Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Hobbit honey - from middle earth to the world

Middle Earth marketing putting New Zealand at centre of world map.

In The Hobbit, Beorn the skin-changer packed red earthenware pots of honey for Thorin and Company when he sent them on their way to Mirkwood.

Now, directors of a New Zealand company are hoping Hobbit Honey will lead them to their pot of gold.

Mighty River Honey, trading as Middle Earth Honey, has launched Anduin Vale honey and plans to manufacture up to 30 other food and beverage items with links to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (LOTR) characters, places and items.

Hobbit branded honey and other products for sale in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
Hobbit branded honey and other products for sale in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

"We launched the high-end Anduin Vale honey pot first, which sells online to LOTR fans, but have now developed a range of other products for the tourist sector in NZ as well as an iconic NZ branded product for offshore markets," said executive chairman Richard Duncan.

"Offshore we have distributors appointed in China, India, Taiwan, as well as interest from the Middle East and North America."

The company operates under license from the United States-based The Saul Zaentz Company, which trades as Middle-earth Enterprises.

"Our first shipment has gone to China, which is going into a chain for pharmacies in the Guangdong Province," Duncan said.

"The products are currently going through the registration process in India."

Duncan said the association with The Hobbit and LOTR meant the brand was easily recognised and well-received overseas.

"It has been years in the making, we wanted a product that was closely associated with New Zealand and I think this is it," he said.

Richard Duncan shows off the new honey products. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Richard Duncan shows off the new honey products. Photo / Jason Oxenham

"Indeed, what really surprised us was the power of a brand that already has generational depth via the books, and now a whole new generation via the films and associated games and merchandise."

The company has offices in Auckland and Cambridge and directly owns and manages 4000 hives throughout the North Island.

It is launching with six products including Smaug manuka honey lozenges, Dwarven Gold chocolates and Gamgee's Candees sweets.

Chief executive Darius Karani said links to the iconic brand gave the company inroads into countries that "did not know" New Zealand.

"In China and India for example, many have not even heard of New Zealand or the All Blacks, but they know the Lord of the Rings," Karani said.

"I believe the branding has opened many doors for us and also been good for promoting New Zealand."

Dr Andrew Zhu, a Chinese market research specialist, said many in China would have an emotional attachment to the brand.

"The Chinese may not have read the books but millions would have watched the movies," said Zhu, director of Trace Research.

He said Chinese would also pay a premium for products from Middle Earth New Zealand to have "peace of mind".

Pollution and product-safety scares there have led many to shun local produce and turn to foreign imports, which were considered safer.

- Herald on Sunday

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