From small beginnings Taupō-based King Honey has recently become the fourth largest honey business in New Zealand, with sales growing to $30mil in just three years. The company received international recognition for their ‘Bee+’ Manuka Honey at the London Honey Awards.
Chris Bowman, Chief of Operations at King Honey, says the company’s success lies in their focus on people. “For us it’s about looking after our team. We’ve found that when we look after our people, commercial success naturally follows” says Chris.
Bowman says that most of the 30-strong King Honey team have been referred to the business by current employees. “We haven’t had to advertise for positions and have very low staff turnover. We’ve made sure our organisational structure gives the team lots of opportunities to develop their skills and take on new roles. It works really well” he says.
During the recent nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, King Honey continued to operate as an essential service. “We put together a plan early on to keep each part of our operations in separate bubbles. We source our honey from 18,000 hives throughout Aotearoa, and the hives are often in very remote locations. So there were a lot of logistics involved!” says Chris.
Since the lockdown King Honey has retained all their staff, and is looking to double sales over the next three years. “We’re seeing strong growth in international markets for Manuka Honey. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic consumers are looking for ways to improve their immunity, and Manuka Honey has been linked to a number of health benefits. We’ve also been working with Sir John Key, who has become a brand ambassador and is helping us access new markets” says Chris.
Due to an increase in Manuka Honey imitation products, Chris has been working with others in the New Zealand industry to agree a Manuka Honey quality standard. “Manuka Honey has a strong product story internationally, and it’s important for consumers to know when they are buying an authentic quality product” he says. Based on this collaborative work, all New Zealand Manuka Honey will now be assessed and certified by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) before it’s exported. This certification has helped lift the global price for Manuka Honey, which had begun to drop due to the lower-priced imitation products.
Chris is also mentoring a number of others within the honey industry. “The international demand for Manuka Honey is greater than New Zealand could ever meet. This means we can be collaborative and work on opportunities that can improve the whole industry” he says. To support their planned growth, King Honey has begun to work on a purpose-built facility in Taupō.