As one of the world’s leaders in skin care it is important for the Nivea skin care maker to constantly carry out advanced skin research to ensure the best products, but it is only relevant if it meets consumer preferences, according to Wenck.
“We conduct research into every single aspect of the skin,” Horst says. “There is a lot of useful information from medical research, even from cancer biology that we can relate to the skin and use in the cosmetics industry.”
“If it relates to a poorly-solved consumer problem this will have the most demand and may dictate how we approach and prioritise our research. One of the key questions is: are the resources in-line with the market potential?”
Given the industry, Horst says it is important for the skin care manufacturer to look at consumer preferences - their skin care expectations and needs - and then prioritise the research based on this.
Developing a product can take many years of research because while everyone wants products that make us feel good in our skin, everyone’s individual needs are determined by many factors – such as ethnicity, culture and age.
There is also the added difficulty of strict regulations and bans in place that mean manufacturers have to be careful with their research, meaning it can take many years from the initial product idea to its market launch. “You can’t compromise on the quality,” adds Horst.
Light on the horizon
Over the years, Beiersdorf has taken strides forward as the science has, and is now moving in the direction of really understanding how to selectively modulate biological processes of the skin.
Ten years ago, Dr Wenck says that it was more of 'trial and error' situation as not as much was known about skin science as there is nowadays.
“We have come a long way as one can partially use computer models to see how the specific part of the mechanism that you want to change is about, and how you can then specifically select and design active principles or product components or even a device - how to selectively work with that.”
“This means that challenges can now be approached in a more systematic manner than in the past – then it was more trial and error, which takes time as many things have to be tried to find the answer,” he adds.
Saving time and money
All of Beiersdorf’s work starts with a scouting phase, according to Dr Wenck, and this consists of reading journals, studies, and speaking with academics.
Then, once there has been a lot of information gathered, or ‘collective wisdom’ as Horst puts it, the research team can then prioritise each of the findings and structure their research based on this.
“We have limited resources so we will only embark on a program that will resonate with consumers. We need to know it will inspire people, if it will work economically and if it will fit with our brands/ in the market,” says Wenck.