It shouldn’t take a pandemic for people to see the benefits of taking care of themselves and their bodies. And while this era is in part defined by refining rituals of care at home, like increased exercise, dietary changes, or adding supplements to their routine, the fact is these narratives and practices existed long before we were forced to stay in with ourselves. Wellness, a tricky term that can mean anything and nothing, has long been an important category. Growth, sure, because of the pandemic may cause this number to fluctuate, but by 2025 the global health and wellness segment is expected to reach nearly $6 trillion.
Enter Dose & Co. The New Zealand natural collagen brand launched during the pandemic (and not because of the pandemic), quickly making a name for itself outside of its own market. Collagen is a fairly visible and important product in New Zealand, and Dose & Co. is currently making its way through the U.S. and U.K. In the U.S., the collagen market was valued at nearly $9 billion, according to Grandview Research. One massive aspect of Dose & Co.’s U.S. expansion is the collaboration and promotion by one of its users and biggest fans: Khloe Kardashian. When researching collagen supplements for her postnatal care, Kardashian stumbled upon Dose & Co. The rest is, as they say, history. But Dose & Co. is more than the endorsement it receives, and the DTC brand is representative of a new age of disruptors, ones that appear in many other categories than wellness, that try to stand for something more and bring a sense of meaning to their buyers’ lives.
Here, with Dose & Co.’s Marc Day, digital creative lead, and Laken Oyagawa, senior marketing executive, we’ll uncover some of the stickiness of surviving and thriving in a crowded segment, how social media helps extend customer reach and foster community, and how Dose & Co. conceptualize global expansion, dissecting some of the logistics for why or why not the product can make it to a certain market—for now.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Shopify: I want to understand from you both what the wellness market is like in New Zealand. When I'm thinking of wellness, I have a distinctly North American lens to it. I wonder how popular something like collagen is?
Marc Day: Collagen in New Zealand is surprisingly big. The New Zealand market has a lot of big collagen brands doing a relatively good job, compared to the likes of something like the U.K., where collagen has fewer established brands in the market. And so for social here, for example, we're not spending as much on educational content as we are in some other markets. It’s definitely a unique category, and customers are quite different. I remember seeing some infomercials probably ten or so years ago of collagen supplements on TV, so I feel like the New Zealand market is really accustomed to the idea of collagen.
Are there any nuances to wellness in New Zealand? Are there any other specific aspects of wellness and health in New Zealand that you see differ from the other regions that Dose & Co. reach?
Day: I'd say New Zealand is fairly clued up on the wellness game where we often see ourselves as kind of a test market for a lot of brands because it's just small, concentrated, where it's great to get things you need to do before taking on something as big as the U.S. We see wellness and collagen specifically skewing younger or older in different markets, but in New Zealand, you’ve got that median customer. Then across to the U.S., you often see it skewing a bit older.
Laken Oyagawa: I think we're trying to create an online wellness brand though, so wellness obviously translates in many different ways into markets. We're really just trying to have, I guess, collagen and wellness be a similar term in most places. In New Zealand, I think that's already established.
Can you expand on that? Because I think it's interesting that wellness is the umbrella term. Does that mean that Dose & Co. specifically would expand product-wise? Or will Dose & Co. still be collagen-focused?
Oyagawa: We'll always be collagen-focused. It's what we do best—being able to provide a better and super accessible price point to a lot of people. I think there are obviously talks of new products that we can extend into, you know, the vegan and vegetarian market because collagen doesn't translate into this. But I think, especially in times of COVID, people are staying home. They're really looking into ways to invest in their health and wellbeing—looking at ways to incorporate self-care, whether that's through exercise and moving your body, or investing in what you put inside your body.
Your natural collagen slows down when you're around 25. Looking at ways to supplement that in a more natural way is exactly where Dose and Co. fit in, and I think it sits quite nicely in that notion of wellness, especially during this COVID time where everyone is trying to better themselves. You're staying home, you've got more time to reflect. You've got more time to invest in your health and your physical and mental well-being. I think that's how we're trying to translate it into the wellness market and really position Dose & Co. as a wellness brand.
I also wonder that because wellness has been wrapped up in the pandemic, as you said, were you surprised at the way people invested in this care? I'm trying to find a delicate way to frame this question without skirting the fact that this has been a gruesome pandemic. But were you surprised by people embracing that sense of, “OK, I'm going to take care of myself while I'm home?”
Day: One hundred percent, definitely. It has grown massively in the last 12 to 18 months, especially considering the kind of time we're in. Fifty percent of adults have found that being at home more than usual has helped them feel more control of their health and well-being—physical or mental.
Oyagawa: We definitely didn't launch because of the pandemic. It was interesting timing that everyone was investing in their health and wellness. But I think collagen was coming into the market in 2019, and everyone was finding a way to have that natural glow. We've really looked into that self-care notion in the past 18 months to adapt to global trends.
