Over the years, Manuka honey has become a part of 'Kiwiana' and a treasured export we are all proud of. Zealandia Honey are harnessing this global love for honey and creating arguably the best honey in the world. We chat to the co-founders about their journey.
Unlike a lot of food companies that start with the goal of conquering the local NZ market, Zealandia Honey was born out of international demand for premium, native New Zealand honey. Co-founders Sri Govindaraju, Sunil Pinnamaneni and Robin de Gues are passionate about honey and believe that people can benefit not only from Mānuka honey but other types of New Zealand native honeys because of their high antioxidant and polyphenol content.
Zealandia don’t make their own honey. Instead, they collaborate with beekeepers across New Zealand, most of whom have been beekeeping for generations. Zealandia then tests all the honey at their ISO17025 certified laboratories where they test the quality, potency, authenticity and purity of the honey.
“In the right conditions, honey can be matured like a whiskey or a fine wine. The amount of methylglyoxal (MGO) in the honey will increase. However, there are about 50 different variables that must all be exactly right, honey with a high MGO count is rarely harvested”, says Sunil.
When Zealandia Honey was offered a high MGO honey for sale, they jumped at the chance. They then bottled this honey and created a batch of 120 bespoke jars, selling each for $3100.
On the episode we talk about their high growth journey. Specifically, we talk about:
Links to the kiwi food cast of Zealandia Honey are here:
About Perzen Patel: https://www.podcasts.nz/kiwifoodcast/
Sri's shares what her experience has been like opening up export markets in India and the Middle East, we talk about how Zealandia is going beyond Manuka honey using research led innovation to create new products and what it feel likes as to bring her vision to life with business co-founders Sunil and Robin.
A Kiwi Original shares uniquely Kiwi stories from people contributing to New Zealand's future. Each episode is approximately 25 - 35 minutes long. While each interview is unique, there are key themes that come up each time including:
Check out the Buy New Zealand Made website here;
Or find a direct link to YouTube here: https://youtu.be/JIdY_-IiP5w
Or listen on Apple Podcast by clicking here: https://podcasts.apple.com/nz/podcast/a-kiwi-original-sri-govindaraju-zealandia-honey-054/id1459210919?i=1000490409734
Last but not least the Spotify podcast can be found here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/29pmNMdezM7PJ8dCbqTTjT
Slick marketing definitely, but is it art?
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.”
Laurilee McMichael is editor of the Taupo & Turangi Weekender
A high-grade honey. A bespoke handcrafted glass container. A handturned lid and totara plinth. And, a custom-made stainless steel sleeve. It would be fair to say Taupō-based business Zealandia Honey's premium honey is an artwork in its own right.
The price reflects it, with each 200g of honey in its handblown glass jar costing $3100. All have already been sold to an offshore private buyer, with several going to a royal family in the United Arab Emirates.
The 120 glass jars are a myriad of colours and swirls that represent Zealandia Honey, the volcanoes, lakes and rivers of the Central Plateau. Each jar was individually created by Taupō glass artist Lynden Over. The jars' wooden lids and plinths were each produced exactly to fit by Waitahanui woodturner Robbie Graham. And the stainless steel sleeve by Omori-based steel artist Raynor Dunn not only looks stylish but also provides a surface to print the important regulatory information that must accompany honey.
What's inside is a special product that justifies the special treatment. It is a manuka honey with what Zealandia staff think is the highest concentration of the antibacterial component methylglyoxal ever recorded.
Zealandia Honey owner and chief strategy officer Robin de Geus explains that of all the honeys in the world, manuka is the only one that contains methylglyoxal.
In the right conditions the honey can be matured like a whiskey or a fine wine and the amount of methylglyoxal (MGO) in the honey will increase. Because the MGO balance requires a combination of 50 different variables, all of which must be exactly right, honey with a high MGO count is rarely harvested.
So when Zealandia Honey was offered a high MGO honey for sale, it jumped at the chance.
Company co-owners Sri Govindaraju (head of communications), her husband Sunil Pinnamaneni (also chief executive) and Robin de Geus (also chief strategy officer) formed Taupō-based Zealandia Honey 15 months ago after Robin and Sunil met working in a laboratory and found they had matching visions.
Robin had the entrepreneurial expertise and Sunil the understanding of honey. Sri has a food science background and Sunil pursued a masters degree in London and Sweden in food science and biotechnology. Robin is a former lead auditor for integrated management systems and is passionate about design and concept creation.
Zealandia Honey does not produce the honey itself but works with selected beekeepers, outsourcing many of its processes. Beekeepers send samples of their honey to the company, which tests them in its laboratory and from there decides whether to buy the honey.
De Geus says within the honey industry there is a lot of trading and drums of honey can change hands several times. When Zealandia bought this particular batch, the MGO count was 1100mg/kg and rising. It was stored to allow it to mature, and lab testing before bottling confirmed the MGO level was at 1717mg although Pinnamaneni expects it could eventually rise as high as 2000mg.
