Melita - The Brand

June 2018

Building a "Land to Brand" strategy at Melita Group

Melita Group resulted from the strategic merger in 2016 of five bee keeping enterprises and three honey product brands to provide a platform for growth in production and exporting.

The group now has a land-to-brand story with integration from production to retail. The three families are the Jansons and the Barleys in Hawke’s Bay, and the Harveys in South Auckland.

The combined operations now have 7500 hives and three premises, in Hastings and in South Auckland and Wanganui. Melita Honey in Hastings concentrates on manuka honey, while the Happy Valley business in Rosehill, near Drury, provides processing and packaging facilities, strong brands, export experience, and domestic retailing premises.

Exporting UMF Honey is the majority business for the Happy Valley division of the Melita Group. About 65% of sales volume is UMF and a similar proportion of total sales goes to export.

Happy Valley also sells a range of bee products – wild bush honey, wild pasture honey, bee venom, royal jelly, propolis, pollen – and that sales volume is weighted towards domestic.

The founder of Happy Valley was a pioneer in health and wellbeing products from bees, and that remains its point of difference to other honey companies. A number of different sales channels are used such as wholesale, retail, on-line, long-term contracts.

The Great South Road premises takes bulk honeys and packages into consumer and commercial products. Creaming of honey takes place, office services and retail sales. Being the nearest NZ honey manufacturing premises to Auckland International Airport.

UMF honey is sold by Happy Valley at unique factor levels 5+, 10+, 15+, 20+ and 24+. This is common in the industry. Most manuka honey cones in the 5+ to 15+ levels, and so the higher 20+ and 24+ are rare and expensive (up to $400/kg at retail). Manuka honey prices rose steadily at 30% annually until three years ago, but have now levelled out at the price consumers are prepared to pay.

The leading export destination is the United States, followed by Middle Eastern countries, China and Southeast Asian countries. Happy Valley products come with certification of origin, including many requirements still being introduced by Ministry of Primary Industries. Up to 10 chemical markers are being tested, along with the strength of anti-microbial activity, and NZ provenance, including hive location, hive number and dates. Consumers want a trust-worthy authentic product (NZ manuka and not something else that is misrepresented), and a strength level (UMF grades). As a food product, honey cannot make health claims on the packs, but can name the contents.

The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) and MPI are constantly encountering fraudulent activity regarding manuka honey and UMF factor around the world. Narissa is an associate on the board of Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association, that has members covering about 80% of the UMF honey that leaves NZ. At the moment, UMFHA is representing very strongly the case for “manuka” to be a NZ-only appellation and that Australia should not be able to trademark “manuka” and should call its own ti-tree honey something different and indigenous to Australia. UMFHA is trying to put the story together around the exact species of manuka related to NZ, compared with any other country. At present it would not be necessary to go for registration of provincial manuka honeys.

The internationally used term Geographical Indications (GIs) will increasingly be used for NZ products like manuka honey, Marlborough sauvignon blanc, New Zealand greenshell mussels, Bluff oysters etc. The use of “Manuka” may also come with Treaty of Waitangi obligations.