Article as featured in NZ Entrepreneur Magazine here.
While there are many supplements on the market, Viktual+ is among the first to use New Zealand and Pacific native ingredients for better health. Husband and wife team Rochelle and Tana Umaga founded Viktual+ in 2021 after realising they knew too many people of their own age who had died from poor health.
Viktual+ founders, husband and wife team Tana and Rochelle Umaga.
“When we became vegetarian for health reasons about four years ago we wanted to find a protein source. But most of the vegan supplements did not taste good, so we decided to make our own,” Tana says.
Rochelle and Tana, who are of Ngāti Porou and Samoan descent respectively, had always been keen to find more uses for native ingredients, such as kava, kānuka and horopito.
“I was really surprised when I did some research to find that they are not commonly being used for health supplements. It made us realise there was a gap in the market,” Rochelle says.
Viktual+ products include supplements the couple use themselves, such as daily super greens, pre-workout, stress and sleep support, and protein powders. Viktual+ is the first company to use New Zealand native ingredients in a super greens, protein powder and pre-workout.
Rochelle’s favourite product is “Kava Night”, which helps with sleep; while Tana favours the calming “Kava Day”.
They are both new to entrepreneurship – Rochelle has a background in administration and filmmaking while Tana, a former All Blacks captain, is an international rugby coach – and their venture is entirely self-funded.
However, they had a lot of support from the Sprout Accelerator, in the form of mentorship, direction and advice.
“That was so valuable for us as we were new to the business world,” Tana says. He recalls one conversation he had with a mentor who advised him not to give up his day job while he got the business off the ground.
“I told him it was too late for that. So then he said, ‘Well, just don’t sell your house’, and I said, ‘It’s too late for that too’!”
“It does seem quite risky,” Rochelle says, “but that was definitely the right decision for us to make. We believed in what we were doing and we wanted to go all in.”
Viktual+ launched in March 2021. COVID-19 lockdowns gave the couple some challenges to face – as did working together.
“Our relationship changes from being a personal one to being business partners as well, and it’s been interesting to see how differently we work,” Rochelle says.
“But we’ve come to an understanding over time. We both have different strengths that we bring to the business.”
Do they have advice for other would-be entrepreneurs?
Rochelle: “Don’t expect to be successful overnight – it will take time. But if you believe in your product, in what you’re offering, go for it.
“Talk to other people. Maybe you have a friend who started their own business. There are quite a few Accelerator programmes out there, so try and get on one of those.”
Tana’s advice is to find yourself a mentor, especially someone working in the same industry as you.
All Viktual+ products are manufactured in a New Zealand factory certified for pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP).
“Talking to people who have got to where you want to go and who have been on that journey is really valuable. For me, it opened my mind, and I learned so much.”
Viktual+’s range is currently sold online and is stocked in a few bricks-and-mortar shops, which Tana and Rochelle hope will be expanded. However, while the goal is to eventually sell the products overseas, there is a major hurdle to overcome, Rochelle says.
“These native ingredients are not accepted by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration in the United States] or other agencies around the world. This is something that we’re going to have to think about when we want to start exporting, because for us to make that happen would cost a lot of money.
“We know these ingredients will be appreciated overseas, but we just need that behind-the-scenes work to happen first.”
All of Viktual’s products are made at a GMP-certified factory in Hamilton. It is important for the couple that the products are made in New Zealand, Tana says.
Sustainability is also important. Viktual+’s products come in recyclable packaging, with all empty containers, when placed in recycle bins, being turned into fence posts by Future Post or office recycling bins by Method Bins.
“With Viktual+, things have come full circle. We have taken what our ancestors used and incorporated them into modern products.”
Story by Anne-Marie Emerson. In partnership with Sprout.