Q+A with Dr. Andrea Mitratonda, Head of R&D, Neal’s Yard Remedies

Dr. Andrea Mitratonda, Head of R&D, Neal’s Yard Remedies, will be taking part in Reinventing the wheel: what is driving reformulation? that takes place on 24  November 2015 at 9:45am at the in-cosmetics Formulation Summit conference at The Bloomsbury Hotel, London, UK.

Why do brands need to reformulate?Andrea Mitarotonda photo 155x162

There are a wide variety of reasons that cosmetic companies need, want or must reformulate their products, spanning from brand considerations to better efficacy, from regulatory limitations to sustainability considerations.

What are some of the pressures when reformulating and how do you manage them?

Whatever the reason for reformulating, I think the main pressure has to be customer-related.
This is especially true when it comes to best-selling products – I think the magnitude of the pressure is directly proportional to the customer’s loyalty to the particular brand and product. It is always difficult to communicate to customers that there is nothing wrong with the “old” formula and that you are ultimately reformulating to deliver even better quality and efficacy.

For companies like Neal’s Yard Remedies, who work under natural/organic standards, ever changing rules within the particular standard (e.g. Soil Association, Ecocert, COSMOS, etc) make life even more “interesting” and sometimes we are requested to reformulate. For example, this may be because a particular essential oil cannot be sourced in organic grade, there are sourcing issues, or sometimes it is no longer sustainable to use that particular ingredient.

Lately, more brands are experimenting with different textures – can you please describe an example of how you’ve reformulated or created a new texture for one of your brand’s products?

Within the natural/organic arena, texture is a hot topic – we have huge limitations when it comes to the range of sensorial ingredients we can use, with some of the best-in-class (e.g. volatile silicones, silicone elastomers, etc) being forbidden to us under organic certification.

There is still a belief that organic products are simply blends of oils, fats and waxes – greasy and sticky stuff. However, several organic brands, including Neal’s Yard Remedies, have demonstrated that it is possible to produce organic-certified products with a pleasant sensorial profile. In the last few years we have been busy reformulating some “old school” products to make them “more modern” from a sensory point of view.

Even traditional apothecary-style formats like ointments can be pleasant when applied onto the skin if one masters the art and science of raw materials. We have a few examples of ointments that customers appreciate for the sensorial experience delivered.

How do you think the drivers for reformulation – safety, costs, regulation, sustainability, multi-functionality, claims – have changed in the past 10 years? What will be most important in the next few years?

We have seen big changes in the last 10 years and even more is expected over the next decade. I think all the drivers are equally important to deliver products that are ultimately better performing, safer and more sustainable.

As a representative of a natural/organic company, obviously some drivers are more important for us, for example we would not embark on a reformulation journey to try and decrease the formula cost.
Overall, I think regulatory and safety, sustainability and claims will drive the industry in the next decade. In the past 10 years the industry has probably been less aware of issues like plastic beads polluting the oceans and the effects on health which can be potentially caused by some substances used in cosmetic products. But it is important to stress that this industry has enormous potential to react and adapt – the ultimate goal for everyone is to protect our customers.

When you’ve had to reformulate recently, which of these factors were important and why:

• New regulation(s) – if we take “regulations” on a broader sense, then we have to reformulate regularly to adapt to new standards (very common for companies under organic certification) or new levels of allergens/substances suggested by IFRA. As this concerns our customer’s safety, any reformulation work in this area takes the highest priority.
• Desire to innovate – this is always a big driver, as formulators are continuously looking for the latest big thing.
• Consumer demand for free-from formulations – this is a major driver especially among our customers in the USA. We are often questioned on the use of ingredients like Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Potassium Sorbate, etc. It is important to educate customers and explain there is nothing wrong with them.
• Change in consumer preference/needs – it happens that sometimes customers no longer like a particular product and we have to refresh it.
• To stay ahead of the competition – this goes alongside the desire to innovate. For a formulator in an organic-certified company, we need to compete with the non-organic competition.
• Incorporate new active/new functional ingredients – we’re currently undertaking a project to reformulate a product to incorporate new actives for improved performance.
• Better skin/hair feel – as mentioned before, it is important to refresh our portfolio of sensorial experiences.
• Improved results – this is also very important. Anytime we have to reformulate, we try to offer better results to our customers.

How can suppliers best help brand manufacturers with the reformulation process?
I value co-operation with suppliers of ingredients in terms of promptness of response and availability to help with paperwork and certifications – all of which are big issues for those under organic certification.

Attend the in-cosmetics Formulation Summit 2015 

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