Gevir Goes to China
Our owner & Director, Josh recently visited China with Gevir Deer Velvet and was surprised and delighted to end up on Chinese television.
Read the press release below…
Established Hawke’s Bay business Gevir Deer Velvet makes bold move into China
Ever since it began 26 years ago near Takapau, Gevir Deer Antler Velvet has been a presence in Hawke’s Bay.
Even if you didn’t recognise the name, the white containers with the red, black and gold packaging were a familiar sight in local shops, founders Shelley and Clint Thomsen familiar faces in the district.
Clint was a pioneer in the Hawke’s Bay deer industry, farming deer since 1979 and Shelly set up Gevir Products Ltd in 1990 to produce and sell deer velvet health supplements to help her ailing health.
Shelley had multiple sclerosis and had learned how to make deer velvet extract.
Deer antler velvet wasn’t available in pharmacies or health food shops at the time.
“I used to boil it up and drink it. I had taken it for about 12 months and it had made me feel better.”
By 1991 Clint and Shelly had built their own deer velvet processing factory and had their first products on pharmacy shelves. This grew to more than 300 retail outlets in New Zealand and within 10 years they were exporting to Thailand and Hong Kong, Australia and the USA.
Last May the Thomsens sold Gevir Products.
The new owner and managing director is Hawke’s Bay farmer and businessman Josh Buckman and he is excited and enthused about the product and its potential.
Josh first encountered Gevir Deer Velvet when he dislocated his shoulder multiple times playing rugby.
“My Dad sent me some to use after surgery. I took it and it worked.”
Josh was a Smedley Station cadet in 2003 and 2004 then went on to university and “joined the corporate world”.
Now, with two young children, Hawke’s Bay’s lifestyle and a desire to return to agriculture has drawn him home. He says he was looking for a rural business with growth potential when Gevir Products caught his imagination.
“I talked to Shelley and saw the passion she had for the business – she was diagnosed with MS and has used Gevir herself to good effect.
“Local Hawke’s Bay farmers such as Grant and Sally Charteris provide some of the best deer velvet in New Zealand. It is renewable, it grows every year and deer don’t have to be killed to produce it. Deer velvet is the fastest growing mammal tissue on earth with more than 300 active components.”
The sustainability appealed strongly to Josh and his wife Penny, as did the opportunity to work with a product that could change people’s lives by improving their health.
“Deer velvet is the only natural, renewable source of glucosamine, collagen, Omega 3 and 6, minerals, amino acids and lipids. It’s an adaptogen, increasing the body’s ability to withstand stress and ward off exhaustion. Adaptogens have non-specific abilities to strengthen an organisms resistance to ageing, illness and fatigue,” explains Josh.
The first priority for Josh when he took over Gevir was to stay true to its roots.
“It has been popular and proven for 26 years. It has been a trusted family business and that is important to us.”
Josh focused on expanding the New Zealand market while designers worked on refreshing the packaging and website while keeping the name – old customers will find their Gevir New Zealand Deer Velvet attired in a fresh and minimalist moss-green.
The contents however are still top quality – deer velvet sourced only from vet certified deer farms in Hawke’s Bay. The next move, and one that will be ongoing, has been to expand the market overseas.
Josh took the bold move of going to China.
“China is one the biggest markets in the world, with Asian cultures taking 90 per cent of New Zealand’s deer velvet. But a high percentage is being sold as raw velvet, we haven’t sold it value added or westernised to an increasing wealthy and western influenced culture. In China, it is one of the highest ranking traditional medicines.”
In China, Josh made “literally hundreds of phone calls – looking for someone who would listen to me and someone who could speak English.”
Much to his surprise he ended up on “the Chinese equivalent of the Shopping Channel”.
It was a coup for a Kiwi-owned business in its first foray into China.
“We are also marketing into the USA … it takes a long time and a lot of money to get into these markets but our long term plan is a bigger business that supports and adds value to deer farmers and the velvet industry.
Locally, Hawke’s Bay is still Gevir’s strongest New Zealand market but with the new packaging it is now going into Auckland retail and tourist outlets for the first time.
Gevir Deer Velvet has recently expanded into pet supplements.
“We became aware people had been using our product successfully for their pets. We made a chewable tablet that dogs liked and trialled it for three months on local farm dogs and pets.
“The results were mind blowing.
“Aged dogs who had lost their spark gained a new lease of life, it relieved arthritis symptoms and older farm dogs were able to jump up on the truck again.
“We launched Gevir Pet Deer Velvet in late August and the feedback since then has been very positive.”
With new office premises in Havelock North, Josh says there is more to come from Gevir.
A skincare range is also being launched with all benefits of natural and sustainable collagen from deer velvet harnessed into the product.
“The deer industry is doing some great stuff towards getting young people involved.”
Gevir is a growing, renewable business in Hawke’s Bay and this Hawke’s Bay business is pushing into the global market – a business that started as a small family business with two people.