Paengaroa-based Comvita New Zealand produces health and skin care products from natural ingredients such as manuka honey. Brett Hewlett has been the global company's chief executive for nearly seven years.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
I worked in a dairy factory as a management trainee in Matangi. I got pretty good lessons in how to get alongside people and the importance of team work.
Developing your own distribution network has been a key focus for Comvita in recent years. Why is that seen as important and how is that now paying off for the company?
It's important because it's about our ability to connect with our global customers, plus it gives us agility and speed. We can respond quicker when we own the distribution network ourselves and we can also capture more value (margin).
What do you see as the greatest challenge and greatest opportunity for the health and skin care market in the next 12 months?
One of the key challenges is the evolving regulatory framework which can be different in every market. The opportunity for continued growth in Asia is exciting alongside the growth trend of the natural health and beauty products category.
What attracted you to Comvita and why do you enjoy your role there?
I joined Comvita in 2005 and I was very impressed by how they appeared to be punching above their weight. They also had, and continue to have, a value-add story (eg, manuka honey on its own then put into healthcare, skin care and wound care products) which is unique. There's also the great people, who are passionate about what they do and genuinely want to make a difference and to be part of something that benefits people's health.
You are on the NZTE Better by Design Advisory Board. Why is design so important in export industries?
Design-led thinking provides a way of developing strategy to ensure we develop sustainable, competitive advantages for our business and products.
What do you see as the three essential skills or qualities for good leadership?
The courage to do what you believe in, to have a vision, to care and believe you can make a difference.
Asia is central to Comvita's export growth - how do these markets compare to the Middle Eastern and European markets you worked with during your time with Tetrapak?
They are similar in the value they place on families and communities.
If you could choose anybody as a business mentor, who would it be and why?
Sir Richard Branson as he is a real visionary with big, bold ideas, who is also both compassionate and passionate, open to new ideas and ways of doing things and still heavily involved in his business.