The Flying the Fern podcast tells the stories of well-known New Zealand businesses delivering products and services that are made, grown or designed in New Zealand. Businesses that are carrying the official New Zealand FernMark, sharing their authenticity at home and abroad, and building New Zealand’s global reputation as a trusted origin of innovative, high quality products and services.

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01 ecostore

The realities of being an environmental pioneer

Guest: Pablo Kraus (CEO)

ecostore is a global pioneer in sustainable business. It has been making eco-friendly products since 1993 well before it was popular and was the first business to be accredited with the New Zealand FernMark.

ecostore has gone above and beyond to produce sustainable household cleaning, health and other products, exporting them around the world and helping to shape New Zealand’s clean, green reputation.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to ecostore CEO Pablo Kraus about:

  • Paving the way for eco-friendly businesses and values-driven consumerism
  • How being from New Zealand aligns with ecostore's purpose, and helps to sell products around the world
  • Why ecostore's values haven’t changed over the years, and how these values help to guide their decision making
  • How the business innovates, to develop and produce new products
  • The constant drive to do better

02 Ārepa

Brain food from natural New Zealand ingredients

Guest: Zac Robinson (Co-Founder and Co-CEO)

Ārepa started from a simple idea and has evolved into world-leading neuroscience, creating foods and drinks that support brain health and performance. Co-founders Zac Robinson and Angus Brown have grown the Ārepa range from scratch, and now have supply contracts across New Zealand and Australia. They’ve been pioneers in a cutting edge field with massive health benefits. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to Zac about:

  • How they took the idea and made it into a business (including how they funded it)
  • How developing a world-leading product was only the beginning of the hard work
  • How they future-proofed their supply in the structure of the business
  • Why it’s so important to display their kiwi-ness
  • How they cracked the biggest supermarkets in Australia

03 Trust Codes

Helping modern producers tell their stories

Guest: Paul Ryan (CEO) and Emma Wheeler (Head of Strategy)

Trust Codes' business is about enabling consumers to get more information about the products they’re buying. At the same time, it allows producers to stand out on supermarket shelves by telling stories about product provenance, quality and credence.

Today’s consumers are making more and more values-driven decisions, but it’s hard to know which products stand up to their requirements. Trust Codes are scannable QR codes that allow consumers to see in-depth detail about products before they buy them. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to Paul and Emma from Trust Codes about:

  • How Trust Codes protection actually works
  • How traceability, transparency and storytelling help producers to stand out
  • How Trust Codes is helping to tell New Zealand’s story to the world
  • The significance of face time when selling a product overseas
  • The future of data in consumerism

04 Jess’s Underground Kitchen

From cooking at home to an international business feeding thousands

Guest: Jess Daniell (Founder and Managing Director)

Jess’s Underground Kitchen (JUK) started as a favour between friends, and quickly escalated to feeding hundreds of people every week. Nine years on, JUK is making and delivering thousands of home cooked dinners around New Zealand, and frozen meals to supermarkets here and overseas.

Jess’s journey echoes typical kiwi values: making quality, fresh food with humility and authenticity, and innovating to do things in ways that suit both her and her customers.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to Jess about:

  • How JUK grew from a casual thing to a real business 
  • Her motto - do less, better by sticking to your core business 
  • Building an authentic brand 
  • How the New Zealand Fernmark is a symbol for everything JUK’s about – hard work, humility and passionately believing in what you’re doing
  • What hasn’t worked; what she’s learned and what she’d do differently 
  • Expanding into Australia 


Disclaimer: this episode was recorded prior to their announcement of closing the cafes and focusing on their frozen meal range

05 Book Me Bob

New Zealand’s fastest unicorn?

Guest: David Thompson

Book Me Bob is a revolutionary AI chatbot that’s changing the game in the hospitality world. Book Me Bob is available in a range of languages, can host thousands of conversations at the same time, and is so realistic that it’s often confused as being a real human.

