Skip to main content

Catherine Beard traces the export journey of Go Native – the brand fueling the active outdoors market and helping clean up our world.

Without a healthy planet to enjoy, what do we have? Duncan Forbes, founder of Go Native, which makes natural fruit bars and meals for the active outdoors market, says it’s a natural fit for the company to team up with Sustainable Coastlines to turn used sails into aprons and tote bags.

Duncan and his wife came back to New Zealand after nine years in the UK with the ambition to set up a food brand that really captures the best of New Zealand produce and exports it around the world.

Through a mutual friend they met fellow outdoors adventurer and now business partner Garth McIntyre, who already had a business feeding emergency and defence forces.

After a discussion about the lack of quality, natural food products for active people, the trio hatched a plan to launch Go Native. The aim was to create enjoyable, natural food for everyone – from Olympians to everyday outdoors adventurers.

“You can be out in these beautiful natural environments,” says Duncan, “and need to fuel your body. So why not do it with food you can trust, that’s tasty?

“We decided to create something we’d want to eat ourselves that would have a meaningful nutritional impact, that’s only got about four ingredients in it, and that we’d happily give to our children.”

They developed some low-GI, slow-release energy fruit bars and gave them to sports nutritionists. The first customer who bought them was the All Blacks – who loved them and have been customers ever since. Word soon spread in the sports market and now Go Native supply a number of teams – such as the Silver Ferns, various Super Rugby teams, and the Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams.

“After getting into New Zealand’s retail market, supermarkets and sports stores, our export journey began,” says Duncan.  

With the aim of looking for some volume, they started selling on Amazon in North America, where they now sell to a number of Olympic and sports teams such as US rugby and US archery (there are 18 million registered archers in North America). They also sell into the Australia, Singapore and China sports channels.  

Following on from fruit bars, came ready-to-eat meals. While walking the Kepler Track with a group of 22 friends, Duncan and his wife had put together a 24-hour food pack which included breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea and coffee with ready-to-eat casseroles and curries as the main meals. Their food was the envy of their friends who only had dehydrated food.

“Everyone said ‘if you sold those for $34.99 we’d buy them!’ That’s when we launched into the outdoor space with food packs that take the pain away for people planning hiking or outdoor adventures,” says Duncan.

“We’ve launched them in New Zealand and Australian outdoor stores, and plan to take them to North America too. You have to find a unique way into the US market because it’s so saturated and big! We work with high profile people, teams and athletes and create unique targeted campaigns to get cut-through.”

Go Native’s sustainability work is an obvious link given its love of the outdoors and its customers – especially its connections with the marine world, including supplying food to winning round-the-world yacht Dongfeng.

“We wanted to support Sustainable Coastlines work and make a meaningful difference in helping to clean up the plastic rubbish problem in New Zealand waterways and around the world,” says Duncan.

“We’ve reused sails and made them into nautical tote bags and aprons. Each bag purchased (at enables Sustainable Coastlines to pick up 30 litres of rubbish. The goal is to clean up 60,000 litres of coastal rubbish.”

Duncan’s two top export tips:

  • Really engage with your market and drive creative initiatives that will illuminate your product directly to your target customer. Get really specific about who your target customer is; find innovative ways to get in front of them.
  • Leverage global Kiwi networks such as Kea and NZTE. There are some great Kiwis all over the world who would love to connect with Kiwi companies.
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


Dishing up export possibilities

Exporter Today Editorial TeamExporter Today Editorial TeamApril 16, 2012

What’s mine is not yours

Exporter Today Editorial TeamExporter Today Editorial TeamApril 16, 2012

25 countries… and counting

Exporter Today Editorial TeamExporter Today Editorial TeamApril 16, 2012