Nutricare are leading innovators in the health and wellness sector. The company exists “to help people heal,” pioneering new eco-friendly healthcare products that are better for you and our planet.
They manufacture using responsibly sourced materials, without harmful chemicals, and using low waste processes. Demand and acclaim for their products have enabled this young company to spread their eco-friendly healthcare products across the globe.
When I first read Nutricare’s website, I was struck by the powerful message, “No one wants to hurt when they’re already hurting.” Pharma products result in precisely that for many people, and I was fascinated to chat with Nutricare’s founder, James Dutton, the man behind the eco-friendly healthcare company.
Discovering the Problem needing Solving
After leaving school, James earned his stripes early on in his building apprenticeship and managing sales for a large retailer, JB HIFI. He then joined the family business. Founded in 1911, The Dutton Group, one of Australia’s most established national prestige car retailers specializing in exotic and classic cars. James also established Dutton Motorsport alongside racing jet skis and then cars internationally.
He then launched his own company, Dutton International Holdings, specializing in publishing and selling luxury goods online. Business was thriving when the 2008 GFC hit. Suddenly, no one was buying luxury goods anymore, so he pivoted and, he started an asset finance business while building a finance app for the automotive marketplace. He sold the finance company in 2015, planning to have some family downtime before deciding what to do next.
Two months into this, James’s son, Charlie, suffered a horrible reaction to a common wound dressing. The caused Charlie’s skin to blister and tear. James went looking for an alternative product to buy and was stunned to find one did not exist. When James later discovered that around a quarter of the global population has this reaction, it seemed even more incredible that no alternative existed.
James set out to find a better solution, despite knowing “absolutely zero” about healthcare.
Finding the Solution
James’s research quickly identified that it was the chemicals in traditional wound care causing the reactions. His wife owns JAK Organics, and their fully compostable baby wipes made from bamboo gave James an idea of where to start creating new dressings.
James experimented, mixing components on the kitchen bench at home. Everything he was using was natural and toxin-free, so he was able to try out his efforts on his sons, Charlie and Xavier, with no fear.
Having established a blueprint for the eco-friendly wound care category, James made an initial trip to China to solve the manufacturing side. Manufacturing in Australia was not an option as there are no suitable medical device manufacturing companies in Australia. In China, however, many suppliers are fully certified, completely legit. They are also western educated in terms of providing efficacy in the supply chain demonstrating zero plastics or toxins.
Even so, it took several more trips to find the perfect solution. The unbending criteria were that the ingredients be sustainably produced, natural, and met certification standards to ensure the baseline for what would become an entire range of eco-friendly healthcare products. The partner they eventually found has very green bamboo grown without pesticides.
The source and manufacture in China, so the only shipping that happens is intentional for delivery.
Patch – the 1st of their Eco-Friendly healthcare range
James had created the basis of Nutricare’s PATCH brand and the world’s first 100% compostable plaster from natural bamboo.
Fast forward to today, and PATCH comes with four different gauze types suited to various injuries, Natural, Activated Coconut, Aloe Vera, and Activated Charcoal. These are all traditional methods of soothing and healing. The adhesives are hypoallergenic and suitable for every skin type.
The microfibres in traditional dressings take up to 500 years to biodegrade, creating 2.04 billion meters of waste annually. PATCH products break down in weeks, establishing them as an entirely eco-friendly healthcare product. PATCH is also void of any harsh chemicals that are found in most common wound care, such as thimerosal, and is altogether latex-free for those who suffer reactions to these components.
James established Nutricare, the parent company, at the end of 2015 and registered it the following July. By October 2017, the first PATCH product was on the shelves. They have grown at a CAGR 205% year on year, and they are in 42 countries serving over 35,000 retailers.
James funded the first stage from his kitchen bench research to commercialization himself. Further investment to take them to market came from friends and family. Their first container shipment into Australia was sold before it landed, which brought home to them just how enormous the market potential was.
Their original investor set the goal to go global. They raised two further rounds of financing and were then able to press on with their international plans and sent a couple of small overseas shipments, one to Hong Kong and one to New Zealand. The first large shipment went to Germany, where they made a partnership deal with a German company to become their master distributor in Europe.
