What is the role of a new product development (NPD) manager in cosmetics?

Karen Ho     

Get a clear picture of the cosmetics new product development (NPD) manager’s role and responsibilities, tips to acing the job, and more.

The best NPD managers are visionaries. You guide the success of a new cosmetic product and lead the cross-functional team that is responsible for bringing it to the market. This is an important role in cosmetics companies. New Product Development Managers provide the expertise needed to lead and make strategic product decisions.

New product development managers are at the intersection of business, formulation & manufacturing, and regulations. This is because the role spans many activities from strategic to tactical and provides important cross-functional leadership — most notably between brand marketing, support teams and external suppliers.

What does a cosmetics NPD Manager do?

A NPD Manager sets the product portfolio strategy, product launch calendar, and has full accountability of the formulation of a product or product line. A product manager role may also include product marketing, manufacturing project management, user trials and budget responsibilities. NPD Managers analyze market and competitive conditions, laying out a product vision that is differentiated and delivers unique value based on customer demands.

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New product development in cosmetics is invigorating. When you feel a real sense of responsibility and commitment to your new cosmetic product, you will build with conviction and find deep satisfaction in your role as a new product development manager.

Responsibilities of a New Product Development (NPD) Manager

Let's zero in on a cosmetics new product development manager's core responsibilities. Although the scope of work is broad, your day-to-day responsibilities can typically be broken down into the following six areas:

  • Product conception
  • Formulation and user trials
  • Manufacturing project management
  • Record Keeping
  • Go-to-market
  • Post launch communication

1. Product conception

At the highest level, you are responsible for taking your product from concept to market.

Market, products and ingredients research

This journey typically starts with global markets, products and ingredients research. Once you have honed in on the latest category trends relevant to your product concept, you will conduct competitive brands and product benchmarking relevant to your product positioning and price. The goal is to research competitors and bring forward white space ideas for future launches.

Armed with up-to-date market insight, you will present new and exciting product findings and NPD ideas to the CEO, Brand Marketing Manager and wider teams with data to support the findings.

NPD Brief

The next step is writing the NPD briefs. Informed by market, product, ingredients research and customer data, you will work with stakeholders to create a product brief to achieve benchmark or formula attributes. In certain cosmetics brands, at this stage you will also work with the formulation chemist to ensure the product concept hits cost targets and timeline deliverables.

2. Formulation and user trials

We already know that the New Product Development Manager takes on full accountability for NPD formulations and product performance.

Formulation

At this stage, depending on the cosmetics company structure, the NPD Manager will either work with a formulation chemist,  laboratory or contract manufacturer to manage the initial formulation and sampling process.

This involves briefing the formulation chemist or external contractors to develop the best formula in terms of quality, performance, innovation and price within the agreed timing, and in respect of internal R&D guidelines.

Sampling and User Trials

The NPD Manager will request samples from suppliers for new ingredients, packaging, materials, accessories and more.

In particular, the NPD Manager will evaluate conformity of product samples submitted by vendors, organize and distribute samples to internal and external users for user trials. Following the trials, the NPD manager will evaluate formulas, communicate with sample participants and provide feedback in internal panel studies.

3. Manufacturing project management

Manufacturing project management is a big part of a NPD Manager’s role. The cosmetics new product development process is non-linear and iterative. The NPD will monitor and validate product manufacturing at each stage of development, sometimes even attending 1st production batch where required.

Suppliers coordination

The NPD Manager has to work closely with the manufacturer, ingredients supplier, packaging suppliers and external vendors to manage project timelines and oversee project milestones.

The NPD Manager has to manage packaging development, innovation, sustainability initiatives and quality standards for the new products, while hitting cost targets and timeline deliverables.

Supply Chain Risk Management

The NPD Manager has to ensure that the Supply Chain has the necessary capacities, BOM’s and capabilities to place orders for the components and products in line with the launch schedule. This has become a hot topic due to ingredient shortages and inflation due to the war in Ukraine, particularly for petroleum-based ingredients.

Any project risks have to be assessed and communicated  regularly to stakeholders. It is crucial to anticipate failures and compile all official documents through the development phases.

4. Record Keeping

Due to the complexity involved in developing new cosmetics products, a New Product Development Manager has to be super organised. A wide range of systems - physical and digital- are involved in keeping record of the markets, product portfolio, formulation testing, manufacturing and regulatory information.

Here is a list of commonly used record-keeping systems :

  • Database that track competitor products and pricing
  • Supplier databaseInternal product, texture, packaging library
  • Formula development, experimentation and user trials records
  • A physical system for keeping project samples, supplier innovations and competitive products
  • Raw materials and ingredients suppliers documentation

5. Go-to-market

The NPD Manager will work closely with cross-functional teams such as brand, marketing, retail and customer service to bring the new product to market.

Product Launch Calendar

This starts with developing a product launch calendar for the year, prioritising milestones and managing risks accordingly. Based on this, the NPD Manager will collaborate with the Marketing Manager to develop the launch marketing timeline.

Marketing Communications

The NPD Manager will be serving as a product and ingredient expert in creating fact sheets, marketing content and campaign creation. The goal is to communicate key selling points for customers, influencers and retail partners and showcase the potential of the new cosmetic product.

Sometimes the NPD Manager will contribute to the creation of an even wider range of content - from blog posts, training documents and videos for social media and beyond.

6. Post-launch communication

Finally, once the new product is launched, the NPD manager will collect post-launch reviews through speaking with customers, online customer reviews, and social listening tools.

The New Product Development Manager will work with internal customer service teams to answer questions and collect feedback to be used in the next phase of new product development.