The company was founded just before Covid, and has flourished despite the impact of the pandemic on tourism and hospitality. In fact, founder David Thompson is targeting unicorn status ($1 billion valuation) quicker than any other New Zealand company.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to David about:

  • Why Book Me Bob’s technology is so world leading
  • Starting with a bang - going to Bali hoping to get one contract, and ending up with 30
  • Developing a bot with genuine personality
  • Why New Zealanders are so well liked around the world
  • Finding new ways to apply Book Me Bob’s technology

06 Native Sparkling

Rewilding the world through sociability

Guest: Guy Hobson (Co-Founder)

Native Sparkling is New Zealand’s first hard seltzer, which was dubbed ‘Drink of the Summer’ by the New York Times in 2019. The product range is all low sugar, low carb and low calories. But it’s about way more than just the drinks. Native Sparkling have a genuine focus on conversation, including bird programmes and even environmental initiatives in their overseas markets.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to co-founder Guy Hobson about:

  • Company origins, making a drink they called ‘Moose Juice’ at university
  • Being a family business, with two brothers and a sister
  • Introducing a whole new product to the established alcohol industry
  • How Native Sparkling got their first sale in New Zealand, and how different it was when they went to Japan
  • How they’ve weaved in their conservation initiatives, and the impact it’s had

07 FarmIQ

Keeping New Zealand ahead by supporting farmers

Guest: Will Noble (CEO)

New Zealand farm systems are special, and today’s farmers are using FarmIQ to get the absolute best out of their farms. FarmIQ has created farm management and predictive modelling tools to give our farmers more data that they can use to make better decisions with.

Farm IQ is playing a key role in the important storytelling aspect of farming that allows us to showcase New Zealand produce as some of the best in the world.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to CEO Will Noble about:

  • How FarmIQ allows farmers to focus on actually farming
  • How technology helps to assess the impact of all farming’s variables in farming
  • How kiwi trailblazers have paved the way for other New Zealand technology companies to succeed
  • How FarmIQ underpins the success of New Zealand farming processes around the world

08 Auckland Institute of Studies

New Zealand education for global students

Guest: Richard Smith (CEO and Founding Director)

Auckland Institute of Studies (AIS) leans on New Zealand’s reputation to sell a Kiwi educational experience all over the world. AIS is one of New Zealand’s largest private education providers, with a mostly international student base.

As well as the quality of its education, AIS trades off a true New Zealand experience, with students from more than 40 countries currently on campus. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to CEO Richard Smith about:

  • How AIS competes with bigger universities
  • How AIS transformed an old hospital into a campus and student hostel
  • Getting through Covid with very few international students in the country
  • Selling the New Zealand proposition to young people overseas

09 Kids Ride Shotgun

Raising the next generation of mountain bikers

Guest: Dan Necklen (Co-Founder)

Kids Ride Shotgun is the company behind an innovative bike seat that helps the youngest mountain biker to ride alongside their parents. It started as an idea between a couple of biking dads, and has turned into a multi-national movement that’s centred around Kiwi values and raising kids the right way.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to co-founder Dan Necklen about:

  • How the Kids Ride Shotgun seat was so different from the rest
  • How they stumbled into media coverage, a website and a distribution channel before they even had a product
  • Going from producing a few hundred seats to tens of thousands in the blink of an eye
  • Expanding into the US, the UK and beyond
  • Dealing with counterfeiters and showcasing their authenticity

10 Redshield

Global leaders in preventing cybercrime

Guest: Sam Pickles (Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder)

In the 24 hours before recording this podcast, Redshield blocked 5 million cyber attacks. Co-founder Sam Pickles says the global cybercrime industry is bigger than the illegal drug trade, and his Kiwi company is an international leader in combating it.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to Sam about:

  • How security challenges have evolved over the last 10 years
  • How Redshield stays ahead of rapidly changing threats
  • The significance of trust as a security company, and how being from New Zealand helps
  • Working with companies that are larger than the entire New Zealand government
  • Being innovative without even realising it

11 Silver Fern Farms

Pioneering premium New Zealand produce

Guest: Simon Limmer (Chief Executive)

Silver Fern Farms plays a hugely influential role in New Zealand food production and distribution. It exports nearly a third of our red meat to 60+ countries, representing around 16,000 farmers in the process.

The company helps to position our meat among the best in the world, by setting the standard in production, sustainability and quality. This is a changing landscape with a range of influences that make it a high stakes, challenging task. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to CEO Simon Limmer about:

  • The significance of carrying the silver fern in the company name
  • How Silver Fern Farms navigates the changing farming landscape, and how New Zealand is positioned for the future
  • The impact of the FernMark in proving integrity and authenticity
  • The social responsibility the company has to produce food for New Zealanders
  • How New Zealand culture translates into overseas markets, and why that’s important

12 The Clinician

The future of digital health

Guest: Dr Ron Tenenbaum (Principal Founder and CEO)

Digital healthcare is poised to revolutionise global health in the coming years, and Kiwi company The Clinician is at the heart of the movement. It’s a forerunner in value-based healthcare, helping to streamline processes and improve access to care all over the world. The Clinician’s platform supports 22 languages, has automated clinical tracking and enables online health assessments that speed up appointment times and admin.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to principal founder and CEO Dr Ron Tenenbaum about:

