Nutrachampion podcast

Retailer success strategies: Renovatio founder on why nutra start-ups should learn to say no

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Renovatio founder on why nutra start-ups should learn to say no and stick to their principles

Related tags Renovatio Australia Coles Woolworths Retailers

Nutraceutical start-ups should “learn to say no” to questionable retail strategies and “know where their boundaries are” as they seek to grow the distribution of their products, says Renovatio Bioscience’s founder Dr Vincent Candrawinata in the first episode of year 2024's Nutrachampion podcast.

Today, the firm’s products are widely available across Australia – from health foods stores, to pharmacies, and supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths.

The firm has come a long way from its first retail deal, one that was sealed with a small health foods store known as Pure Health, located in Queen Victoria building, Sydney.

Recounting the challenges faced when starting his business back in 2015, Dr Vincent said that there was a lot of pressure on small business owners to say yes to many things in order to secure a place in retail stores.

Industry veterans also told him that having a small number of SKUs would not cut it in the retail environment. He would need to increase the product range – even if it is simply for the sake of it or by following a template of product formulations.

“One of the criticisms that we first received before we got into retail chains and supermarkets was that we didn't have a range of products.”

At the time, the firm had only two products, namely its flagship Activated Phenolics Powder and An Apple A Day Activated Phenolics tablets.

Dr Vincent Candrawinata
Dr Vincent Candrawinata

“The feedback that we received was that we will need to have a range if we want to be in a retail environment; it doesn't matter what it is, you can just get a template recipe or formula and then put some together as long as you have a range of say 10 products.

“But that to me is not ethical. I will only put out products that are, firstly, something that I will take, and secondly, something I know will work.

“And so, I said no. And this advice came from people who are quite seasoned and experienced in the industry. And I said no several times to that.

“Because I only want to put products with integrity out there, products as a scientist that I can endorse, that I can put my name on the product,” ​said the alumni of the University of Newcastle, Australia. 

Sticking to his principles and values has paid off.

In December 2019, while he was presenting in front of the Australia Food and Grocery Council Conference in Sydney, he emphasised how research was crucial in retaining repurchase rate.  

“I was talking about my research, about the fundamental aspects of the nutra industry and I was talking about how scientifically researched formulations and products are key to making it in the retail business, in the way how it could be sold to the customers and how customers would continue to support the brand.”

Little did he know that the managing director of Woolworths supermarket was present and went up to him and later introduced him to her colleagues who were running supplement sales in the supermarket. 

Soon enough on the 3rd​ of January 2020, Renovatio clinched the deal to work with Woolworths.

"It took us a while to find our place in the retail environment. But that waiting time was so worth it.

"I do sincerely believe and firmly believe that had we just put whatever products out there, just to have a range to get accepted into retail, we probably wouldn't be a business now, because we would have lost the confidence of our customers or our customers will try the product and find that it didn't work and will stop taking them, as opposed to how people are speaking [positively] about our products."

Not all money is good money

Although Dr Vincent had stood firm on his principles, he frankly admitted that he thought it might be the stupidest decision ever to have rejected these advices.

“How did I feel at that time? I felt that I was doing the stupidest business decision…” ​he said, adding that the advice received had made him feel disheartened, as the industry has also prided itself as being ethical.

A reminder from his father had helped him stand his ground, said Dr Vincent who was born and bred in Indonesia.

Especially at the beginning, when Renovatio was still a smaller brand, a smaller size company, a lot of people thought that I would say yes to everything, simply because we wanted the sales, simply because we wanted the contract.

But I always remember that my father told me this: "not all money is good money."

I never thought I would have to really lean on this advice. But I remember that there were offers that were being presented to me – obviously they're not illegal – but they don't necessarily lined up with my moral values.

These experiences also made him realised the need for brand owners to know where their boundaries are to protect their brands, their product quality and reputation.

“And I learned that it's actually harder to say no, when money's involved, but I think, especially brand owners that start their brand from smaller size, from the ground up, I think it's very important for us to learn how to say no, and to know what our boundaries are.

“Because at the end of the day is your brand. Its literally your name on the brand, and you need to be happy with your decision.

“I am very happy that looking back now that I have said several major ‘no’s in the history of the company because I want to preserve what the company is all about and going forward, I can be proud in saying that I did everything right and I did everything based on my values and morals confines.”

Aiming to become the ‘fourth apple’ and not a ‘one-hit wonder’

Dr Vincent has no interest in becoming an overnight success. He is also mindful that his brand would not be a “one-hit wonder”. The goal he has set for his company is to become the “fourth apple” – after the Adam’s apple, Newton’s apple, and the tech giant Apple.                                                                                                          

“You can be an overnight success, but a good message should be a sustainable message. Activated phenolics has been around in the commercial space since 2015. The research I did, and the technology was invented in 2012. If it’s just a trendy ingredient or product, we would have been history now…

“I truly believe that I will be the fourth apple in the world. There are three apples that have changed the course of humanity, the first one is Adam’s apple, the second one is Newton’s Apple, the third one is Steve Jobs’ apple, and my dream is to be the fourth apple – Vincent’s apple.”

It seems that the company is on track to reaching its ambitious goal. It is now planning its debut into America, the world’s largest nutraceutical market.

Back home in Australia, the brand has earned recognition based on the word-of-mouth. 

“People are very willing to share the experience. I mean, we have the NPS or Net Promoter Score on third party review website hovering between 90 and 100. Majority of the complaints was about shipping, but that's out of our control and the loyalty number and score in the two biggest supermarkets in Australia are very high.

“So that is one of the things that when you look back, I was like, okay, I'm glad that I was being patient. I was standing in my own truth, rather than making what people say is a savvy business decision, because again, at the end, not all money is good money.”

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

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