New Product Launch (NPI) and Biotech Manufacturing Operations: Lessons From the Unicorn Frappuccino

Launching a new product (NPI) in biotechnology is arguably one of the hardest tasks, with most of the focus directed towards the Go-To-Market aspects of testing the market, messaging and gaining early adopters. Often overlooked (until it is too late) by the development team is the transition from prototyping at the bench to manufacturing.

Consider the (somewhat amusing) anecdote in operations when Starbucks launched the Unicorn Frappuccino. It was wildly popular with customers (after all, who can resist drinking blended unicorns), but soon had Starbuck barista’s pleading on social media for customers not to order it. “”I have never made so many Frappuccinos in my entire life,” barista Braden Burson stated. “My hands are completely sticky. I have unicorn crap all in my hair, on my nose. I have never been so stressed out in my entire life.” Or consider the plight from barista Tina Lee, “As a barista, just know that every time you ask me to make this, a part of me dies #unicornfrappuccino.”

How bad was it? The baristas were thankful when they quickly ran out of ingredients. Just think about that- the employees engaged in the NPI were happy when they ran out of product to sell.

The marketing was spot on, but as Inc.explained in covering the episode: “It’s instructive, though, that when you launch something that you think will be new and exciting, it’s worth making sure that your employees are ready to execute.”

In biotechnology manufacturing NPI’s, we have seen similar challenges across a number of launches. The three most common launch problems are:

Keys to avoiding a failed NPI in biotechnology manufacturing are having robust protocol designs, solid BOM construction and sourcing, and the ability to scale-up.  We find the two most impactful variables are 1) communication between research, QC/QA and operations and 2) the experience of the transition team.

At Argonaut, we can help you with a successful NPI by supporting your manufacturing and operations team. Call us at 888-834-8892 and let’s get your product launched!

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