Cultivating Fresh Ideas
How Ingredient Suppliers Roll in a Post-Pandemic Landscape.
These days the making of the modern ingredient brand involves everything from partnering with regenerative farm programs, staffing creative directors, taking a hybrid digital/physical approach to branding and, most importantly, listening to the voice of the consumer. Nimble and open to fresh ideas, with business models built around collaboration and circularity, contemporary ingredient brands are shaking off a long-held industry image as hulking, many-layered chemical companies steadfast in corporate traditions tailored to large volume demand. We caught up with a handful of leading ingredient suppliers to get perspective on their present-day role in today’s global marketplace. Here’s what execs had to say:
VP Marketing/Creative Director
“A modern ingredient brand must be more than a materials contribution. They must provide value across a much wider spectrum. The ability to provide insights on trends, such as usage and style, and how they can be interpreted for each customer’s own business needs, is crucial. The same with insights on the metaverse and how digital fashion is impacting our industry. This type of exchange further enables customers to find their voice and zero in on just what it is they’re looking for.
A modern ingredient brand also has the responsibility to educate consumers about the value we add to our customer’s products. The power to research and validate claims means just adding a techy logo to a hang tag is not enough. Ingredient brands need to step up and meet people where they consume and interact with information. Become an ingredient to the media-sphere itself.
This is where new media forms come in, be they podcasting, social media platforms, informational programming, influencer partnerships, or just good ol’ fashioned PR relationships. For Polartec, providing media experiences as useful, meaningful, and premium as our fabrics themselves is a vital part of our role as ingredient partner. This is really where the idea to produce a podcast that strives to be more than just a PR talking point came from. A desire to make something people actually want to listen to.
With the rise of the D2C channel, the pace of this VOC (Voice of Consumer) conversation has become even quicker, and the speed to market even faster, making getting in-synch even more critical. The ability to adapt and improvise is a core driver of how Polartec approaches our innovation partnerships.”
Gore Fabrics Division
Global Sales/Marketing Leader
“Beyond product development and innovation, our industry is also uniquely positioned to leverage our retail community to educate and encourage consumers around product care and repair efforts that help lengthen apparel useability. We are already seeing several such efforts including Worn Wear from Patagonia, Arc’teryx offering in-store repairs and the Renewed program from The North Face brand.
We have collaborated on some of these efforts, and have put into practice several programs as well. For example, we established 25 Gore-authorized Repair Centers around the world and launched the ‘GORE-TEX Gear Tour’ happening across Europe through December 2022. These events hosted by Gore will enable consumers to bring well-worn GORE-TEX Gear to be fixed free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis. We also created GORE-TEX Outerwear On Demand, a seamless outerwear rental program available at select ski resorts and have published a number of consumer educational social media posts regarding wash and care requirements that help keep GORE-TEX products performing longer.”
Antonio Gatti Balsarri
Chief Commercial Officer
“Regarding new digital paths and expansion of digital touchpoints, we will rebuild our website and offer our customers more relevant content around textiles and textile technologies. We will offer webinars, whitepapers and product presentations so that we can share our expertise. As we strive to professionally expand our presence on social media, including LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, the goal is to share expert knowledge, information about textiles and textile technologies, news, events, partnerships, and our sustainability plans. Schoeller has structured itself internally in such a way that we now have the opportunity to exchange ideas individually and to be closer to our customers.
Schoeller.store (launched in 2022) has been very well received by our customers. The special thing about the Schoeller.store is that we are able to also serve independent designers, private individuals, students and DIY customers or startups within Switzerland. Outside of Switzerland, we only sell to companies so far.
Our online store is part of our sustainability and digital branding strategy. On the one hand, we want to sell every meter of fabric we produce. On the other hand, we want to establish a digital sales channel. In order to establish a more efficient collaboration with our customers in the future, we are working on the digitalization of existing processes. The Schoeller.store was the first milestone in this context. Currently, we sell discontinued fabrics on our webshop. In the future, NOS items will also be available.”
Cordura Advanced Fabrics
New Business Development
“When working towards long term customer relationships and brand buy-ins, listening to the voice of the customer is key. CORDURA re/cor RN66 got off to a strong start because of this. We initially partnered with San Francisco-based bag company Black Ember when launching CORDURA re/cor RN66, and swiftly followed by product introductions from Supreme and Mystery Ranch. This accelerated go to market approach is a relatively new approach for a new fiber introduction, and an exciting way that we can collaborate with key brand partners by giving them access to something new.
The future of innovation is collaboration. Two great examples where Cordura leveraged strategic partnerships are collaborative approaches and two-way communication with Sapphire Finishing Mills Limited and Dovetail. This Fall, Cordura and Sapphire Finishing Mills Ltd., announced their collaboration with Dovetail Workwear to produce the new Ready Set Cargo Pant. This evolution of Women’s Workwear into Global EMT, Tactical and Wilderness Apparel was built upon collective voice of customer feedback and close preferred partner working relationship between Dovetail, Sapphire Finishing Mills Ltd., and Cordura.
This type of continuous evolution of end-use apparel generates demand for ingredient brands to diversify possible applications in end use products. The way ahead is through closer collaboration — by collaborating to innovate, we can work ever more closely with brands and mill partners to maximize on strengths and develop the next generation of sustainable solutions.”
Earlier this year CovationBio became the new name for DuPont Biomaterials but its product portfolio — Sorona, Susterra and Zemea — remain.
“CovationBio recently enrolled in Truterra, a program that certifies farms using regenerative agriculture practices and works to help members be more sustainable. There is a lot of excitement about biobased materials, but also a lot of questions, too. We’ve heard concerns all the way through the value chain from brands and people asking to be assured that the feedstock is not harming the environment. That’s the driver behind our commitment to Truterra; we take responsibility from the very beginning as a materials supplier regarding where we get our feedstock. But it’s new for ingredient brands to go that far back in the supply chain.
If you want to say you are a biomaterials company, and provide solutions, you have to be in touch with farmers and at the same time be consumer facing and on top of the latest fashion trends. That’s what the job is.
We’re going into new markets. In workwear, our value proposition works great – durability matters. Products using Sorona are more sustainable and comfortable and last longer. Now we’re getting the word out and selling more. It’s a brand awareness story.
With footwear it is more of a product development story. Both Sorona and Susterra, our brand of PDO for industrial applications, are used in footwear. Sorona is used in knit and woven uppers while Susterra is used in polyurethane. We provide a way to bring a significant amount of bio content to your footwear product. 25 brands, including Puma, Allbirds and Vans feature our products.
We are also getting into staple fiber. We’ve only been in filament, so there’s a whole other world out there for us to explore.
CovationBio is only 15 years old. We’re in our adolescence and have a lot of energy, and are open to new ideas.”