4 Reasons Challenger Brands are Adopting Specification Management to Scale & Increase Speed to Market

Posted on 
May 18, 2021
Zach McAnany

The CPG, food & beverage, and beauty markets have undergone a period of democratization over the last decade. Gone are the days where big corporations rule and tiny brands drool - thanks to the modern consumer.Today’s consumers want companies that are responsive to the latest trends on social media, can quickly meet their needs, and provide more customized products or solutions, hence the corporate coup d'etat.  But who are the underdogs overthrowing the leading brands that typically govern the market?

Challenger brands.

Challenger brands are a step up from the average startup or small business - they’re companies that question the status quo, whether that’s via the product itself, the customer experience, the way it’s distributed, or the way it’s consumed. They’re market disruptors. They’re the David to Goliath. And they’re eating up market share across categories.

A great example of a challenger brand is Swedish brand, Oatly, who sells oat milk. Oatly’s main selling point lies in questioning the dairy category, asking why drinking cow milk is such a cultural norm and whether it’s the healthiest option anymore. And what they found is that a large market of people had these questions too - and that the soy and almond milk options were no longer cutting it.

As glamorous as it sounds, being a challenger brand is easier said than done. You have to be willing to meet consumers where they are. This means being lean, responsive, and having a 6th sense for recognizing growth opportunities. And it’s more than brand marketing - like in Oatly’s case, it’s creating an entirely new supply chain. But there’s a catch: even though they move fast, these companies still need to ensure they meet safety and regulatory requirements, comply with retailer standards, and can manage a quickly growing supply chain as they scale their product lines and move into new markets.

So how are challenger brands moving fast while ensuring quality as they scale? The answer lies in a new approach to supply chain data. Here’s why leading challenger brands like Soylent are turning to Specification Management software to scale their business.

1. Cutting Product Development Cycles From Months to Weeks with a Spec-First Approach

Product ideas may start with trends, but every new product starts with the collection and evaluation of raw material data. And alongside a growing catalog of specification data comes the critical need for more efficient methods to manage it all - in today’s world, products move too quickly to be managed by spreadsheets.

Specification Management is helping challenger brands create the next generation of successful products. Specright’s Specification Management platform helps turn raw material data into individual building blocks that can be accessed and connected to sub-components or finished products. Specification Management also allows organizations to gain instant visibility into where their raw materials are being used and similar components or packaging that other products can use. Visibility is critical to the lean supply chain. For example, what if a raw material is no longer available? The impact of this must be understood in seconds rather than in days or weeks to make the appropriate changes and speed up the development process.

Industry Proof Point: Kira Labs

Kira Labs was looking for a system designed to manage specs - their ERP system was too rigid and operations were scaling fast. So Kira Labs turned to Specright to centralize thousands of specifications, and create an internal dictionary and product catalog - with consistent vocabulary, naming conventions, and specification linkages.

With a more robust data management structure, Kira Labs reduced the time it takes to create a BOM during the product development cycle by 75%, from four weeks to one week. Specright also increased collaboration across sales, operations, and product development teams, eliminating conflict that used to arise from debates about spec versions and administrative tasks related to spec management. To learn more about how Kira Labs drives product development with Specification Management, click here.

2. Using Data to Enable Fast Consumer Response Time & Innovation

Between retention and new product ideation, customer complaints are valuable input for supply chain teams. Not to mention, customer feedback is the lifeline for challenger brands - it’s all about meeting the customer where they are. But most of the time those who would benefit the most from this feedback don’t have easy access to it. That’s because this feedback lives in chat bots, hotlines, or review sites – and isn’t tied back to the product. To make customer complaints actionable, they must be linked to the product through data. S

pecification Management software bridges the data sharing gap between customer service, product teams, and suppliers. Add linkages from crucial complaint data directly to product specifications to help codify complaints for more effective resolution. And this data creates valuable insights across your business. For example, this enables your product development teams to understand what customers are really saying about your new formula or product. For marketers and brand leaders, it provides insight into real life customer feedback instead versus feedback from just influencers.

Industry Proof Point: Soylent

Before Specright, Soylent housed critical product and packaging documentation across hard drives, Dropbox, and Google Drive. This made it difficult for the team to not only innovate but also respond to customer feedback on current offerings.

To address these challenges, Soylent moved to Specright. Once specifications were standardized, Soylent used Specright’s Quality module to track lot codes, CAPAs, COAs, and customer complaints. As a result, the team can quickly pinpoint complaints due to changes in formulation or packaging and iterate on them to better meet customer needs. To learn more about how Soylent kickstarts innovation with Specification Management, click here.

3. Creating a Digital thread to Drive Supply Chain Resilience and Flexibility

In 2020, many market leaders struggled with supply chain disruption - and it could not have been more hectic for companies who weren’t ready to quickly pivot. By centrally managing specifications, you bring flexibility to your supply chain. Easily identify alternate suppliers and move specifications, visualize the impact of natural disasters on your supply chain or quickly get production back up and running. Global pandemic aside - eCommerce has created a world where supply chain flexibility is more important than ever.

One area that challenger brands continue to lead in is sustainability. With consumers demanding more and more sustainable products and packaging, challenger brands can quickly assess their entire portfolio and easily identify areas to change. For many established brands, this data lives in silos and spreadsheets, which means it takes them longer to respond to sustainability demands from consumers. Say goodbye to “one up, one down” visibility, and hello to having your entire supply chain at your fingertips.

4. Building to Scale

The biggest issue we hear from new brands is that they didn’t build their business to scale. But we get it, you can’t always know what you’ll need in 5 years right now.Or can you?Maybe not, but you can choose a system that’s built for change. This means that instead of purchasing a system that’s built to deal with specific problems and scenarios, get a system that’s built to build. A spec-first approach means you have the data and logic to fit your needs as you scale, not a one-size fits all solution that you’ll outgrow.

This is where Specification Management comes into play. Once you digitize and map specifications in a single source of truth, layering on the right workflows, approvals, and processes is seamless. It also enables you to achieve goals that develop as you scale, ranging from improved supplier collaboration, sustainability, and consolidating SKUs.

Why Challenger Brands are Choosing Specification Management as the Backbone of Their Supply Chains

Specification Management is the make or break of a successful challenger brand.

All too often we see companies without the tools they need to effectively manage their supply chains and scale, preventing great ideas from getting to market.

At Specright, we’re working with some of the most established brands – and challenger brands – to help them reimagine how they make products, but also challenger brands who inherently want to disrupt the status quo. And they’re amazed at what they can do with a spec-first approach. It enables people to spend more time doing what they love: making amazing products and delighting customers.

To learn more about Specification Management and its impact on product development check out our latest eBook or schedule a demo today.​


Zach McAnany

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