When Trevor Bolland discovered that his 22-year-old daughter Monique Bolland had Multiple Sclerosis, a condition that affects the central nervous system and is incurable, he set out on a quest to learn about alternative health and nutrition. What began as a father and daughter looking for solutions has grown into a global company today, formulating supportive nutrition for all.
This is the story of Nuzest, an Australasian nutritional business that is celebrating 10 years of providing high-quality plant-based supplements.
“I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. As yet, there is no medical cure, and at that time, unlike today, there was very little in the way of treatments to slow down the progress of the disease. My MRI showed quite serious lesions on the brain and spine, and the prognosis I was given was bleak. I was in a very dark place, and my parents were equally distressed,” Monique recalls.
“My Dad is very determined and does not take no for an answer. He decided to sell out of his business and focus on finding a solution. We spoke to doctors, scientists, and natural health practitioners worldwide and discovered what most health-conscious people understand today; that a balanced lifestyle and good nutrition are critical to good health and longevity.
Monique recounts spending many weeks at a time at a Naturopathic Health Centre in the United States, focusing solely on restoring balance to her body and mind, learning about diet, and receiving natural treatments to help manage the disease.
“Although my background was in graphic and web design, with a degree in Digital Marketing, this journey led me to various studies in nutrition and health coaching and opening an integrated health clinic in Sydney. Meanwhile, she adds that my Dad continued his research and became involved in the health supplements industry.
“Dad and I saw an opportunity to improve on what was already available in the market; to create products that would genuinely support people’s health – not just read well on the labels. In 2012 we joined forces and launched Nuzest – Nutrition for Life.”
Trevor Bolland notes that the story of Nuzest did not begin with a big plan. The goal was to build a couple of high-quality items that were effective and that people could rely on. The goal was to create a daily multi-nutrient that would benefit his daughter Monique.
“Through my involvement in the health supplement industry since Monique’s diagnosis, I had learned a little about production and distribution and was confident that if we could produce a good product, we should be able to find a market.
“However, we were essentially new to the industry, with my background being primarily in the property and early childcare education sectors and previously in the Navy. The production and distribution of health-food supplements was a completely different ball game.”
‘We realised we needed to engage and consult with experts in their field.’
Trevor says he called upon many contacts he had made since Monique’s diagnosis, including a team of health practitioners and PhD scientists to assist with the formulation. The duo engaged a highly respected design company in Sydney, Boldinc, to direct brand development, and teamed up with a long-time friend in New Zealand with a career in marketing and communications to partner with them in the launch (in New Zealand).
“Our distribution has grown exponentially and is now available in over 20 countries. Our head office in Potts Point coordinates manufacturing and production in five different countries. 90 per cent of our packaging, design and marketing is now conducted in-house, and we employ people all over the world in roles from sales and logistics to customer service,” Trevor says.
“We have never actively sought distribution in other regions but have taken chances on people who were as passionate about our products as we were and grown with them. Many of our early distributors were people we have known personally or professionally for years or met while starting. These tight connections have meant the feeling of being a family resonates throughout our global team.
“While the products remain fundamentally the same, we continually review and revise our formulations to ensure they are always up to date with the latest scientific research. We will always do this to ensure we are true to our promise of being ‘led by nature, backed by science.
“Our focus for the foreseeable future is on growing our current markets, extending our product range, and transitioning to fully sustainable packaging by 2025.”
‘The greatest challenge was the unknown.’
Trevor admits that they had minimal industry experience. Thus, there was a lot of “sometimes expensive” on-the-job learning. This included what to look for in manufacturing contracts, how to price the items, what margins were needed for the retail market, labelling needs, the regulatory environment, package sourcing, logistics, and much more.
“We were lucky that we entered the market with plant-based products when “plant-based” popularity was in its infancy. We entered the market with a high-quality pea protein isolate that tasted good and had immediate success. Because we had something different to offer, he says we could get traction in most health food stores in the country.
“We started distribution out of a downstairs room in my partner’s home in Auckland. From there, we did all the packing, managed deliveries, handled customer service, designed marketing collateral, and wrote all the marketing copy. To date, the business has been entirely self-funded.”
‘High-level athletes and personalities became brand advocates, not by contract but by choice as passionate consumers’
Trevor says that Nuzest has become a household name in New Zealand thanks to advertising, word-of-mouth marketing, and attendance at exhibitions across the nation. This was made possible by a strong base of devoted consumers, which included numerous elite athletes and public figures who chose to become brand ambassadors rather than being asked to do so.
“Entering new markets has been particularly challenging. There is an entirely new regulatory environment, different labelling requirements, logistical challenges, different distribution systems, and new competition. There is no easy way to navigate these waters, especially without experience in the industry. It was simply a matter of learning by trial and error, taking the first step and finding your way.
