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Nothing Naughty, a taste of Tīrau in a bar

The mind behind a successful health foods brand straight out of Tīrau says it’s a “no brainer” making treats without the naughty stuff.

Nothing Naughty has been offering a taste of Waikato with a healthy twist via its range of protein bars, protein powder, and collagen supplements.

The Tīrau-based brand was the creation of founders Ian Thorburn and Peter McKee when they were working in the food manufacturing sector in the early 2000s.

Over the past two decades the company has grown from an incubator idea to a fully fledged business with 27 additional staff added to the original eight, four sites across the North Island and a focus on sourcing locally.

A baker by trade, Thorburn started cooking up the idea from his Tauranga home after seeing a gap in the market created by a trend towards healthy eating.

Since shifting to the South Waikato town from Tauranga in 2019 in search of a more affordable and less competitive climate, they say it’s been a smooth entry into their new site and retail store in the heart of town.

“We thought this is a no-brainer, this is a great idea because if we start to make stuff that is healthier, everyone will want this,” former owner Ian Thorburn said.

With a “good variety” of food products packaged in vibrant colours with a eco-friendly focus, Nothing Naughty has also taken on the sustainability bandwagon with reusable glass jars, biodegradable scoops, refillable bags for many of its products as well as a switch to packaging with wool in lieu of bubble wrap.

Nothing Naughty was now selling about 300,000 bars per month nationwide and across the ditch in Australia, Thorburn said.

“With the manufacturing you’re always being pushed by the supermarkets because they’re the ones that dictate what’s going on.

“We got to the point where we came up with this Nothing Naughty idea to try and be healthier and make better products while trying not to use the naughty ingredients.”

Meanwhile new owners and Waikato locals Alex Mark and Rob James from Sportsfuel took the reins in 2021 while “creative genius” Thorburn still keeps a foot in the door.

The two young entrepreneurs were friends from school and had already made a start in business when they purchased sport supplements and protein powder retailer Sportsfuel in 2018, with its warehouse in Hamilton.

“We bought the business in about mid 2021,” Mark said.

“I googled how to make money online when I was about 15 at school and did affiliate marketing one way or another since then.”

Sportsfuel had already been working with Nothing Naughty, selling the products in their stores and online, before coming to the negotiating table to see about purchasing the brand.

”This [product] is just authentic, it’s just straight to the point, no rubbish, it’s got an appealing brand and the name is great.

“It’s just a passionate consumer base really, they just love it for so many reasons.”

Nothing Naughty has come a long way from when Thorburn “pounded the streets” of Hamilton, putting the signature protein bars in honesty boxes and hospital menus. The bars now feature in Four Squares, gym facilities, outlets, vending machines and the army.

Covid-19 and supply-chain shortages on the occasion had proved challenging along the way, while staying true to the brand’s healthy and guilt free values was a constant focus.

Subtle re-branding and social media especially have helped Nothing Naughty catapult further with marketing fit for the social media prone generations.

“The whole business just grew...I think even today through the advertising that is done online, it just grew, wholesale has grown with it,” Thorburn said.

Thorburn couldn’t fault their newfound home right in the South Waikato. “It is a great spot,” he said, with a positive community backing. He was optimistic about what would come next for the brand.

“Who doesn’t want to drive across the country...I come over the Kaimais everyday, it’s a nice drive and you’ve got all these people here.”

- Waikato Times

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