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CHIA: Breaking into the Asian and Australian markets

Learn how a Nelson-based natural drink company is taking on the Australian market with the support of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s immersion programme, Path to Market.

CHIA founder Chloe Van Dyke is from a competitive, outdoor-loving family, and her natural drink business CHIA reflects her active background.

“CHIA began as an endurance drink for athletes. My dad is a world-champion swimmer, and my sister is a New Zealand champion triathlete. I was creating a drink for them,” explains the Nelson-based business owner.

After some trial and error with recipes, their first bottling was in December 2012. Things were moving fast. Chloe started working on CHIA full-time, and soon had her product selling around New Zealand.

A good plan from the start

In mid-2013, Chloe entered and won the ANZ Flying Start Business Plan competition, run by business.govt.nz.

“The whole process of writing a business plan has really helped. Writing a plan allows you to step back and look at what you’re trying to achieve. It allows you to put systems in place that make things a whole lot easier,” says Chloe.

The big win also led to greater awareness. “We were in magazines, I was asked to talk. We needed to up our production!”

CHIA see what others do the beginning

Finding the right people

As CHIA expanded, Chloe took an unusual approach to finding the right people to be brand ambassadors around New Zealand.

Through social media, she asked anyone interested in working as an ambassador to post a photo to Facebook or Instagram featuring CHIA.

The social media angle cleverly tapped into CHIA’s target market, and showed how well the potential ambassadors were able to promote the product.

In October 2016, four new brand ambassadors set out to develop strong relationships with cafés and other stockists in regions around New Zealand.

Going global: CHIA arrives in Asia and Australia

CHIA began as a small, Nelson-based family business in 2012. By 2015 they were exporting to Singapore and Malaysia, and a year later entered the Australian market.

“We worked with other companies in the Nelson region to access these markets. We share containers with Pic's Peanut Butter and Proper Crisps, and work together on distribution. I think there is a huge amount of potential for New Zealand companies willing to work together in export markets,” says Chloe.

Joining the Asia New Zealand Foundation also helped CHIA grow in the Asian market.

“The foundation has been invaluable in helping us develop our understanding of Asian countries, allowing us to further understand who our customer is and the potential for CHIA and AWAKA (a range of coconut waters) in these countries.”

Before exporting CHIA, Chloe had laid the foundation for a strong business.

“We spent the first two years establishing ourselves in NZ, so we had a strong base here, we had production under control, cash-flow under control. And then we started looking at our export markets,” says Chloe.

Head of Exports and Sales, Chloe’s sister Florence says, “I think the key challenge we were facing before we entered Australia was doing the right research, knowing the exact channels that we were going to be entering, knowing the right distribution model, and knowing the margins that each party should be taking.”

When Florence and Chloe began to investigate the Australian market, their Customer Manager suggested attending New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s Path to Market immersion programme.

Path to Market connects growing businesses with established experts, and includes a workshop, panel session, and in-market visit to Melbourne.

Florence explains how connecting with experts really challenged her, “They picked apart my business strategy, particularly for exporting to Australia, and made me think of a lot of different aspects to exporting that I hadn’t considered before.”

The visit to Melbourne proved invaluable.

“We spent two or three days having sessions with social media experts, distributors, people that were freighting products. And then the best part for me was getting in-market. We were taken across a whole variety of stores in Melbourne — from Costco, to cafés, to small independent supermarkets.”

There were plenty of opportunities to make contacts with local businesses, and other New Zealand businesses.

“We went to the Fine Foods Expo in Melbourne, and this was a really valuable experience.  It was here that I got talking to a distributor who is now our distributor in Melbourne,” says Florence.

In–market immersion programmes for deeper understanding (external link) — NZTE

Business programmes (external link) — Asia New Zealand Foundation

CHIA see what others do managing staff

Advice for start-ups wanting to go global

Chloe’s top tip for businesses wanting to grow beyond New Zealand is to spend time in–market, and really get to know your customer.

Florence’s key points for businesses wanting to enter Australia are:

  • Understand the Australian market is different to the New Zealand market.
  • Consider the channels you’re entering, eg supermarket, café, or specialist store.
  • Treat Australia as 7 markets — each state is different.

Chloe adds, “We often use the business.govt.nz website. CHIA is continually growing, this means we are continually learning and business.govt.nz is an amazing source of information.”