Certain things in wellness trend up, and people get super excited about them, but then they'll trend down. How Dose & Co. is prepared for that?
Oyagawa: Collagen is a huge trend at the moment. Obviously, we're talking about it. Khloe Kardashian is talking about it and how it helped her postpartum hair loss, and that it gives you a natural glow. I think it is actually a global trend as well. That's not just in New Zealand but in the U.S. too. When we came into the market, it was already a huge thing with some competitors, but the U.K. was less established.
You could say it is a trend now—but the results speak for themselves and that's why people use it, and that's why people buy it. These days, you'll find out very quickly if a brand falls short if there's no proof of the promises. If you read a few reviews, there might be an initial hype but then it dies down. We have only gotten bigger in the past 18 months as people have seen their results. That's where a lot of our marketing comes into play—really getting that message across to take those 28 days and show us your before and afters. We love engaging with everyone who's using Dose & Co.—who tell us, “these amazing products reduced fine lines,” which Dose & Co. is scientifically shown to do. We're always looking for new ways to reach markets, like vegan and vegetarian customers. We will be looking to position ourselves in the beauty wellness market, too. But, for now, we haven't seen any signs of slowing down, which is amazing.
You've both alluded to expanding, and the differences in the U.S. and U.K. markets. I'd really like to understand the position of Dose & Co. in the global market and what research is done by the brand in that pursuit. Are there other regions where it is available or will soon be available? And how do you do so with the brand still so young?
Day: Lots of expansion on the horizon, no signs of slowing down. We find lots of ideas for where we want to go next in Instagram comments and DMs of people going, “when are you coming to my country?” When you have enough of those comments, maybe it's time to think about it. With the state the world is in at the moment, we want to be as accessible as possible. Each market is only able to ship domestically, and there are regulations about supplements in each individual market. We really do have to be in each market where people are wanting to find us. People will find convenience in a DTC subscription or some will want to just drop it in their trolley on their weekly shop, and that drives our approach. The split between offering in DTC, as well as offering the in-store brick and mortar retail channel, and giving our customers the freedom, option, and accessibility both in product and in price to get our product is really a driver for our global expansion.
Oyagawa: There's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes with logistics and ensuring our sustainable packaging is available in every market. We are produced locally because of regulations. But yes, there's a lot of people requesting [our products], and then our team researches to find a gap in the market, to see if there even is a market for collagen.
Do you really see the engagement and conversation between users and the brand on social helping to build the overall community of Dose & Co.?
Oyagawa: Our whole strategy has a huge focus on social and digital marketing, ensuring we're able to reach the right target market. That's the beauty of social media and ecommerce: all the data you get about what you do for your consumers. In today's world, reviews are becoming more relevant: A large portion of our sales are just made up by people literally seeing positive results. We have over 200,000 followers on Instagram. That’s a really large following. It's really important for us to create a highly engaged social community. I think that's at the forefront. We have this amazing community management team; customer service who are basically working around the clock for us and love engaging with customers. There’s a real person behind it. They want to hear the story. They want to see results. This online platform of wellness and speaking to what you do daily—that matters.
When I was doing research, I read reviews about the brand's sustainable containers, but also that the product is flat-lay ready because of the packaging and design. I just wonder why do those creative choices matter and how do they reflect the brand?
Day: It's just huge to be recognizable in that marketplace, especially where you're coming in to disrupt—you need to have something that really stands out from what has traditionally been on the shelf for 10, 20 years. It’s really crucial for us to have something that stands out against the rest of the competition. So that it looks great in an influencer unboxing video is massive for us as it becomes recognizable.
Oyagawa: If you're creating a new-age brand, which is what we're trying to do, we're trying to create this disruption in the market that appeals to a wider market as well. You always have to consider things like, how is it going to look? Do people want to align with your brand? And then obviously it being an Instagrammable moment is a bonus. For us though, sustainability is important. If you are a brand coming into the market, and you’re not considering things like that, you're going to become irrelevant pretty quickly because it's not just a trend, it's about creating a better future. So sustainable packaging, for example, we might have to jump through a few more hoops to get that on a shelf or it might be a bit pricier on our side, but we think it's super important and we're going to stick true to the brand’s values.
I love thinking about that in the DTC space and how, sure, you're wellness, but you're kind of over here into beauty, too. Do you think that some brands are moving towards approaching their business going into this century and beyond that things don't have to be so rigid but more their own in definition?
Oyagawa: You want to be a relatable brand. People are not wanting to buy brands that their parents bought 20 years ago just for the sake of ease. People are really researching what these brands stand for. You know, there was a huge thing a couple of years ago around palm oil. It really brought to light to make sure that products are free of things like that. So, with that in mind, we think, how can we globalize? How can we expand this brand and ensure that people are aligning with it— that it's a brand they want to support? For us, it's a brand we want to work for, and that's super important also.