Villain’s Ingredients: The Spark and the Spread

Over the past 10 years, there have been countless examples of ingredients that were once considered harmless to consumers, but then came to be seen as nasty: azodicarbonamide (the so-called ‘ingredient in yoga mat ”) Found in fast food chains like Subway Bread; talcum powder in J & J’s baby powder; glyphosate in the Bayer Round-Up. More recently, PFAs, the “eternal chemicals”, which have been found in over 50% of cosmetic products.

The list of potentially harmful ingredients continues to grow, and we’ve all seen what impact even a single scientific study, press article, or blog post can have on a company’s or company’s reputation and bottom line. Mark.

But what if the aforementioned companies anticipated the potential danger posed by using or maintaining these harmful ingredients in their formulas? What if they could have predicted these emerging crises before they climbed?

We all recognize the need and the opportunity to harness big data from online sources. Whether it’s social media, media, forums and blogs, online document repositories, academic resources or more, there is a great deal of market, scientific, and consumer data to tap into; However, it is difficult to mine this unstructured data in a thoughtful and systemic way. Innovative companies are looking to use the power of big data to predict outcomes that help mitigate risk and make confident decisions. An example of this: providing the ability to predict when an ingredient can become a villain in the eyes of consumers.

The question is: can you identify these potential problems early enough to take action? Certainly, by the time the public realizes the effect of a harmful ingredient on human health or the environment, it is too late. Businesses need proactive solutions that will identify a potential nasty ingredient before a problem becomes a disaster.

By analyzing the ingredients of past villains in order to understand how current products can be affected, our team discovered that the ingredients of villains emerge as a result of a spark and spread pattern.

A spark is any document, event or action that subsequently generates considerable interest from the public, a governing body, an organization, etc. This is often the first clue that an ingredient may be harmful to humans, pets or the environment. It is usually based on science – an academic study, a patent or patent application, a grant, a clinical trial, a lawsuit, an action taken by the FDA, the EU or another regulatory body – and may have been published by a major media outlet, a Twitter handle, picked up by a popular blog, or the like.

The recent news cycle surrounding “chemicals forever” was sparked by the peer-reviewed study published in Environmental Science and Technology in June 2021.

Most sparks die before they impact consumption patterns, but some ignite and spread. With this spread comes the possibility of changing the perception of consumers and their purchasing behavior.

A strong spark will make its way through influential channels, what we call a Spread. An example of this is when a scientific study or regulatory action is referenced in a news article, which then goes “viral” on the internet and social media. The more dynamic the spread becomes, the more likely a business is to lose consumer confidence and ultimately its sales.

The Environmental Science and Technology post is a prime example of a spark spreading: outlets like Guardian, Insider, and Healthline (among many others) quickly posted stories that led to countless online conversations on Twitter. , LinkedIn, etc. In late July, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky announced four separate bills, collectively known as the Safer Beauty Bill Package, to give the federal government more regulatory control over cosmetics and personal care products.

The EPA has known about Forever Chemicals since 1998. In 2019, the House and Senate passed defense spending bills that included provisions to limit the amount of PFAS to drink. The water and in military food packaging. If companies had actively followed the conversation, the regulatory measures, the scientific studies around these products, they may have started reformulating before this summer.

There is a certain degree of risk in many consumer product decisions, and beloved cosmetic reformulations are no different. However, keeping potentially harmful ingredients in products also poses a great risk.

It is said that Risk = Probability * Consequence.

Even if the future consequences are not always obvious, it is easy to imagine the potential dire consequences. For example, the consequence of using a malicious ingredient can be millions of dollars in product recalls and packaging changes, billions of dollars in lost market capitalization or worse, the health and safety of consumers. . The difficult part of this risk equation is understanding the probability of an ingredient emerging as a villain in the eyes of consumers.

  1. Track your ingredients for potential bad guys. Think beyond social media posts. Publications, new scientific discoveries, regulatory actions, and patent and grant awards occur daily. It is important to take advantage of the big data provided by the internet and go beyond social listening to proactive monitoring of the various scientific and commercial publications that occur regularly.
  2. Identify the sparks that require your action and attention. Acting on every spark is not feasible, and it does not make sense, as some are harmless. It is important to identify the sparks that will lead to a spread and when you need to act.

Ultimately, companies that can pivot before an ingredient turns into a villain will win.

Marc Jeffreys

Mark Jeffreys, Founder and CEO of 4View, is a seasoned executive with over 25 years of success and profitable sales growth for some of the world’s most visible brands. His experience spans consumer packaged goods, food manufacturing, home furnishings, nonprofits, government and start-ups, including 16 years at Procter & Gamble, where he led the Pampers brands, Always and Gillette.

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