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On the GO: Alex McDonald

GO Healthy is New Zealand’s premier vitamin supplement brand, and General Manager Alex McDonald is now spearheading an ambitious international expansion.

While it’s been New Zealand’s vitamin supplements market leader for many years, under General Manager Alex McDonald, GO Healthy is making impressive inroads into Australia and elsewhere.

"I joined the business six years ago when the majority share had just been acquired by a private equity firm, CDH Investments," he says. "It brought some real big backing and financial support to the brand, which meant we could start expanding globally."

Up until then, the brand had only been available in New Zealand where it enjoyed a 22 percent market share. McDonald could immediately see the potential across the Tasman.

"The Australian vitamin market is 10 times the size of New Zealand, so it was huge," he remembers. "And we’ve done really well there despite some considerable challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues."

If anything, that’s an understatement, as GO Healthy has been one of the fastest-growing brands across Australia for over three years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Prior to joining the firm, McDonald headed up the pharmacy division at GSK Consumer Health, now known as Haleon in Australia. In fact, most of his career had been in either pharmaceutical or health care, but all that was to change.

The opportunity to launch an iconic brand like GO Healthy in Australia was a dream come true, so I absolutely jumped at it!

A dream come true

"The opportunity to launch an iconic brand like GO Healthy in Australia was a dream come true, so I absolutely jumped at it!" McDonald explains.

He also embraced the three values that had driven such success and helped the leadership team add a new one.

"The first is ‘Go for gold’, which is about the importance of delivering the best service to our consumers so they see the value in our products. The second, ‘Go safe’, is paramount as we have a large sales force out on the road every day and 175 staff in our manufacturing plant operating complex machinery.

"We’re fully committed to making sure that everybody goes home safe and in a better state of health, which extends to putting resources toward the education, exercise and health of employees."

"The third one’s ‘Go together’," McDonald says. "What underpins the GO Healthy philosophy is that we really believe everybody matters, nobody gets left behind. If there’s a project to work on, teams are put together to support people to achieve a positive outcome."

The leadership team added the fourth value two years ago to reflect the growing importance of reducing carbon emissions.

"It’s ‘Go sustainably’, which is very important to us, given the whole premise of our business is improving health. We need to make sure that we make the planet healthier as well, so we source all our raw material ethically and sustainably."

GO Healthy’s Major Advantage

When he joined the business, McDonald realized the company had a major advantage over most of its rivals.

"We’re one of very few vitamin brands that’s fully vertically integrated. We make all our products in our own manufacturing plant in New Zealand so we control 100 percent of what goes into them, from formulation to encapsulation to the consumer buying off the shelf, which has been a competitive advantage over the years."

It made it easier for the business to increase manufacturing capacity significantly to handle the demand from Australia. It has involved big investments into the plant, the people and machinery.

New horizons

Those values have remained firmly in place through a highly significant new development for GO Healthy.

"There’s change on the horizon for us as we’ve just been acquired by Nestlé Health Science. This is incredibly exciting for me personally and for the business as a whole, as our new parent company has so many brands under its belt globally, bringing access to great consumer insights and innovation," he points out.

"It gives us an opportunity to accelerate and recharge our growth, which has been considerable so far anyway, but there’s further growth to come, particularly around new product development. There are quite a few categories in our innovation funnel, some of which are already in the market."

We’re a very dominant market leader in our home market in New Zealand, so we have to be careful to protect that status.

As the company gains footholds internationally, McDonald makes sure his teams don’t take their eyes off the ball in New Zealand.

"We’re a very dominant market leader in our home market in New Zealand, so we have to be careful to protect that status," he reflects. "Meanwhile, there are other markets on our radar. We’re currently in Singapore and China, and there are other countries in South-East Asia like Vietnam where we see a huge potential."

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