Kiwi entrepreneur and Stolen Spirits co-founder Jamie Duff is setting his sights on shaking up the casual athlete’s nutrition supplements industry with his latest venture in New York.
Just a few years ago he was trawling through the United States setting up blind meetings with investors to try and get some traction for his New Zealand-grown rum company Stolen. After 12 months of hard slog, he struck up a deal with Liquid Asset Brands (LAB) who took a controlling interest in the company.
Using all the tips and tricks he learnt during that time about cracking the US market, Duff has teamed up with former Stolen creative director Kelvin Soh to form a new venture studio New New. The studio was set up to create and grow consumer product businesses for the US market. They focus on health and wellbeing, beauty, and beverages and also have a New Zealand arm to advise Kiwi and Australian companies on how to enter the US market.
The first venture to launch is the New York-based Weekday Warriors, a direct-to-consumer fitness nutrition company making innovative, free-from and premium convenience products designed for busy people. In short they call it ‘fitness nutrition for everyday athletes’.
The pair worked with New York-based fitness entrepreneurs and co-founders Alex Page and Andrew Yeoh to seek out a gap in the market.
Those unacquainted with the industry may consider the fitness nutrition market already flooded. It is considered the fastest growing category in consumer health, and between 2014-2019 is forecast to increase by 41 percent. North America is leading that multi-billion dollar growth. But Duff says the team quickly identified the casual gym-goer was missing out, with most fitness nutrition brands being aimed at bodybuilders.
“Most snack foods and casual beverages don’t support fitness either, so that is the gap and that’s where Weekday Warriors comes in. We are in the first wave, as Lululemon was for ‘athleisure’. Seven years ago, no one ever dreamed people would wear gym gear to go and meet their friends for coffee.”
The first two products to be launched on 17 July are the workout coffee sachet Protein Joe and a yoga-inspired instant hydration and recovery tablet, Yoga Flow. Two further products are currently in the works along with a wider health and wellbeing data platform.
The products have been in development for 18 months, with the team taking care to conduct detailed market research to find the best ways to innovate. The types of product, serving size, ingredients and delivery mechanism were all tweaked until they were right for their target consumer: the work-hard, work-out harder people who squeeze fitness into their busy lives.
Getting the branding right was key, and the simple design reflects the simple use instructions of both the launch products: just add water. To reach their initial customers with their purely online strategy, New New has picked certain pockets in the US and tested those audiences using Facebook and Instagram as the sole sales and marketing platforms.
To assist with the US launch, New New recruited Auckland-based Sam Stutchbury and his team at Motion Sickness.
“I looked around for a team to bring on board that could produce world-class content, and also manage that content in digital media channels for measurable return on investment. Very few people have those two skills working synergistically; but Sam and his team do,” Duff says.
Breaking into the extremely competitive and fast-paced US market presents a lot of the same challenges entrepreneurs face entering any market, Duff says. Product and business innovation, capital and execution all top the list of priorities, but he says the margin of error is lower and the cash required higher.
“It’s completely different to New Zealand because of the scale and relative innovation, and the speed of the market. The liberation is that you find out pretty quickly if you have a scalable idea or not and I like that aspect. Consumer products businesses in New Zealand, in my experience, can be sometimes deceiving with regards to a measure of true wider (global) market validation.”
There are no plans yet to expand outside of the US, but Duff says they’d love to see the Weekday Warriors products on shelves in New Zealand. Particularly because it would be the perfect opportunity to target Australia as well, which is one of the biggest fitness nutrition markets outside of the US.
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