Drink makes New Zealand a healthier nation – Chloe Van Dyke, CHIA

Health freaks. Obnoxious at best, judgmental, and overall, very annoying. The difference between a healthy person and a “health freak” lies in their mentality. Healthy people know their bodies. They choose to only put good things in it, and live happy and healthier lives. “Health freaks” are obsessive about their food – they literally can’t take their minds off of it. According to Chloe Van Dyke, who founded CHIA with her father Ben Van Dyke, New Zealand is choosing to become a healthier nation. “There is a trend in New Zealand that has gone from consuming foods and drinks that are full of preservatives, artificial flavors, colors, and additives, to ones that don’t have any ‘nasties.’ Now people are questioning what the nutrient levels are, and what benefits they’re going to get from this drink.”

Chia seeds were used by the Aztecs and their descendants, known for their ability to run long distances, to get that high dosage of nutrients that athletes crave. “People notice a difference in their energy levels and well-being, and it isn’t coming from caffeine or sugar. It is coming from giving your body the nutrients that it needs.”

The science behind the effectiveness of this South American drink is fascinating. “The unique property of chia to swell to 10 times its weight means that it creates a gel around itself. This allows for a steady flow of nutrients and prolonged hydration.”


“As well as being full of goodies, CHIA is 100% natural, gluten free, vegan, genetic engineering free, and has no added sugar.“

Chloe and her father forged CHIA out of their own savings, but admittedly, the start-up phase does not incur the most expense.

“It is all the mistakes that happen when making a unique product that can add up.”

Starting small with their own savings may have given the Van Dyke super-juice duo an advantage. “Now that we know we have a product that sells, it is easier to go to the bank to ask for financial assistance if we want to purchase more specialized equipment.”

Creating a product so nonpareil quickly presented itself as a mixed blessing for the Van Dykes. “CHIA is very different from any other drink made in New Zealand. There were a lot of people that were willing to help us out, and we needed all the help that we could get. But the equipment used for making other drinks didn’t work for us. It has been a continual evolving process to find and alter equipment to suit CHIA.”

“Launching a very different product onto the market is also a challenge. If people do not know a product exists they will not be looking for it. This makes tastings and staff education fundamental.”
“The advantage with a unique product is that there is no competition, and word of mouth has been a huge part of our growth.”

And grow it has! In December of 2012, CHIA officially launched in Nelson. The Van Dykes continued to trial the drink there for about 4 months. Now they have bottles on shelves in over 115 locations in New Zealand.


Their signature strategy in landing new retailers revolves around making sure the people selling their product understand its every aspect. Industry leaders usually utilize this approach when marketing a distinct product that is high in quality. Think Apple, who chose to create their own line of stores so they could use only highly-trained employees, or Auckland local Dion Nash, who finds that most of his success in marketing has come from educating the consumer.

The Van Dyke method is inclusive and simple. “Go to the cafe or outlet. Provide a tasting and educate them on the benefits. Explain why CHIA is different. Make it easy for retailers to purchase the product, which means cutting down on paper work as much as possible. Provide free freight and a starter box with educational info so they can see if their customers like the product. Take pictures of their cafe with someone holding a bottle of Chia, and promote them on Facebook.”

Reciprocated promotion has worked well for CHIA. “I learn what I can do to support the retailers that support us.”

If you’re reading this in a country other than New Zealand, CHIA may have good news for you in the future. Although their focus is primarily on the market here and on bringing out new flavors and products, international markets look increasingly promising. “We have growing interest from Australia and Asia, but want to make sure we are fully established here first.”

Do you think 2013 is a good year to be an entrepreneur in New Zealand?

Yes.Timing is critical to success. The growing trend in New Zealand towards nutritional and functional foods has meant that 2013 has been a perfect time to bring CHIA to the market. Social media allows little companies to become known quickly, and new technology makes it easier for customers to look up business’ and products to make informed decisions, even while they walk down the supermarket isles. Educating the customer has never been easier.

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