Geoff Ashenden, New Zealand director of supplement firm Nuzest, is one of the brains behind popular health powder the Good Green Stuff. Ashenden talks about how the multi-million dollar brand came to be.
A brief description of the business
Nuzest is a lifestyle health supplement company that focuses on providing people with high quality nutritional solutions. It was founded by Trevor Bolland here in New Zealand five years ago and now sells in dozens of countries worldwide.
Our business is actually the licensee and distributor of the Nuzest brand in New Zealand. We have licensees in the US, Europe, the Middle East and in South East Asia. The interesting thing is that most of those licensees are Kiwis, and what they've done is added the Nuzest brand to their own businesses.
What inspired the business?
The business started more as a solution rather than an idea.
Longtime family friend and now business partner Trevor, his daughter Monique - at the age of 23 - was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and he gave up work and embarked on a global search speaking to all kinds of experts to get the answers to the challenges she was facing with MS.
A big part of her having the best life that she could was nutrition and high-quality supplements, so to be sure that she was getting the best quality he decided to have it formulated by experts, based on science, and to have it made himself - that's how the brand began.
Why and when did you get involved with the brand?
I've been involved with Nuzest since its inception and development. Our children grew up together so we are very close to the reason Trevor entered the business - it was personal for our family as well. When Trevor looked to appoint a New Zealand licensee and distributor it was both an opportune time, and an interesting challenge for me to switch careers.
How did Nuzest initially get off the ground?
Trevor and I were involved with distributing another brand out of Australia of which we had the rights to in Europe and in New Zealand. We spent two years establishing the market and then had the rights taken away when it changed hands. Although it was a tough time, it was actually the catalyst for Nuzest.
How big is your team?
When we started in New Zealand it was just me and my daughter Claire but now have 15 permanent staff and 12 casuals.
Where are your supplements made and manufactured?
We launched the first product, Good Green Stuff, in 2012 and Clean Lean Protein came along a month or so later. Good Green Stuff is made in Nelson. There are 77 ingredients in that product and it's made very carefully, blending small batches together until gradually it builds up to the full production.
The pea protein, which is the main component of Clean Lean Protein and Just Fruit & Veg, and in Good Green Stuff, is made from premium golden peas grown under contract in northern France and processed using a world-leading natural enzyme process by a sixth generation family company in Belgium.
Who takes your products?
There are a large number of sports people taking our products including those in rugby, netball, football, cricket and motocross. We also have Olympic athletes taking it, and those from rowing teams, and international competitors in Crossfit.
Do you have sponsorship deals with any sporting stars?
We have a policy that we don't want to pay people to plug our product if they don't love it and if they don't take it. We supply people with product, or give them a healthy discount on the product, and in return they post on social media or talk about it within their communities.
We don't have any formal agreements with ambassadors, there's no contracts, we just say 'Look if you love the products, tell all of your fellow players and if from time to time you can do an Instagram or Facebook post and our product happens to be in the photo, that's fine', and that's generally what happens.
What's next for Nuzest?
Our plans are to continue to improve our products, and we've got a number of new products ready to bring to market when the time is right. We want to develop the global presence of the brand and expand into other markets. Both Trevor and I are in our sixties so at some point we have to think about succession or exit, but we both think we're going to live to a grand old age so there's really no hurry.
Do you have plans to expand in to Asia?
We're looking at China. There's certainly an increasing emphasis on food quality, particularly amongst Chinese who have more discretionary income - there's a big market developing for our products and other New Zealand products.
What's been the biggest lesson you've learnt in five years of business?
In a growing business that requires stock, the more you grow, the more cash you need. It has taken twice as long as we thought to get established so we've put every cent we've made back into the business over the past five years to get us to where we are now, and we'll continue to do that. I think the reason why we have been really successful is that we have a lot of fun as a company.
What advice do you give others thinking of starting their own business?
Do your research, and get advice from people experienced in your sector.
Be prepared to work really long hours - for a long time - and make sure you have enough funding to keep you and your business going for at least a couple of years.