It was while she was living in Japan with her professional rugby playing husband that Megan Pietersen’s passion for traditional health and wellness was ignited. This was also where her dream of starting her own range of natural supplements started becoming a reality.
“I’ve always, since I was young, felt a strange connection to Japan. In a weird way, I think I always knew I was going to live there at some point. When JP was offered a three-year contract with a rugby team there, it felt like it was meant to be.”
Seated in the kitchen of their beautiful new Elaleni Coastal Forest Estate home, Megan is the picture of contentment. Her nine-month-old baby girl, Aria, is asleep upstairs and three-year-old Maia is at playschool. Megan’s husband is former Springbok and Sharks rugby player JP Pietersen, who is now coaching the Sharks team. Having only moved into their newly built home a few months ago, the couple are finally settling into their space and life on the North Coast.
“We love it here. JP bought this piece of land a few years ago, before even seeing it! We loved the fact that we are facing a green belt and no one will ever build in front of us.”
Apart from being a busy mom of two small children and wife to an international sporting star, Megan is also a successful self-made entrepreneur. We met up with her to find out about her business, Noa & Co, which comprises a range of all-natural, dairy and gluten free collagen creamers and plant protein powders.
Megan is a born and bred Durban girl who went to school in Durban North and completed an honours degree in business communication. She worked in marketing for Mr Price before she and JP moved to Japan in 2013. The couple spent three years there, followed by the UK and finally France, where they had their first daughter. They moved back to South Africa in 2019.
Although she has always loved sports and been interested in nutrition, Megan says her passion for health and wellness was truly sparked while living in Japan. “It was honestly the best three years of my life. I learned so much about Eastern wellness and nutrition – and about myself. I was really lucky to have JP, who was still also playing for the Springboks at the time, as my ‘lab rat’,” she laughs. “Not everyone has a professional, high performance contact sport athlete to try and test all their theories on! I would cut things out of his diet and add in super foods and collagen and see how it all worked for him.”
Megan and JP have been together since they started dating in 2007 when she was just 19 years old. “We got married in Cape Town in 2015 and I planned our entire wedding from Japan. It was actually really easy to choose a date because JP only had three Saturdays off that entire year – so we just had to pick one of them,” she laughs. The couple spent a number of years travelling and living together before they were married. Megan completed her studies in Japan (flying home to write exams) and while there she befriended a nutritionist and together, they attended wellness talks and cooking classes. She subsequently collaborated with her on some of the formulas that Megan has used for Noa & Co.
It was JP who encouraged Megan to realise her dream and start her own business. “I was always ordering supplements online and became obsessed with clean, healthy eating. JP, who is also really keen on eating healthily, suggested I start making my own. We had seen the benefits of collagen while we were in Japan (where it is readily available almost everywhere), and I thought it would be great to find a way to make it more accessible and easily incorporate it in to a Western diet. JP had cut out dairy and so I thought a collagen creamer (dairy alternative) would be a good idea.”
Megan registered her company in 2017, but only officially launched it when they moved back to South Africa in 2019. “I tried and tested products from all over the world and was determined to take the best from each and make a better version, locally.”
After doing lots of homework and working closely in labs with pharmacists and doctors, Megan launched her Noa & Co range of three products: a collagen creamer (dairy replacement) and two multi-source plant-based protein powders (vanilla and chocolate) with potent probiotics.
She developed and packaged all three products locally and designed everything herself. Last year when Covid hit Megan says the product really took off. “I think people just became more aware of their health and started paying more attention to what they were putting into their bodies. The most important thing to me was ensuring that our products are one hundred percent clean, with no hidden nasties. It’s not easy to make plants taste good without added flavours!”
Megan has kept the range small because she wanted to ensure that everything was all natural. The chocolate flavour comes from cacao and the vanilla from vanilla pods.
Mostly, Megan says, the products are there to help out where needed without replacing ‘real food’ in any way. “I strongly believe in eating real food and not cutting things out. If you do want to eliminate dairy though, the collage creamer is a good alternative, and if you need a boost, miss a meal or need some added protein in your diet, the protein powders are great.”
Asked what kind of diet she and JP follow, Megan says they try to keep it as balanced and sustainable as possible. “We keep things simple, try not to have too much dairy and gluten and eat as many plants as possible.”
Text: Leah Shone
Photographs: Chris Allan Photo
Hair and makeup: Volenti Laurentina