Modern technology has done a lot to streamline the relationship between companies and customers, but the world of cosmetics product development can often still be complicated and disjointed. CosmeticsDesign will look at three companies working to make the process easier from suppliers to retailer.
While material acquisition is often difficult, requiring research by individual consumer brands, Novi Connect co-founder Kimberly Shenk said the addition of sustainability data makes it significantly more complex.
That’s where Novi Connect comes in, Shenk told CosmeticsDesign. The digital platform collects a broad spectrum of data on various materials provided by a many suppliers, synthesize what that data means for sustainability impacts and claims, and provides it to brands.
Approaching ingredients through a data lens
Shenk said she first became interested in non-toxic and sustainable products during a pregnancy. When she discovered how difficult it was to find transparent products, she started her own brand, Naked Poppy.
“I quickly learned that, from a consumer perspective, we might be demanding transparent products, but when you're in the industry trying to build a brand to do that, it hasn't caught up,” Shenk said. “The data, the systems, the tools, they're actually not there to develop products that way.”
As a data professional, having worked with organizations from the Air Force to Eventbrite and Domino Data Lab, Shenk said she saw the issue as a large data problem, in how it was communicated, reporting, used and accessed.
In developing Novi Connect, she streamlined material data. The platform takes in thousands of data points on tens of thousands of materials, including ingredients, packaging and fragrances, from suppliers, and aggregates them.
"First and foremost Novi Connect is to navigate the complexity of sustainability." Kimberly Shenk, Novi Connect Co-Founder and CEO
Then, the platform compares the data with standards put in place by different companies and organizations. Shenk said it can be hard for brands to know what standards they meet because different retailers often have different rules for clean, vegan and gluten free products, among others.
With all that data available and summarized, she said it increases transparency through the entire supply chain by helping brands know exactly what they’re getting and retailers by not having to relay on self-reporting of sustainability standards.
Shenk said Novi Connect also helps suppliers minimize how much work they must do in communicating data on materials to brands because it’s all already accessible.
“The most important and interesting part of the platform is we've built a solution that covers the entire ecosystem,” Shenk said. “Usually, commerce is part of two parties, but the product development space isn't just between two parties. Retailers are involved, brands are involved, manufacturers are involved and suppliers are involved, and so it's really that data network that brings them all together to be able to do this more efficiently.”
Novi Connect is also trying to balance transparency across the supply chain with sacrificing intellectual property, Shenk said.
Accessible data means faster product development
Shenk said, with data easily accessible on Novi Connect, many facets of cosmetics production can work faster. Brands can use the data to replace ingredients which have been deemed problematic more quickly, suppliers don’t have to spend as much time providing information to brands, marketing teams can comfortably make sustainability claims and research and development can see what issues are trendy with brands.
“Because you can do all that on the platform, you're actually getting to market, for some brands, in like half the time because they can instantly get the information, sample, purchase and go,” she said.
Novi Connect also helps smaller, indie brands to access materials by facilitating relationships between them and suppliers. By taking care of research for indie brands, Shenk said the platform alleviates some of the challenges of supplying materials to small brands, helps make materials accessible to indies and can bring new business to suppliers.
Shenk said the platform is now working to expand into other industries to improve the business-to-business communications.
"First and foremost Novi Connect is to navigate the complexity of sustainability," she said. "That's why we're here. We wanna help brands make better choices and ingredients in packaging. Brands want to have all the data to feel confident that they can send a product into market and make sustainability claims to consumers."