A business that isn’t selling isn’t succeeding–a fact that’s no less true for the beverage alcohol industry. We often hear from suppliers that one of the biggest roadblocks they face in selling is bringing a new product to market. Frequently a disconnect between their internal processes and the regulatory rules surrounding product approval causes a bottleneck, delaying the release of new products. However, following certain best practices can avoid these headaches. Below are some of the best practices on efficiently bringing products to market we’ve heard from suppliers and importers.
- Get everyone on the same page within the company.
Providing company-wide visibility is perhaps the key to bringing products to market. If all teams are not aligned on the timeline, expectations, and state distribution, stress and burden can be added to an already complex process.
After a target date is set for release, suppliers should work backward. Paying special care to states that typically have longer approval times can help make the process smoother; and prioritizing states that have short approval times can mean sales are happening somewhere right away. It is important to anticipate requirements for each step of the process and to maintain effective communication.
- Do some research.
Suppliers may think that their ideas are the “next big thing,” but the competition could be one step ahead. Reviewing trends prior to releasing new innovations will prevent a supplier form lagging behind the competition — or validate the idea as an exciting new movement. Research can also help prevent costly trademark disputes. There are many online resources available for suppliers to take advantage of, such as LabelVision, USPTO TESS, BeerAdvocate, and Wine-Searcher.
State active brand websites and price lists can serve as unexpectedly useful tools, as well. Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia all have a public search that can be used to see which distributors are carrying comparable products.
- Utilize tools.
Suppliers should check ETAs for COLA approvals so they can plan more effectively. Having access to state registration ETAs can also be helpful. ShipCompliant provides ETAs for both COLA and state approvals, regardless if the state registration required method is paper packets, eFiling systems, or Product Registration Online (PRO).
- Read the fine print.
At ShipCompliant’s BACS event in November 2016, the TTB noted that 30 percent of COLAs submitted across all industries are returned with corrections needed. By having applications and labels in order from the start, suppliers can avoid time-consuming back-and-forth. Even though requirements are loosening and funding has been approved to achieve a 10-day turnaround for formula and label approvals, having information in order ahead of time can prevent delay.
It is also no secret that the TTB’s allowable revisions are underutilized. Suppliers should check to see if they even need to submit a COLA when the label is changed. If the TTB’s allowable revisions page proves to be too complex, they also offer a tool to check if the updates being made to an existing product’s label are allowed. ShipCompliant also has a breakdown of the allowable revisions. If a label fits the requirements of the TTB’s allowable revisions, then it is likely that the supplier won’t need state registration submissions, saving time and money. However, it is important to be aware that each state has its own rules on label revisions and plan accordingly.
Being ahead of, behind, or on schedule should not impact the quality and frequency of communication within a team. Once state registrations are approved, the state active brands sites listed above can be sent to confirm whether or not product is ready for market. ShipCompliant has an approval portal that sales teams, distributors, or any others who need to be in the know can access to see the status of the upcoming release.
We understand that this process is complex, so we hope this brief list is helpful. All in all, the best ways to reduce headaches and increase efficiency are to make sure everyone is on the same page and to be aware of the regulations.