  • What a digital health company is, how it works and how it’s different to the typical system
  • Ron Tenenbaum’s journey from being a neurosurgeon to running a digital health company
  • The challenge of trust and security, and how being from New Zealand gives the company a leg up
  • What he’s learned about growing into five international markets so far - with more on the way

13 Hybrid Bikes

Old school innovation and the simplicity of doing business in New Zealand

Guest: Frank Witowski (Founder)

Like many classic New Zealand innovators, Frank Witowski founded his company, Hybrid Bikes, in his garage. He was initially told it wouldn’t be possible, but with an engineering background and some stubborn enthusiasm, he designed a range of carbon fibre e-bikes that are now selling all over the world.

Frank’s bikes are customisable for a range of uses, and have been incredibly popular for their quality, affordability and durability. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to Frank about:

  • How he developed the Hybrid e-bike with no prior cycling experience 
  • How making his bikes affordable created another challenge to overcome
  • The differences between various overseas markets, and how he approached them
  • How easy he found it to set up a business in New Zealand
  • New Zealand’s advantage in being able to connect with other experienced business people

14 The Apple Press

The opportunity in New Zealand’s “ugly fruit”

Guest: Sally Gallagher (Co-Founder and CEO)

The Apple Press champions New Zealand’s “ugly fruit” roughly 10 percent of crops that taste great, but don’t satisfy the criteria for export. The Apple Press has built a global juicing business that heroes individual varieties and adds value to what was very much an under-utilised market.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to co-founder Sally Gallagher about:

  • How the company got started (including an inauspicious first meeting)
  • The opportunity The Apple Press saw in juicing, and how it capitalised on this
  • The extra value unlocked by focusing on their New Zealand-ness
  • Developing a brand to support its product

15 Rodd & Gunn

Humble sustainability and a global network

Guest: Mike Beagley (CEO)

When Mike Beagley started as Rodd & Gunn’s CEO, the business had around 12 stores. Now it has more than 200, all over the world. The New Zealand menswear brand has grown exponentially in the last 20 years, underpinned by humility and a commitment to doing things the right way.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to Mike Beagley about:

  • The global goal that he’s never broadcast, and why
  • How they cracked the “toughest market” in the United States
  • Expanding into hospitality, and getting NZ’s only master sommelier and our only Michelin star chef involved
  • Adding “New Zealand” to their brand name overseas
  • Why they don’t talk about the sustainability journey they’re on

16 Comvita

50 years of pioneering wellness

Guest: David Banfield (CEO), Brett Hewlett (Board Chair and Former CEO), Alan Bougen (Founder)

Comvita was a wellness brand before wellness brands were even a thing. The business has become a global powerhouse, with revenue into the hundreds of millions, using natural, New Zealand products like manuka honey for their health benefits. This episode of Flying the Fern features three generations of Comvita leadership; co-founder Alan Bougen, former CEO and current board chair Brett Hewlett and current CEO David Banfield.

Together, they talk to host David Downs about:

  • The lofty goals the company was started on, and how they’re only just starting to live them
  • Changing the way people think about honey as a health product, not just a food
  • The difference between being an A-grade company and being truly global
  • How New Zealand’s free thinking enabled the company’s growth 
  • How being from New Zealand automatically captures the attention of people overseas

17 GreenKiwi Supplements

Putting values first – how sustainability drives international success

Guest: Max Donaldson (Founder)

Max Donaldson started GreenKiwi Supplements at just 17 when he realised pruned olive leaves his neighbour was throwing away had huge health benefits. In just over two years, he’s had a steep learning curve in developing effective, sustainable, New Zealand-made olive leaf supplements.

Max has grown the company from nothing to being in retail stores around New Zealand and Dubai, all while finishing school and studying at university. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to Max about:

  • Max’s inspiration for the company
  • Why New Zealand-grown olive leaves are so much better
  • How Max coped with early sales struggles
  • The issue of trust in the healthcare market, and how Max tackles it
  • The significance of being local and sustainable

18 Prolife Foods

$100m in 10 years – taking the Australian market by storm

Guest: Andrew Smith (CEO)

Prolife Foods might be the biggest New Zealand brand that you’ve never heard of. It is doing business in more than 18 countries and has more than $300 million in annual revenue through its range of bulk foods, self-selection products, honey, and well-known FMCG grocery food brands. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to CEO Andrew Smith about:

  • The Jack and the Beanstalk-like company origin story, and starting out of a Hamilton garage 40 years ago
  • How Prolife Foods changed the game by partnering with a big name celebrity chef
  • How they’ve diversified the business, why it was necessary, and how they made it a success
  • Gaining traction overseas as a New Zealand business, and the big mistake many people make
  • The halo effect of the FernMark when it’s used by more and more businesses

19 Matta Products

Recycling visionaries owning a niche market

Guest: Brent Harris (Managing Director)

Matta has recycled more than 60 million kilograms of PVC and rubber in the last 30 years, since the company was started by then-Ōtaki mayor Murray Scott in his garage. The company produces safety matting for playgrounds and industrial use all over the world, and brings a strong sustainability approach to a very niche sector. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to managing director Brent Harris about:

  • The DIY early days and pioneering recycling systems in the 1990s
  • Growing from a small Ōtaki startup to having overseas offices and international business
  • How being from New Zealand aligns with their focus on recycling and opens doors
  • Why they keep manufacturing in New Zealand, despite it being cheaper to go elsewhere

20 Mamaku

Incorporating traditional Māori values with natural skincare

Guest: Tessa Davis (Director and Co-Founder)

Mamaku skincare products are steeped in traditional Māori practices and values that govern everything — from the way these special products are made, through to how the business is run by the sisters who founded Mamaku ten years ago. 

They’re helping to take the beauty industry back to the future, where natural, plant-based products are seen as premium.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to co-founder and director Tessa Davis about:

  • Getting into business with no beauty industry experience, and how they figured it out
  • Producing Mamaku products  in according to tikanga, ensuring it’s sustainable
  • The values that govern the way they operate, why they’re important, and how they benefit the business
  • What the proposition of being Māori means in overseas markets, and why it’s attractive 

21 Anchor

130+ years of New Zealand dairy to the world

Guest: Brent Whelan (General Manager)

Fonterra is New Zealand’s leading dairy exporter, and Anchor is a $1.2 billion kiwi brand that’s been around for more than 130 years. Anchor products go to more than 80 countries, playing a huge role in the reputation of New Zealand, and New Zealand food and beverages, around the world. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to General Manager Brent Whelan about:

  • All the interesting countries where Anchor is a household name
  • Why New Zealand butter is so yellow
  • The significance of the company values in its success
  • How New Zealand farming is tracking on its journey towards being carbon zero
  • Their sustainability and community initiatives, and why they’re so important

22 Karen Murrell

Pioneering the beauty industry with Kiwi inspiration

Guest: Karen Murrell (Founder)

Karen Murrell has played a leading hand in shifting the global beauty industry towards natural, environmentally friendly products that don’t compromise on quality. Her success story has leaned on no shortage of inspiration from New Zealand flowers, colours and tones.

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to Karen about:

  • Developing her own lipstick range from home
  • Getting an Instagram shout out from Kourtney Kardashian
  • How she’s expanded into new countries, including an in-depth look at her China business
  • How the FernMark helped to win a trademark court case

23 K9 Natural

The simple idea that carnivores should eat meat

Guest: Neil Hinton (CEO Natural Pet Food Group)

K9 Natural pet food is sourced and produced in such a way that humans could eat it. Using high-quality ingredients from the human supply chain has a range of health benefits for animals that help our pets, and this has helped the company to play a leading role in shifting the standard of animal foods towards premium, natural food products for cats and dogs. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to the CEO of parent company Natural Pet Food Group Neil Hinton about:

  • How one of the company founders spent time living with wolves in Alaska to develop the recipe 
  • Being in 13 markets around the world, and why they pulled back from some 
  • How New Zealand-grown food (especially grass-fed meat) underpins their own nutritional brand components 
  • Realising the way we do business in New Zealand intrinsically stands up to high ESG international standards 
  • Having a US private equity investor come on board, and how this impacts the way the business is run

24 Scully’s

From Bulls, with love

Guest: Sarah Parkinson (Operating Manager) and Juliette Arnott (Shop Manager)

Scully’s exports a wide range of natural boutique products for bath, body and home to Asia, Europe and Australia. Scully’s started as a small family run operation in Bulls 20 years ago, but it’s gradually grown bigger and bigger, all the while keeping its commitment to the environment and its people. 

In this episode of Flying the Fern, host David Downs talks to Operating Manager Sarah Parkinson and Shop Manager Juliette Arnott about:

  • The challenges of going from a grassroots business to a global exporter
  • How Scully’s satisfy different requirements for different markets, and why they decided not to adhere to China’s demands 
  • Why the way they operate and their company identity attracts customers
  • How the FernMark has supported their brand, including the resources they’ve been able to get access to