In 2019, they launched in the US. James had been over there a few times, but they launched fully in March at Expo West. At the show, people were lining up, wanting to buy their brand. One of those James describes him as “absolutely awesome.” is now the head of their US operations and a director as well. They won the NEXTY Award for the Pride of the Show, which James said was incredible and “felt like winning American Idol.”
By October and November, their products were hitting the stores across the States when everything changed.
Challenges on all sides
At this moment, America was hit by Racial wars and political unrest as the Trump tenure moved towards the end. There were bushfires in Australia, floods in China. Then COVID hit with many new challenges.
Melbourne, where James is based, was in yet another lockdown when we spoke, and James misses his comrades in Australia and worldwide due to COVID.
With the supply chain from China, the cost of their shipping has rocketed. A recent delivery cost over five times as much as usual. James says this is partly because of a shortage of ships but also because the shipping industry is taking advantage.
Much as he would have liked to, it wasn’t possible to bring manufacturing onshore. Their priority remains that the products are pesticide and toxin-free and meet their green criteria. His partner in China is fulfilling these, so they are soaking up the additional cost.
The market need for natural eco-friendly healthcare products is vast; 25% of people in Northern Europe alone cannot wear any standard dressing because of vitamin D deficiency or skin conditions. But the retailers are only interested in which brands will pay them the most money and pushing them to deliver higher sales despite the reduced footfall.
Nutricare meets all the challenges head-on, not only changing the world with eco-friendly healthcare products but offsetting its footprint by planting trees and supporting a range of organizations, including Trees for the Future. Nutricare also supports Australian Bushfire workers and those on the frontline of COVID.
James is committed to improving existing products in healthcare, skincare, personal and dental care, and creating natural solutions to them from sustainable ingredients. They have achieved being a certified B corporation, which signifies that they deliver the highest standards for social responsibility and are in the top 10% of businesses worldwide.
Their vast growth has been achieved without even a true year’s trading yet, given all the challenges. Now, they have funding and ready to bring more eco-friendly healthcare products to market and focus on amplifying their brand.
They have been steam-lining their products in the last few months. James says they are very keyed in to what people are asking for, so an early addition is larger format dressings. More eco-friendly healthcare products are coming for first-aid use too.
They have a new product called “Strap” which is a sports and body tape. The standard sports tapes result in tons of toxin and plastic-filled waste for landfills. Strap is also bamboo-based, therefore fully compostable, and another game-changer in eco-friendly healthcare.
They are continuing the expansion in the US and then in Europe with the Nutricare brands.
James has also found like-minded Australian brands producing eco-friendly healthcare products but no voice to be heard in the marketplace. He plans to incubate these and give them the route to market via the Nutricare distribution center. James says the company is all ready to roll for the next phase in their incredible journey.
James aims to get the company to the Exchange and to ensure the key staff share in that business success. With an IPO in sight, James says the partner solution is working well for now.
As consumers gain confidence in eco-friendly healthcare products, James will achieve his goal to be in every household in the world. He says if we can build an electric car, achieving his vision can’t be that hard.
Advice to others
When I asked James for his advice to others at the start of their journey, I loved his very realistic first comment, “Get ready to go to hell and back.”
In such a short time, they have faced many significant challenges. James describes it as being a small boat facing a series of waves. Mistakes happen; you sometimes go with the wrong choices, but he has found each one strengthens him and his team, and they come out the other side wiser and more positive.
Focus is what it is all about, he says, focus on where you want to get to with lower-fruit targets along the way. They have collected many, many awards along the way, which the whole team enjoys.
Their team is “right behind us,” which is crucial. James says the way you employ staff and their attributes is vital. They look for self-driven people.
I asked him how he finds good people, and he says “Keep on Looking.” It is a process of trial and error, and James himself has had a few failures along the way. You need to learn to manage expectations. He also advises letting people reach the targets they have set themselves.
James says you need people with passion, and you need to look after them. They are, he points out, a profit with purpose company, after all.
There are so many wonderful eco-pioneering small companies too that I have had the joy of interviewing in Australia – among them evee, Fibre for Good, and Eorth. I look forward to many more coming through and some growing to the amazing achievements that are being achieved by James and Nutricare.