The drama in the Formulations Challenge lab was just the sort you’d expect from cosmetic chemists and R&I professionals—there was a calm, pragmatic edge to it all. It was more business than show business.
That said, Belinda Carli, director of the Institute of Personal Care Science and the competition facilitator, did a great job announcing the terms of the contest and keeping things on pace throughout the challenge, marking time as it ticked down.
Scope and scale
Manufacturing companies with teams competing at the event came from Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Conair, Victoria’s Secret, Cosmetic Group USA, and Dermolab Canada.
The Formulations Challenge was a completely new event for the inaugural North American edition of in-cosmetics. And the idea behind it is all quite strait forward: “completion leads to innovation” and simply put, “America is competitive,” Cari told Cosmetics Design during the in-lab event. So as in-cosmetics made its debut in New York City, it made sense to put such a challenge to teams already competing in this region’s personal care and cosmetics market.
The teams set out to produce a leave-on product, such as a face cream, lotion, or serum. They were required to write up the formulation and method used, indicating all inputs and ensuring the finished result was scalable. Each team also had to write up a market claims brief and describe the purpose of the product that they created.
All this in 90 minutes, in an unfamiliar lab with a big box of mystery ingredients, and surrounded by scientists from other companies, to say nothing of the judges.
That box of mystery ingredients comprised generous donations of mainstay inputs as well as others, quite new to the market, donated by suppliers including: Chemyunion, IFF Lucas Meyer, Lonza, DSM, Inolex, Grant Industries, Ashland, GatteFossé, drstratmans, LipoTrue, Dow, Sederma, and Sensient.
Sarah Jindal, a Formulations Challenge judge, and senior innovation and insights analyst for beauty and personal care at Mintel, observed the proceedings and spoke exclusively with Cosmetics Design throughout.
“The time element is going to be something these guys aren't used to going up against,” she noted early on in the completion, adding that (thankfully) as a matter of course, “R&D has more time” than 90 minutes to come up with a new product.
That said, the realty-TV style of the competition made it “interesting to see what kind of formulation format each team [would] come up with,” Jindal told Cosmetics Design. She went on to point out that some teams in the running were specialists in categories other than leave-on skin care, like color cosmetics or hair care.
So while Jindal suggested to Cosmetics Design that “keeping it simple is the way to go,…the event speed, could lead to taking a risk or gamble.” And, that bolder teams “might stumble across something [innovative] in the process.” Really, she reflected, it may be best to “just run with it.”
Carli who, it seems would like to see all professionals in the formulations space be up-to-date on market trends and industry regulations, thought the competition was rather “fun” and a good chance to observe in real time “how chemists work together.” And, she noted, it was a to “give chemists a feel for what markers go through” (since none of the teams admitted to bringing a marketing professional in to the Challenge).
Carli told Cosmetics Design that she was most keen to see which brand put together a product ready for the current market, both in terms of on-trend benefits and sensorial attributes as well as in terms of regulations and claims requirements.
The envelope, please.
Conair Corporation won the competition with an all-day moisturizer that scored well both technically and in marketing terms. And, Cosmetic Group USA was the runner up.