An industry for which 2020 appears to have had a positive spin-off is in essential oils, with one local producer reporting international interest in their products has tripled in recent months.
Andrew Rainham, business development manager of health and beauty company Parrs Products, says there has been a huge lift in demand for product this year – a trend he believes is partly attributable to how lockdowns have driven more retail online.
But he also thinks it because to international eyes New Zealand has "moved on from being known for its cows and sheep and is carving a reputation in a number of fields including high tech, bio tech and medical tech."
Among the products produced by Parrs is a range of Manuka-based skincare essential oils (its latest product from its family well-being range, Manuka Vantage, was released to the market three months ago) and Rainham says there has been a huge increase in demand from markets in Asia and the Middle East.
"Traditionally we export around 20 percent of what we produce (mainly to Australia and South-East Asia) but this year we have started getting a lot of interest from other places such as the Middle East," he says. "Before this year we might have had a query from there about once a month; now we are getting dozens every week."
This trend reflects the growth of the essential oils industry globally. Data released by US-based Allied Market Research in November said the industry is expected to realise an annual compound growth rate of 9.1 per cent and reach US$11.19 billion in 2022.
But the industry may also be changing the face of farming, particularly on the North Island's east coast (which is where Parrs sources the manuka oil it uses).
Traditionally manuka oil production in New Zealand came from wild-harvested manuka, but growing demand for the product is resulting in the establishment of manuka plantations in place of traditional farming methods, especially on land on the East Cape.
A recent report in NZ Business revealed that more than 500,000 manuka plants - once regarded as a pest by farmers - went into the ground last year in the region and a further 500,000 are planned by the end of 2021. Although the annual production of the oil is less than 10 tons, industry observers think it this could realistically grow to 100 tons in the near future.
Nationwide about 9.2 million manuka trees are being planted every year (including in Marlborough, Northland, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, Whanganui, Waikato and Nelson) to meet the other use for the plant – the production of honey.
Rainham believes the reputation of manuka honey is also a factor in the increased interest in manuka-based essential oils. "People are well aware of the honey and so are open to what else is good about the plant.
"Despite being well-known in New Zealand, the use of manuka in essential oils is a reasonably new phenomenon from a global perspective and it is now starting to come out from under the shadow of manuka honey," he says.
In the Manuka Vantage range ingredients include manuka oil with a triketone content of more than 20 per cent (triketones are naturally occurring organic compounds and have been shown to have high antimicrobial properties) and Manuka honey which is rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals and has the ability to help nourish, soothe and protect sensitive skin.
"Our philosophy is to ensure our most important ingredients and components come from natural, ethical and sustainable sources," Rainham says.
Parrs Products is a family business that has been making products for over 60 years including 30 in the cosmetics industry.
For more information go to: manukavantage.co.nz
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