It’s not unusual for it to take a year or more for a new food or supplements product to go from the drawing board to the store shelf. Mike Finamore, CEO of Gemini Pharmaceuticals, a leading contract manufacturer of dietary supplements, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, and pet products, is painfully aware of how long it can take to launch a new product.
He also knows there’s a massive opportunity for companies like his to shorten those lead times.
Gemini has been in business for almost 40 years and launches about 600 new products annually.
“We’re considered the top of the heap for reengineering existing items to meet shifting customer demands,” Finamore said. “In short, we deliver the proper dose at the time required by the market. So, when we’re looking at formulations, supply chain challenges are there – and probably always will be – in terms of its growing complexity.”
Ingredient traceability remains a challenge for the industries Gemini serves due to the relative immaturity of its suppliers.
“In many cases, we’re dealing with growers or people who aren’t aware that Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) require that we gather information from them, so it can be like pulling teeth because they’re unaware of the nuances that go into the manufacturing process,” he added.
Understanding these historical issues, Gemini’s customers’ concerns, and how that impacts the way Gemini operates is something the company’s been dealing with for years.
As a manufacturer, Finamore explained that businesses have to understand everything about the supplier relationship and the value suppliers bring to the brand as partners. And again, throughout the product development lifecycle, things can shift quickly. It might be updating the technology or adding what Fenimore calls “salt and pepper” to the existing recipe and then taking that to market, but it frequently requires more than that.
“It takes a substantial amount of time to develop a new product and bring it to market,” Finamore said. “You might start with a certain dataset or the vendor’s point of view about one of their ingredients, and then by the time you get to production, something’s changed, and then you have to explain later why. Ultimately, it’s not the best way to do things."
When you need to qualify a new supplier or an existing one because of a new or altered ingredient, updating that information and ensuring the supplier’s portfolio is current can take a lot of time and money.
And that’s the contract manufacturing business – at least it was for Gemini until a few months ago.
A Better Way to Innovate
“TraceGains has changed the dynamic of the way we develop products,” Finamore said. “We still sort through our in-house library, which always gives us an excellent head start, but TraceGains offers a significant amount of information we can access that makes our life so much easier.”
Finamore found that many of their key vendors were already on TraceGains Network, but it’s helped them discover a lot of new vendors, too.
“One of the things we’ve seen is that even with a vendor we’re already familiar with, we find new items we’re looking for that we didn’t know they carried. This streamlines the procurement process because these are vetted suppliers, and all of their documentation is ready and waiting,” Finamore said.
This instant access to supplier data allows Gemini to get new ingredients into their supply chain quickly. And even if the company has to make downstream changes, personnel have all the data they need to make the shift because most information and documents are available instantly.
“It makes us look good,” Finamore added. “It gives the vendor time and validation to stand on and allows us to talk to our customer with confidence.”
As a result, Finamore has seen an improvement in his company’s time to market and its ability to present its product “in a much tighter package.” It’s become a competitive advantage at a difficult time, connecting the team when so many employees are still working from home.
“Businesses are taking a long time to recover and get on track due to the pandemic, and TraceGains has allowed us to move forward and not skip a beat,” Finamore said. “We’ve all had our challenges, but in terms of product development, the process has been made much easier.”
Gemini also saves time with Smart Library, which features millions of pages of documents.
“Smart Library beats doing a lot of the research that some of our customers and CMO partners do these days, which is through WebMD and Google,” Finamore said. “This takes you on a much deeper dive and gives you a lot more coverage.”
Finally, Finamore appreciates Market Hub’s sourcing capabilities. Knowing there are vendors committed to delivering high-quality ingredients and transparency allows Gemini to source efficiently and add new offerings.
To hear Finamore’s entire conversation with TraceGains CEO Gary Nowacki and learn about TraceGains’ unique networked approach to product development, check out our on-demand webinar, “Faster New Product Development For Supplements Brands” here.