Connect recently spoke with our new Partner, Wholesum Japan—which imports and distributes eco-friendly, natural, and healthy products. Wholesum founder Don Roxburgh talked about the variety of products that his company carries, his views on how interconnected food is with our lives, and some of the key challenges the pandemic has brought with it.
Food Is Life
Wholesum is four years old and my wife and I established the company. We started by importing snack bars infused with manuka honey from New Zealand. I felt that the manuka honey and whole food ingredients make our treats healthier and tastier compared to other products on the market. After starting to import those bars, one thing led to another and we continued to import more products to create a portfolio and solidify our brand.
Our philosophy is to bring not-so-well-known healthy products to Japan and promote them as part of a more balanced and unique lifestyle. People often forget how interconnected food is to everything in our lives. It is not just the taste that goes into your mouth. The heart is connected to food in every part of our lives. I believe choosing products that are good for the body and the environment makes a difference in mental, physical, and environmental health.
Part of a Lifestyle
We sell food that is high in nutritional value and provides benefits from eating it, so you are not consuming empty calories. Additionally, we also import natural skincare products made from native New Zealand plants with healing properties. One of our newest products is beeswax wrap. As a byproduct of honey, dried beeswax can be infused into cotton and used as a substitute for regular plastic or other food wraps, thus reducing plastic waste.
At the moment, we are selling solely New Zealand products. However, we will expand to producers from other countries when we find the right products.
Promoting Healthy Products in Japan
When I look at the foods that are commonly eaten in a big city, where everything is processed and packaged, I feel that Japan has a lot of areas where it can learn and improve. It may just be me, but it seems like food produced outside of Japan uses fewer additives and preservatives.
I wanted to change that by bringing some alternatives from other countries that cater to different diets, whether they’re plant-based diets or gluten-free diets. I’ve been lucky to have stumbled across some great producers that are wholeheartedly focusing on quality products that are not only nutritious, but also natural, filling, and tasty.
Wholesum thrives on delivering products that are a little bit trickier to import for various reasons or products whose benefits are less well known in the market. We’re small, nimble, and able to work with small producers—and also put the products into the right stores. That’s what makes us unique, I guess.
Luckily, Covid-19 has turned out to our advantage. It’s giving people more money in their pockets to spend on daily food, which may have not necessarily been such a focus previously. Manuka honey, blackcurrants, and even crackers are good to keep in stock because they’re very nutritious and suitable for emergencies. I do see that people are more conscious of purchasing quality over quantity. And with Covid-19 affecting the numbers of people going into shops, we’ve seen a slight reduction in our wholesale sales, but an increase in sales on our online store.
But what was interesting was that Covid-19 was a bit of a wake-up call for many people, particularly when there are minimum amounts of inventory stockpiled near the consumer. The challenge wasn’t just procuring the ingredients, products, or the transportation—it’s also other related factors. It’s every piece of the product: for example, if you source wrapping or packaging from overseas, shipping from those countries may be affected by lockdowns. Consequently, you might not be able to sell a product only because you can’t put a wrapper on it!
We import in quantity and have a strong inventory in Japan. We also keep that close to where we live, so that we reduce the dependency on other people to do everything for us.
Offer on Connect
Wholesum is offering a 10% discount on your first online order. Check their offer here to get the discount code.