Are "me too" additives really commodities?
How do you get those first samples in?
Just because 1% of all motor oils uses your chemistry doesn't mean that you are targeting 1% of every Oil Marketers volume
Collaboration is key
A chemical company with little lubricants experience asked for help to get their “me too” additives accepted by a target oil marketer. They were sure that they were beating the incumbent on price, but didn’t appear to be making any inroads with getting samples through the door or turning obvious interest into purchase orders. They were focused solely on this target, thinking that other oil marketers would follow if they gained business.
Addco or Oil Marketer?
We challenged our client about their volume expectations, which seemed to assume that the oil marketer would purchase all the additives directly. Our client had not considered the volume of their chemical that would be purchased by the oil marketer in an additive package.
Were they even approaching the correct target?
We asked about the data that they had to support acceptance as a direct drop-in for additives from the incumbent (suspected to be the market leader). They produced nmr spectra and gas chromatographs showing almost the same molecular mix in their additive as the market leader and a couple of very simple performance tests of the additive neat or diluted in a generic base oil. Everything else they had was relevant to a different industry.
Many oil marketers would not risk the reputation of their products on commoditisation of additives in lubricants, so would require more comprehensive test data. However, as many lubes marketers purchase most of their additives as packages, they would not be able to make the business case to test the additives in their own component blends, as the saving on each additive is often too low. Therefore, a more collaborative approach would be required.
Understanding the performance tests required to demonstrate read-across between additives almost certainly involves dialogue with more than one potential customer. Guidance from industry bodies can be important and sometimes the tests that get your samples through the door are not the most expensive ones. It is our experience that the customer opens out as soon as they see willingness on behalf of the supplier to do the initial work. Usually the addco or oil marketer is happy to blend the lubes, provided the supplier is then willing to go away and run (i.e. pay for) some tests.
If an agreement is made that the data can be suitably anonymised (again, take advice about what other target customers might want to hear), then the data can be used for leverage with many more target customers.