Dry facts point to gel firm's success
From golf courses to Middle-Eastern horses, a Wellington biotech company is thinking laterally to forge a path for its range of moisturising and sports gels made from seaweed.
Margaret Holloway established Nemidon in Lower Hutt 14 years ago and the company of eight staff now sells its wares in Australia, Britain and America.
The endorsement of the Titleist Performance Institute, whose clients included top golfing professionals such as 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell, greatly boosted the company's international profile, Holloway said.
"That gives you an enormous amount of credibility. We have found credibility is extremely important when you're dealing with people, it gives them a lot of faith when moving onto a new product."
The credibility garnered from endorsements helped the company's sales grow about 20 per cent over the past three years, said Holloway.
The Middle East has become a mecca for horse racing through events like the Dubai Cup, the world's richest horse race, which has a total prize pool of NZ$32 million.
Holloway hopes that growing market will provide a new outlet for Nemidon's gels, which can be applied to horses after competitions to help reduce stress, inflammation and internal scarring.
The Middle East's dry conditions and a custom of moisturising also offer the company's range of hydration gels a great opportunity with human customers, Holloway said.
Because, unlike other moisturising creams which film on the top of the skin, Nemidon's gels are designed to be absorbed quickly, and therefore they cannot be washed off.
Holloway hopes this property will give Nemidon the edge in Muslim countries where ritual ablutions are a frequent and important part of daily life.
Success in the biotech industry was a drawn-out process and it took an average 15 years from concept to market acceptance, Holloway said.
The lengthy development time, New Zealand's geographic isolation and the high dollar made it difficult for biotech companies in New Zealand to prosper, and Holloway said the government should do more to support the industry.
"It's like walking across the desert with one bottle of water . . . half way through you've lost your water and you're starting to take your clothes off.
"If you're lucky, you make it to the other side, without your clothes and without the water," Holloway said.
The biggest problem was prohibitive shipping costs that made it difficult for small biotech firms in New Zealand to compete with companies closer to large markets in Europe and North America.
"The best thing I could see is some form of tax credit, or if the government assisted with warehousing of products offshore.
"Because to send over small loads from New Zealand doesn't make it cost effective."
This kind of assistance until companies reached a certain turnover would greatly boost home-grown biotech companies' ability to compete on the global stage, Holloway said.