Honey company lands sweet UK deal

NZ Honey Company have launched products in UK supermarket chain Morrisons. Photo / Supplied
NZ Honey Company have launched products in UK supermarket chain Morrisons. Photo / Supplied

Two new products developed by Dunedin-based New Zealand Honey Company have been launched into the Morrisons supermarket chain in the UK.

The company's Manuka Honey and Lemon, and Manuka Honey and Root Ginger hit the shelves in about 420 supermarkets in early May.

Sales were going well and the next focus was to get the products launched into the Asian markets the company operated in, said sales and marketing manager Peter Cox.

The company, which was formed in 2006, was named in 2009 New Zealand's fastest growing company with a 995 per cent increase in sales between August 2006 and August 2009.

The UK was its biggest market and it also exported to Hong Kong, Singapore, China and South Korea.

While the company was regularly receiving new market inquiries, in Asia, Europe and even North America, it was taking care with how it approached growth.

"In order for us to build and grow, we want to build the brand in markets we enter," he said.

The world was looking for healthy, natural products and honey fitted into that, production and technical manager David McMillan said.

The company had five permanent staff and about four casual staff and the team was passionate about the business.

"Passion is at the forefront of what we do. When you've got such a fantastic product, its hard not to be passionate. It's so pure, so healthy, it's an incredible product to work with and it's incredibly versatile," McMillan said.

While more than 95 per cent of the company's product was exported, the focus in the future was to also bolster domestic sales.

The plan was to build the company's business in the Foodstuffs group and also to open up its website to enable customers to purchase online. "We will focus on trying to make our product more available in New Zealand," Cox said.

Bad summer weather and growing global demand have this year combined to produce record high prices for New Zealand honey.

Supplies of manuka honey, highly sought after for its health properties, and other native floral honeys have been particularly hard hit.

Neil Stuckey, owner of the Waitemata Honey Co and northern representative for the National Beekeepers Association of New Zealand, estimates the overall honey crop would be down 30 per cent cent this year, with manuka down between 60 and 70 per cent.

According to a Government report New Zealand produced 9450 tonnes of honey in the year to June 2011, and honey exports earned $101.6 million.

Prices have risen sharply as a result of the latest disappointing season and Stuckey said beekeepers who got $10 a kilo for manuka honey last year were now receiving $15.

But while the rest of the country had a poor season, the lower half of the South Island, especially Otago-Southland, had "fantastic" production, McMillan said.

Like any agricultural industry, it was very weather dependent and three or four weeks of bad weather at the wrong time could have a huge impact on the crop - "but that's bee keeping", he said.

The industry was growing and while there was a slight dip following the introduction of varroa, hive numbers had since increased and the average honey crop had also increased.

- Otago Daily Times

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