Angus Brown’s natural health drink to improve brain function, Ārepa, has seen a surge in sales since Covid-19 as the virus heightened people’s focus on their health and wellbeing, and it’s not the only product that’s benefiting.
Ārepa had a 250% spike in sales in the month after lockdown and has continued to grow since then, making it the fastest selling health drink in supermarkets.
“We’ve been doubling revenue year-on-year since Covid began,” says Brown, Ārepa’s co-founder and chief executive. “Everyone just seems to want it more and more now. With the rates of people with cognitive related concerns coupled with Covid related immunity concerns, we got a double-pronged benefit.”
Ārepa expanded to Australia last year, and is fielding enquiries from further afield, including Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. It raised $2.5 million last year to fund its Australian expansion and is eyeing a bigger raising within the next year to fund a push into the US.
The company has bought in some heavy hitters to help, including former Zespri chief Lain Jager who has become an investor and joined the board, and Allbirds branding guru Simon Endres who is refreshing the brand for global expansion.
Other nutritional brands have also experienced a sales boost since Covid.
Nutrient Rescue, which produces fruit and vege powdered sachet "shots", doubled its average daily new customers in the last quarter of 2021 from the equivalent pre-Covid period in 2019, and growth has continued this year.
Chief executive Andrew Simcock says the jump in new customers shows the impact of Covid as the pandemic put the spotlight on the importance of being healthy and having good immunity.
A survey prepared by NZ Trade and Enterprise, Te Taurapa Tūhono, for the company’s expansion into Australia showed that following the outbreak of Covid-19, an additional 8% of Australians planned to prioritise healthy food and drink in May 2020 compared with the month earlier, and there was also an increase in the number of people who preferred products with immunity boosting properties.
The trends were also seen in other markets, including Singapore, the UK and US, suggesting a global trend of consumers concerned with health, the report said.
“People are much more aware of how important their general health is,” Simcock says. “We are a young business that’s in growth mode, but we are definitely seeing a pickup.”
While the company’s products were initially sought out by people with specific health concerns, Simcock says demand is now coming from people in the mainstream who are seeking better nutrition from natural products, and moving away from supplements and energy drinks.
He says it can be hard to eat properly with enough diversity in your diet for good nutrition, and Nutrient Rescue makes it easier by providing a daily dose of eight types of fruit and veges
“We have a number of these wonderful, nutrient dense superfoods that we can produce and take overseas, as well as feeding our own requirements,” Simcock says.
Lincoln University agribusiness and food marketing programme director Dr Nic Lees says companies are responding to a desire among consumers for products that are perceived to be more healthy, a trend that has accelerated since Covid.
“In the current environment, things are changing very rapidly,” he says. “These things have been simmering along, but all of a sudden there is a real focus around food that is providing health benefits.”
Still, Lees says while people want their food to be healthy, they don’t want to go through a lot of effort. And they’re increasingly aware that taking supplements in a capsule form isn’t necessarily giving the same benefit as nutrients contained within food.
Lees is following the trend in his own life, taking a veggie snack box to work every day to ensure he gets his daily dose of fruit and veges to be healthy.
He notes Asian cultures are more attuned to the impact of food on health but says it’s a rising trend among European New Zealanders, given extra momentum from Covid.
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