am Operations Manager in a supplement factory that is mostly owned by members of my family. I’ve been in this industry for most of my working life and there’s not much I don’t know about the way things happen and some of it’s just not that pretty.

In any arena of enterprise there are leaders and followers and, as with many things, things are not always what they seem. You would think that the big companies with huge sales, flashy packaging and mega-bucks to put into R&D would be the ones leading the charge in the pursuit of the most effective formulations. Not so. Many times it is a smaller (often MUCH smaller) company that puts in the hard yards of research and trials, fuelled by passion and vision. They scrape up enough dollars to get their product out there and within a few weeks you can be sure it has been cloned by a company that did none of the real work but that has the dollars and profile to reap the rewards big time. Everyone thinks that the product is the invention of the big guy because they are more well known. Sometimes they are not even that shy about what they are doing and I will get a phone call that goes something like:

“I have a bottle of product “XYZ” in my hand, can you copy it?”

Obviously I can’t go naming names (and get sued!) and for sure there are many big companies out there that DO put money and valuable time into doing their own research. I'm just sayin'.. it's not always as it seems. The companies that have the loudest voices might have the brawn but who has the brains, really?

The upside of all this is that I also know the real bright sparks out there that DO have their finger on the pulse of innovation and development. If you want to know which companies I think are worth giving your dollars to just ask. ;) I know a few that have persisted in spite of their every effort being immediately ripped off by anyone who could do it. I do have my favourites and I have high hopes for them once they also can afford to purchase half the advertising in a sports magazine and put their stuff in a bottle that looks like it fell from planet 'Testosterone'.

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