No Ugly SWAPPA crate

How does a drink say no to ‘ugly’?

Every week on The Primer we ask a local business or product to introduce themselves in eight simple takes. This week we talk to Aaron and Jo Taylor, founders of wellness drink No Ugly.

ONE: How did No Ugly start and what was the inspiration behind it?

We’ve worked in advertising for over 20 years. We’ve worked with brands that have defined popular culture in New Zealand and we’ve always aspired to create our own branded product.

A few years ago, we become more aware of the importance of good nutrition and overall ‘wellness’ as a concept. We also noticed that people were saying ‘no’ to things that they perceived as being bad: ingredients, products, behaviours, and beliefs. So we started to explore the concept of a wellness brand that was a clarion call for people who rejected ‘ugly’.

After investigating wellness category conventions, an opportunity presented itself in the beverage space. It was easy to identify – people love drinks and wellness beverages were booming globally.

So we pulled in two contacts: strategy and brand specialist Jonte Goldwater who worked for Lion for many years, and award-winning designer Nick Riley who had just left Designworks. We knew they both had a similar desire to create products and brands with real substance and real purpose in the world.

That happy collision created two great things – No Ugly and strategic brand agency Culture & Theory which has been instrumental in helping us develop our brand purpose and DNA, which is ‘To Wage A War On Ugly’. We continue to work with Culture & Theory as we develop new flavours and new formats. Their work on our brand is now up for two Best Design Awards for Small Brand Identity and Packaging.

No Ugly co-founder Aaron Taylor (Photo: Supplied)

TWO: Did you have any interest/experience in business or entrepreneurship prior to starting No Ugly?

Interest? Yes. Experience? Not really. We were pretty naïve. We knew branding and advertising, but we didn’t really know anything about manufacturing, supply chains, sales and distribution. We had to be quick learners!

THREE: What nutritional properties does No Ugly claim to have?

Each bottle of No Ugly is a good source of (at least 25% of recommended dietary intake) potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins B1/B2/B3/B5/B6/B12, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Combined with 100mg of Enzogenol, nature’s most potent antioxidant extracted from the bark of New Zealand grown pine trees, we say that No Ugly contributes to your general health through the reduction of tiredness and fatigue; normal energy metabolism, energy production, energy release from blood; normal psychological function; neurological function; normal function of the nervous system; mental performance; cell protection from free radical damage; the protection of cells from oxidative stress; and normal electrolyte balance

FOUR: Can you back these health claims up with scientific evidence?

We engaged Jan Wuis, a food tech consultant, to develop our formulas and flavours. Throughout the product’s development, we challenged Jan to make sure everything was natural and of a very credible source. All our benefits are pre-approved claims by the Food Standards Authority and are well researched. Jan was very thorough in investigating what we could and couldn’t claim.

No Ugly Cucumber flavour (Photo: Supplied)

FIVE: Wellness drinks/tonics seem to be having a big moment in the market right now. What makes No Ugly different from all the others out there?

In developing No Ugly, we wanted a wellness brand that was fun and accessible. A brand that could make people feel good, like a fashion or booze brand can. What makes No Ugly different is that as a brand, we can go into any category – we’re not restricted to beverages. Our drinks are low in sugar (only 5.5 grams/500mls) and we offer #nouglywaste through our No Ugly SWAPPA crate subscription model. We deliver the crates and take away the empties, properly recycling the amber glass bottles.

SIX: You also promote something called the ‘No Ugly’ movement. Can you tell me about what that entails?

In the development and creation of the No Ugly brand, Culture & Theory began to see that it could be a symbol of social change – similar to what Eat My Lunch, My Food Bag and Trunk Club in the USA have built their businesses on.

Taking the insights that people love convenience and brands with higher purpose, and that people who appreciate wellness usually care about the environment, we laid down a clear purpose that would set the tone and direction for what the brand did and how it turned up in the world. It’s a purpose that set No Ugly on a quest ‘To Wage A War On Ugly’.

For every No Ugly Swappa Crate returned for recycling, No Ugly donates a lunch to Eat My Lunch. The amber glass of No Ugly bottles also means that they can be recycled back into amber glass instead of going to landfill. So far, No Ugly has recycled nine cubic metres of glass from its Swappa crate customers. So together, the No Ugly ecosystem stands for #nouglydays – being wellness for you, #nouglywaste – being wellness for the environment, and #nouglyhunger – wellness for a child.

We see No Ugly as having the potential to be the clarion call for other brands to introduce an end-to-end No Ugly supply chain.

No Ugly SWAPPA Crate

SEVEN: What plans do you have to scale/grow further?

We’ve got plans for a new flavour and new summer formats later this year. After launching in December 2017, we’re now stocked in over 100 outlets nationwide including Farro Fresh and a growing number of New World supermarkets.

Having a product with a really strong brand and purpose has meant that retailers seek us out. We thought we would have to do the hard sell to get shelf space. Instead, we’re fielding calls on a daily basis asking if they can stock our product.

No Ugly’s Swappa crate subscription is also gaining momentum, particularly among larger corporates who value the environmental, social and health benefits of No Ugly Swappa.

Our vision is to be the most valuable wellness brand on the planet. There are many verticals we can go into. We just have to stick to the plan and not get distracted by too many shiny things so that by 2020, we’ll be global.

EIGHT: Lastly, tell us about a New Zealand start-up or business that you really admire right now?

Eat My Lunch. Its mission to have no New Zealand children go to school without lunch isn’t just doing good, it inspires its whole enterprise and defines its behaviour and belief system. It makes money while making a real difference. You can feel it when you get up at 5am to help the Eat My Lunch team make 2,500 lunches before 8.30am. It’s pretty cool.


The Spinoff’s business section is enabled by our friends at Kiwibank. Kiwibank backs small to medium businesses, social enterprises and Kiwis who innovate to make good things happen.

Check out how Kiwibank can help your business take the next step.


The Spinoff’s business section is enabled by our friends at Kiwibank. Kiwibank backs small to medium businesses, social enterprises and Kiwis who innovate to make good things happen.

Check out how Kiwibank can help your business take the next step.

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