MY SAY...INNOVATION Beeswax ALL OF YOUR whether they take a conservative or modern view of our country, whether urban or rural. It helps the flora and fauna of both our native and our exotic landscapes. It ticks boxes. Lots of them. Not that the manuka honey industry is without its problems. Rapid inflation, product fraudulence, cowboy operators – you can view these as both problems or symptoms of success. We view it as opportunity. Our Super Honey range is a case in point. We take a lower-value (low activity) manuka honey and add natural extracts and enzymes to create a range of super honeys targeting particular wellness or nutrition requirements. Turning these lower-efficacy honeys into functional foods here in Taitokerau (Northland) provides many advantages and new opportunities. Good branding aside, it can be hard to differentiate one manuka honey from another, but through product innovation, our products differentiate and give us a unique selling point, as well as the opportunity to offer an extended and diverse product range. From our industry’s point of view, value-adding here in New Zealand also helps the problem of food fraud - when we ship bulk manuka honey overseas it enables unscrupulous operators to more easily adulterate the honey. Commodity selling of New Zealand’s manuka honey as a food product is probably just lazy marketing, but it’s sad to see this short-sighted behaviour occurring in a relatively new industry where we had a unique product (or we did until Australia jumped on the manuka brand bandwagon). We should have called all the shots in terms of pricing and positioning, and maintained better control on product integrity. Perhaps individual initiatives will help drive future change. Here at Kare, we have a boutique operation with an emphasis on the ‘handmade/hand done’. We are located in a remote rural area with high unemployment, so our value-adding creates job security and better prospects for our team. Our new products give us improved brand recognition as well as the opportunity to team up and cluster – small businesses such as ours can use valueadding as an opportunity to form informal cooperations and alliances. Rather than duplicating existing businesses, we work with other small and medium-sized processors and related businesses in our region who have under-utilised capacity and capabilities. It’s win-win all round. Billy Mulcare of Kare Honey says innovation, value-adding and retaining control over unique New Zealand products will be the difference between benefiting from market changes or being left behind. The world is changing. People’s tastes are shifting. They are living longer…and better. The rise in individual and collective wealth marches inexorably onwards: it is the nature of economic growth that it has to go somewhere – it can’t all go to Bermuda! People are more health conscious, more aware of the need to take more care about what they put into their bodies…but would they be so much if they didn’t have more discretionary income? In some ways it doesn’t matter where the momentum for change is coming from: only that we recognise this change, and adapt our products and services to meet (or often pre-date) demand. If our goods have merit, then - with the help of our early adopters - we will expand and be successful, and in the process help the wider economy and our communities. The New Zealand export economy has traditionally been one concerned with producing primary commodities for overseas markets. While the composition of those exports may have altered a little, as have the markets we sell our products in, little else has changed from the 20th century dogma that ‘more is better’. Make more, sell more! This may be an unconscious mantra, but in the manuka honey industry this particular objective to increase production has had the opposite effect. The expansion in hive numbers and multiple new players entering what appeared to be a lucrative industry has in many locations created a highly competitive environment for both the beekeeper and our foraging bees. Little wonder that in these situations, honey production per hive has declined, sometimes very significantly. Our government has set an industry target to grow the export value of the honey sector to NZ$1.2 billion by 2027. An ambitious target indeed, given that much of this growth would arguably be off the back of manuka exports, and our manuka estate is currently a finite resource. An obvious alternative place to seek growth for our industry is via innovation and value-adding, not in a greater proliferation of hive numbers. Currently too much of our honey leaves our shores as a semi-unprocessed commodity in bulk drums. This represents a significant risk for adulteration offshore, and a lost opportunity for New Zealand. We at Kare are happy to be part of an industry that ticks many boxes. Yes, the manuka honey industry is still part of the primary industry. But it would have to be one of the most benign (okay, it is the most benign, in terms of industry anyway) of the primary industries. There is a collective understanding that bees are great for our environment, and that a large portion of our food supply is dependent on bees for pollination. It is also an industry that people generally like, Billy Mulcare is director of Kare Ltd, based in Northland.
FT-Annual Directory 2018-eMag
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