“After ten years in business, the challenges keep coming. There has been a plethora of new brands, many with significant financial backing due to the market opportunity offered by the growth in the sector, with each advocating their credentials as being of the highest quality. It is difficult to be heard above the noise and equally difficult for the consumer to know whom to believe.
“With the introduction of Good Green Vitality (previously named Good Green Stuff), our biggest challenge was explaining what it was and what it was designed for; how it was different from a multivitamin tablet or the usual mixture of just Spirulina, Chlorella and Wheat Grass. This challenge continues today, and we rely very much on one-on-one communication, the support of health practitioners, and word-of-mouth.”
The COVID-19 effect – Supply chain bottlenecks
Trevor says that COVID 19, whilst initially being a cause for increased demand, has resulted in significant supply chain challenges and increased costs, placing pressure on margins and on the ability to supply stock.
“The industry generally is more complex than ever. Because of growth in consumer demand, the entire industry is growing exponentially. We have multiple companies providing innovative ingredients and new delivery formats such as Gummies, candies, and shots. More competition with Venture Capital funding numerous start-ups and multinationals entering the sector. This has brought more focus from regulatory bodies resulting in additional barriers and increased costs.
“However, there is equally more recognition by people of the importance of good nutrition and significant scientific research on the benefits of certain nutrients for specific conditions and general health. There is also greater acceptance by many in the traditional medicine of an integrative approach to health care. Medicine is science, and Science is, after all, the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural world.”
For the greater cause
Trevor believes that knowledge is the first point for good nutrition for everyone. “We are trialling a program in underprivileged primary schools in New Zealand called “Basecamp”. It aims to inspire and empower young children through nutrition, health and wellbeing.
“The school is visited by one of our Nuzest sports ambassadors, who share their success story and explains how being healthy in body and mind helped them believe and achieve their lifelong dream.
“They deliver a masterclass outside on the sports field and then teach the children to make a nutritious smoothie as part of their healthy eating plan. The aim is for the children to make the connection that food is mood and food is energy and that a healthy mind and healthy body lead to greater focus and success.
“We are selecting schools in the 5th decile (lower socio-economic communities) in New Zealand as a sustainable and positive ‘give back to schools in need.
“However, the parents’ education also needs to be addressed. We tend to think of supplements as being expensive. However, if the cost of a serving of Kids Good Stuff is compared with the price of a take-out coffee, a glass of beer or wine, or a packet of cigarettes, we might understand that good nutrition is more accessible than most people realise.
“That does not, of course, apply to everyone. Still, perhaps one answer could be a Government-led social programme in partnership with supplement companies, providing vouchers for quality nutritional support products.”
The never-ending debate on supplements
Monique notes that the question that is debated is the need or otherwise for supplementation by the general population versus reliance on food from your daily diet alone.
“I would like to clarify that we do not advocate supplements as a cure for, or prevention of, disease. I still have Multiple Sclerosis. Whilst a change in lifestyle and good nutrition helped me manage that in the early years, there are pharmaceutical solutions today that can slow down the progression of the disease. We believe in an integrative approach to health, and I take advantage of all the available tools to enable me to lead an everyday life.
“While we firmly believe that food comes first, sometimes diet alone isn’t enough to meet the nutritional requirements of modern life. Even a clean, whole-food-based diet may not provide the variety or required levels of nutrients for optimal health. The soil our food is grown in is often deficient in nutrients. These crops’ harvesting, storage and transportation can further deplete their nutritional value.
“The medical profession widely prescribes some supplements for specific conditions or where there is serious depletion. Vitamin D, Iron, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 and many more are regularly taken on medical advice. Vitamin D is a strongly advised supplement for people with Multiple Sclerosis.
“Additionally, many people have medical or genetic conditions that don’t produce, absorb, or metabolise certain nutrients. If our digestive systems are out of balance, we may not absorb all the nutrients in the food we consume. Other people, such as athletes, tend to need more of certain nutrients than the average person.
“Finally, people are on restricted diets due to food allergies or beliefs where supplementation of certain essential nutrients is advised.
“The difference between a product like Good Green Vitality and a simple multivitamin tablet is that it is food based and therefore contains a matrix of nutrients that can be found in whole foods. It is also more than a multivitamin and much more than just a “greens” powder; it is a comprehensive blend of whole food powders strengthened with high polyphenol fruit extracts, adaptogens, vitamins, minerals, dietary enzymes, probiotics and more, a true superfood more than a simple supplement.”
“Whilst we always advise people to seek advice from their health practitioner before taking supplements for therapeutic purposes, we do advocate the use of a daily multi-nutrient such as Nuzest Good Green Vitality to help fill nutritional gaps due to potential deficiencies in the everyday diet. In many ways, it can be likened to an insurance policy.”