Angus Brown’s natural health drink for improving brain function, Ārepa, has seen a surge in sales since Covid-19 as the virus has increased people’s focus on their health and well-being, and this n isn’t the only product that benefits.
Ārepa saw a 250% rise in sales in the month following the lockdown and has continued to grow since then, making it the best-selling health drink in supermarkets.
“We’ve doubled our revenue year over year since Covid began,” says Brown, co-founder and chief executive of Ārepa. “Everyone seems to want it more and more now. With the rates of people having cognitive problems associated with Covid-related immunity issues, we got a double win.
Brown’s drink, made with black currants, pine bark extract and L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, benefits from a global trend toward convenient, natural foods with health benefits. health which has been accelerated by Covid.
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Ārepa expanded to Australia last year and is responding to inquiries from further afield, including Singapore, Hong Kong, the UK and the US. It raised $2.5 million last year to fund its Australian expansion and is eyeing a bigger raise over the next year to fund a US push.
The company has brought on some heavy hitters to help, including former Zespri chief Lain Jager, who became an investor and joined the board, and Allbirds brand guru Simon Endres. which refreshes the brand for global expansion.
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Other nutritional brands have also seen increased sales since Covid.
Nutrient Rescue, which produces shots of fruit and vegetable powder packets, doubled its daily average of new customers in the last quarter of 2021 compared to the equivalent pre-Covid period in 2019, and growth has continued this year.
Chief executive Andrew Simcock said the rise in new customers shows the impact of Covid as the pandemic shines a spotlight on the importance of being healthy and having good immunity.
A survey prepared by NZ Trade and Enterprise, Te Taurapa Tūhono, for business expansion in Australia showed that as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, an additional 8% of Australians planned to prioritize to healthy foods and beverages in May 2020 compared to the previous month. , and there has also been an increase in the number of people preferring products with immunity-boosting properties.
The trends were also seen in other markets, including Singapore, the UK and the US, suggesting a global trend of health-conscious consumers, according to the report.
“People are much more aware of the importance of their overall health,” says Simcock. “We are a young company in growth mode, but we are definitely seeing a recovery.”
While the company’s products were initially sought by people with specific health conditions, Simcock says demand is now coming from people in the general public who are looking for better nutrition from natural products and moving away from supplements and drugs. energy drinks.
He says it can be difficult to eat properly with a diet that is diverse enough for good nutrition, and Nutrient Rescue makes it easy by providing a daily dose of eight types of fruits and vegetables.
“We have a number of these wonderful, nutrient-dense superfoods that we can produce and take overseas, while meeting our own needs,” says Simcock.
Director of the University of Lincoln’s Agribusiness and Food Marketing program Dr Nic Lees says companies are responding to consumers’ desire for products perceived to be healthier, a trend that has accelerated since Covid .
“In today’s environment, things change very quickly,” he says. “These things are simmering, but all of a sudden there’s a real interest in foods that offer health benefits.”
Yet, says Lees, even though people want their food to be healthy, they don’t want to put in a lot of effort. And they’re increasingly aware that taking supplements in capsule form doesn’t necessarily provide the same benefits as nutrients in food.
Lees is following the trend in his own life, grabbing a box of vegetarian snacks at work every day to ensure he gets his daily dose of fruits and vegetables for good health.
He notes that Asian cultures are more sensitive to the impact of food on health, but says this is an increasing trend among European New Zealanders, given the added boost of Covid.
Consumer companies are also jumping on the trend, with niche peanut butter brand Nut Brothers recently adding a new line of probiotics and cranberries.
“You always have to innovate and come up with new things,” says co-founder Jono Wood. “If you look at what’s happening in the world, you see American companies have done this, and we thought it was smart, we’ll give it a try.”
He says it’s a great way for families to add healthy foods to their kids’ diets.
“Probiotics are a good thing and it’s an easy way to introduce them to your family,” he says. “You are what you eat, so everyone has to supplement all the good stuff in some way.”
Lees, of the University of Lincoln, says people increasingly want their food products to be healthy and feel they have benefits from them.
“What’s always really interesting is how much of an actual benefit it is versus a perceived benefit,” he says.
Although there is good evidence for the use of mānuka honey for wound care, there is no evidence that consuming mānuka honey has any health benefits, he says.
Very few consumers will actually review a product’s evidence, and they don’t always behave rationally, he says.
Most products have some degree of scientific backing linking it to health benefits, and that’s good enough for most consumers, he says.
“As long as you have enough indications that it is, then people perceive it to be healthier and better for you and a whole bunch of things that there’s probably not a lot of evidence of if it’s whether or not,” he said.
Yet some companies spend a lot on science to back up their nutrition claims.
New Zealand’s largest food company, dairy giant Fonterra, is increasing its spending on innovation by 50% to around $160 million a year by 2030 as it digs deeper into the properties of milk, so it can produce high-value nutritional products.
Fonterra has discovered and commercialized two of the best probiotic strains in the world, which treat digestive and immune problems, and holds more than 40,000 dairy culture strains at its research and development center in Palmerston North, one of the largest libraries in dairy culture in the world. Most have not yet been tested for their potential as probiotics and may have health benefits never seen before.
In December last year, Fonterra teamed up with world-renowned scientist Dr Robert Langer, co-founder of vaccine maker Moderna, and his US biotech company VitaKey, which specializes in the precision delivery of nutrition.
Langer says people may not realize that many nutrients are destroyed before they are consumed, and his company has developed technology to stabilize nutrients and ensure they survive and are bioavailable to the consumer.
The first stage of the collaboration focused on stabilizing Fonterra’s two probiotics for digestive issues and immunity to allow them to be delivered to the parts of the body where they are needed most for optimal nutrition. The company has since expanded to include other micronutrients such as vitamin D.
Langer hopes VitaKey will be game-changing for the US$8 trillion (NZ$12 billion) a year global food industry.
“Nutrition is so important,” he says. “I’m just trying to do what I can with science to hopefully make the world a happier, healthier place. Our goal is to see as many people around the world as possible benefit from it.