23 Jan From Flower to Honey Pot – Nourish Magazine
Honey is the purest of foods with no preservatives, no additives and an infinite shelf life. Honey’s conversion from plant nectar to edible product is done by bees. Humans simply help themselves to the harvest and package it. Liz French learns about the ‘miracle’ of honey from a honey producer with a huge respect for its bees.
Katikati based BeeNZ is special in that it manages the entire journey from hive to honey pot. They are the beekeeper, extractor, processor, packer, seller and exporter. Owners David and Julie Hayes know bees. In 2003 they began an apiary business to provides pollination service for avocado and kiwifruit orchards including their own. Buzz Apiaries now had 1,200 hives spread between Raglan and the upper Bay of Plenty. “As we visit each hive every 10 days we’ve kept them within a radius of under two hours’ drive” David explains. David is a beekeeper as are two of their sons while the third, still at college is already involved.
HOW HONEY HAPPENS
Pollination is a mutually beneficial relationship between plants and bees which has evolved over millions of years. Plants produce nectar which is bee food. While searching for and collecting nectar, bees perform the vital service of spreading pollen from one plant to another. Having loaded up their body weight in nectar, bees fly back to the hive. The bees process the nectar in their stomachs, one of the active enzymes contributing to the preservation of honey and to its antibacterial properties. The partially dehydrated drops of honey are then delivered to the honeycomb cells, every single cell an exact hexagonal sloping slightly back so the honey does not run out. Estimates suggest it takes two million bee visits from hive to flower to produce just half a kilo of honey! Bees need over 20 kilos of honey to feed the hive. Once the cells are full, they store the surplus – in the extra hive space that beekeepers have thoughtfully provided.
Buzz Apiaries soon found themselves with ample surplus honey. So, in 2010 the Hayes built an extraction facility and gained certification for the processing and export of bee products. Honey is extracted from the honeycombs of the surplus upper hives into 300 kilo drums, each batch tested, identified and certified so the source of honey is fully traceable. Julie explains that their hives are strategically placed so that they can easily identify (confirmed by the texture of the honey and by testing) whether it is Manuka, Rewarewa (NZ honeysuckle), Wildflower (a blend) or one of many other varieties. “Rewarrewa also flowers at a different time to Manuka, which makes it even easier” she points out.
BEENZ, HONEY OF NEW ZEALAND
Five years later, in 2015, David and Julie took the next step in the progression of honey from bee to customer. They built a hi-spec honey facility with the latest processing and packing technology. The honey arrives in its 300 kilo drums (from their own and other beekeepers’ hives) and leaves in pots (often in container loads) of varying sizes and according to the orders which now come form Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. The local market is served from their adjacent retail store and boutique food stores. “It is a fantastic product to produce” enthuses Julie as she leads the way past the spotless stainless steel vats and pristine conveyor belts. “We work with nature, nothing other than pure honey. If it spills, we simply wash it away with water. It’s as healthy to produce as it is to consume.”
BeeNZ started processing for export in February 2016, and in October won both the Supreme and the Best Manufacturing and Processing categories in the 2016 Katikati/Waihi Community Business Awards. “We are very proud to have come this far this quickly”, say the Hayes, pointing out that they could not have done it without their (all local) staff, their family, the support of local beekeepers and their hardest workers, the bees.
BeeNZ Limited, Honey of New Zealand | www.beenz.co.nz
Retail store, 85 Tetley Road, Katikati. Open Mon-Fri, 8:30-4:30
The Hayes are also ‘buzzing’ about Honeylab, a NZ pharmanatural research company they helped establish. Honeylab has focused on research into the value of honey in areas of dermatology, pain management and nutrition. In 2014 its Kanuka honey product for treating rosacea was proven the most effective of the market for skin complaint. Products for acne and cold sores are undergoing clinical trials.