30 years - this is us
Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua -
I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.
This Māori proverb beautifully encapsulates the interconnectedness of the past, present and future as an ongoing cosmic process, reminding us to acknowledge and value the lessons, traditions and knowledge inherited from those who came before us. It serves as a powerful reminder of the wisdom and significance that our history carries in shaping our present and future.
Mountain Buggy® has revolutionized the world of all-terrain buggies, and New Zealand can take full credit for this groundbreaking innovation.
In 1992, founder Alan Croad, embarked on a mission to create a buggy that could go wherever he desired, inspired by a larger 3-wheeled American buggy used by joggers he had seen in a magazine. With limited engineering skills, Alan crafted his first buggy using a child's car seat and an old golf trundler.
Encouraged by this most basic yet inspired prototype, along with his belief in the product's potential; Alan was driven to create a more sophisticated working model, not only for others but for himself as well; giving birth to the first official "Mountain Buggy®." Collaborating with multiple engineers to help produce the necessary parts for his first fully functioning Mountain Buggy®, Alan made crucial modifications to adapt his initial inspiration of the American design to suit New Zealand's all terrain conditions, which included swapping to three 12-inch knobbly tyres and a lightweight aluminium frame.
Alan's ingenious adaptations also included designing the buggy with molded plastic components, which proved to be not only cost-effective but also stronger, lighter, and more durable than traditional metal buggies. And as a former physical educator, Alan also understood the importance of comfort and support for a child, which influenced the hammock-like seat that molded to a child's body, paying careful attention to the seat's angles, ensuring optimal support for a child's head, even when they fell asleep during the ride.
Initially popular among rural families, word spread fast and demand for the buggies grew to the urban community, leading to a manufacturing partnership with a company in Wainuiomata, near Wellington. Mountain Buggy® quickly gained a reputation for its advantages over traditional prams and buggies, including superior strength, stability, manoeuvrability and longevity – even introducing adaptations to cater to various lifestyles, including specially designed buggies for children with disabilities. These buggies did not just prove to withstand the test of time, but also accommodated for older children too, ensuring Mountain Buggy® could be enjoyed by all families for years to come.
Our transition to Our present
In early 2009, Mountain Buggy® underwent a significant transformation when phil&teds® CEO Campbell Gower acquired the brand. This acquisition marked a new era for Mountain Buggy®, and Campbell’s immediate attention went into four key areas in order to move the business forward safely and sustainably:
- people – who was going to form the new direction moving forward;
- production – to keep costs down to be accessible to all, the hard reality was where to manufacture – continue locally or move offshore;
- brand positioning – who was Mountain Buggy® - the story of Mountain Buggy®, its roots and the ‘why’;
- products – the product line needed to be relevant for what customers actually wanted.
Critical decisions needed to be made for the brand to maintain its relevancy in the markets, and more importantly to maintain the trust and confidence of Mountain Buggy® retail partners AND consumers. This was no small feat, states Campbell, “We focussed on building a stronger, more sustainable and effective production line, ensuring that Mountain Buggy's products met the highest standard of quality and innovation, whilst capturing the essence of the “Kiwi” lifestyle and landscape. The brand also needed to be reset, bringing back an aesthetic that was true to the original DNA – with imagery and storytelling that captured the imagination and celebrated its heritage.”
All this would be influenced by Campbell's ongoing active engagement with customers - both retail partners and end-consumers; to understand their needs and preferences. And in just six months, a strong new identity was established; the “why” embedded within - drawing inspiration from Campbell's vision, embracing keywords such as ‘authenticity’, ‘premium quality’ and ‘New Zealand’ - all presented and displayed onto the world stage at the leading international nursery trade fair Kind + Jugend in Germany in September that same year.
Kind + Jugend tradeshow, 2009
Years on from this incredible journey, Mountain Buggy® has enjoyed the successes in reaching new heights; by launching new, multi award winning buggies such as duet™, terrain™ and nano™, whilst remaining true to the original and iconic urban jungle™; opening to other nursery categories such as car seats, travel, feeding and the fashion inspired luxury collection; launching into new markets, and being the recipient of many prestigious awards such as the Red Dot design awards, JPMA and the German innovation awards. Mountain Buggy® has become a symbol of New Zealand's ingenuity, innovation and curious spirit; continuously stamping its mark as the pioneers of all terrain adventure.
The world changed in 2020 and is far from what we knew pre-pandemic.
“Times have not been easy of course," says Campbell, as he reflects on the past three years, “As a business built from the grassroots of New Zealand trying to reach the world; things got even harder as businesses shut down globally, and we all experienced isolation, fear and the unknown. We faced changes within our own business, and none of us knew what was going to happen the next day, let alone the next hour. It was frightening, but as a team, we grew a thick layer of resilience, that while others wavered, we didn't – we moved forward and changed where we needed in order to work efficiently, sustainably – and, in hindsight, even more effectively than ever.”
Mountain Buggy® factory in Yangzhou
"Change isn't for everyone, and I look at Darwin's theory, and it's not about 'survival of the fittest,’ it's ‘survival of the most adaptable’ – which means better designed for an ‘immediate local environment’. We changed what we needed, when we needed; and I know hand on heart, that's why we are still here. The belief is still strong and we're about to embark on even more evolution for the brand leading into 2024 – with a collection of new products and innovation that will captivate yet again, with the pioneering and curious spirit that Mountain Buggy® is renowned for.”
Campbell on his recent trip to Yangzhou, meeting the much loved factory dog
As a company driven by the ever-changing face of the customer, values of innovation, and the power of being the underdog, the future is looking incredibly bright for Mountain Buggy®. The story of this iconic brand is one of true grit, determination, ingenuity, and an unwavering commitment to excellence. From humble beginnings in New Zealand to ongoing international success, Mountain Buggy® continues to redefine what it means for parents to live life without limit™.
Guided by the wisdom of the past when it all began in 1992 as pioneers of all terrain adventure, Mountain Buggy® continues to walk backwards yet moving forward into the future, with eyes fixed on honouring the importance of what once was, allowing the rich history to shape the present and the future; because as Campbell states simply, “That is Mountain Buggy® - this is us.”