When Taupō based honey company Zealandia Honey ended up with a batch of manuka honey whose potency was hundreds of times above average it sought to sell it in a correspondingly special vessel.
This may have bumped the price up to US $2020 (NZ $3100) for a 200 gram bottle – but the 120 jars have all sold.
All to one buyer who didn’t want to have his identity known, said Sri Jyothi Govindaraju, Zealandia Honey’s head of marketing and sales.
The “magic ingredient” is methylglyoxal or MGO, said Robin De Geus, the company’s chief strategy officer said at a launch of the special reserve honey in Taupō’s Lava Glass Glassblowing Studio and Art Gallery on Saturday.
“In other honeys it will be around 0-30 milligrams per kilogram,” said De Geus, “in ours it is 1717 milligrams per kilogram. There have been honeys ranging from everywhere in between and some around 1700 before us.”
So it’s some of the most potent manuka honey around and, while the trim, besuited De Geus is fairly laid back in his sales pitch, he can wax lyrical with a ‘but wait there’s more…’
“The cool effect about this honey is it will mature over time. Our research and development company says it will get to 2000 mgs probably in one year’s time. It’s like a good whisky or a wine or cheese.”
The honey, Zealandia’s website says, has already been maturing since harvest in 2015.
Hydrogen peroxide gives most honey its antibiotic quality. But some types, including manuka, contain other ingredients, such as MGO which appears to have an antibacterial effect on Escherichia coli (E. coli), Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a pathogen which generally affects the immunocompromised and has a natural resistance to antibiotics.
Methylglyoxal usually only appears in small quantities.
“This particular honey came from Northland. Eighty per cent of our honey comes from the Central Plateau but only in Northland does it get the ultra-high potency because of the heat and less moisture,” said De Geus.
The company’s chief executive officer, researcher and food scientist, and Govindaraju’s husband, Sunil Pinnamaneni, who has been in honey for 10 years, and works with selected beekeepers to buy honey for the company, had “never seen a honey like this before,” noted De Geus.
At Saturday night’s launch, De Geus and Govindaraju related how they managed during Covid-19 lockdown to coordinate three artists – glassblower Lynden Over, wood turner, Robbie Graham and sculptor Raynor Dunn – to produce the 120 individually blown jars, individually fitted tops and sculpted metal surround, containing nutritional panel and blurb.
A film production by Joel Corbie accompanied the unveiling to suppliers and guests.
While the unique vessel was a way of creating a buzz for the company, it was also something the purchasers would continue to appreciate, said De Geus, after parting with the symbolic price of US $2020.
“And that’s what we wanted… glass is a beautiful medium, that was the start.”
They then needed the wood tops to be individually turned and be able to seal with an o-ring.
“And we needed the legal requirements like the nutritional panel. I live close to the bush in Omori, Ray lives up on the hill and I thought that guy makes amazing sculptures so around the jar we had metal we could engrave the text on.
“It’s very important for us that the artists’ work is more than just an object – it’s a skill, experience and importantly how we feel seeing it or using it.
“Are people going to accept it – it’s like making a painting. People have to like it for people to buy it.”