De Geus says while there is a lot of honey produced in New Zealand, it is putting it into the jars that is the part with the most business risk and that is where Zealandia is involved. It contracts out its manufacturing and packing but in Taupō it has an office, a storage facility and a research and development wing which employs a scientist and a project manager. Some 99 per cent of Zealandia's product is exported.
"It's an investment. We have the honey but we have to wait a long time."
Having secured the honey, the challenge for Zealandia was how to market and present such a premium product in an innovative, artistic and beautiful way, a project which was right up de Geus' street.
They briefed glass artist Over on what they wanted for their honey jars - a glass receptacle with a volcanic background that would encompass the message of the Central Plateau as well as being unique. Once the jars were in train, they also had to find artists to create the lids and sleeves.
The resulting products, de Geus says, are pieces of art.
"This is such a unique piece, it's like a painting. For us, it's more about creating a statement than the monetary value that's in it. The statement is about the artists, about the brand, working with people from the land that are creative. It's very important for us to tell that story and we wanted to show off our scientific knowledge by creating the most potent honey in the world."
With its hefty price tag, this honey was only going to ever appeal to a small group of very wealthy people. De Geus says Pinnamaneni has formed connections because of his vast experience in the honey industry, which led to a buyer.
Govindaraju says the bulk of the money from the premium honey project is staying within the Central Plateau, not only with Zealandia but also with the artists and extra involvement from people like filmmaker Joel Corbett who shot a series of videos to accompany the honey's release.
What made the premium honey release really complicated was that the finishing touches had to be done during the alert level 4 lockdown. Over was able to finish glass blowing the last of the 130 jars required just before the lockdown took effect.
As an essential business, Zealandia was able to move the glass from point to point and Govindaraju and de Geus were part of each other's bubbles which allowed them to work together. When they were unable to source some things - such as the laser cutting for the steel sleeves - they improvised. De Geus bought a laser cutter and did the work himself, saying he loves that sort of task anyway.
It was a stressful time all round with a short eight-week timeline to come up with a concept, create the components and put the finished product together, made more complicated by the level 4 and level 3 lockdown. But, they did it and the product left New Zealand in early May.
"It's a good feeling," de Geus says. "Zealandia is about collaboration.
"Everything is handcrafted. Nothing can be bought off the shelf, not even the rubber seals for the lids which all had to be done individually to fit."
© Laurilee McMichael - Taupo & Turangi Weekender 2020
Contamination of food is a serious problem in the world as use of antibiotics and pesticides compromises food safety. The management of pesticides and its usage is largely unregulated. Pesticides are often linked to long-term health effects such as endocrine disruption, birth defects, and cancer. On the other hand, the presence of antibiotics in honey is problematic as they cause allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance in humans, toxic effects, and damage to the central nervous system.
Pesticides are used to control bee diseases and pests in apiculture. However, in most instances their administration is uncontrolled, and they are applied without approved protocols. The most common used pesticides are acaricides amitraz, celazole, bromopropylate, coumaphos, flumethrin and taufluvalinate.
Apiarists use antibiotics to treat bacterial diseases in the hive. As a result, traces can be found in the honey itself. Oxytetracycline is commonly used to treat European foulbrood disease and American foulbrood diseases. Other antibiotics are also used, including but not limited to, erythromycin, lincomycin, monensin, streptomycin, and enrofloxacin. Antibiotic residues are predominantly the result of improper beekeeping practices and have been found to be above the regulatory standards for food.
New Zealand Beekeepers have several legal obligations that must be met before honey is extracted. The main important obligations are related to the management of pesticides and antibiotics. It is strictly monitored in all sorts of beekeeping operations. They also sterilize beekeeping equipment after the extraction and before the next season, so the honey that is procured in New Zealand is of absolutely top quality.
At Zealandia, we are going one step further to ensure the honey we sell, is free of all pesticides, residues, and antibiotics. We do a randomised test for more than 100 different pesticides, residues, and antibiotics to ensure you are eating one of the best quality honeys from New Zealand. What you get from us is the real deal, genuine Manuka Honey. We are more than happy to share with you a certificate of analysis with every pot of honey showing all results should you wish to see it.
I am sure there are many women out there like me who suffer from pimples or acne when their monthly PMT is due to pay a visit. Pimples also occur in adolescence although they can happen at any stage. Both women and men have pimples.
I have never had trouble with pimples as a teenager. It doesn’t run in my family either. However, in recent years, my hormones are more and more out of whack when I am inching closer to my PMT. And pimples just love to make an appearance on my forehead. Sometimes they hurt and sometimes they are itchy. It takes a lot of self-control to not constantly touch them. I am paranoid that they all have puss in them and will leave me with scarring once my PMT passes. Some quick research on google gave me some confidence that these can be cured by eating a balance diet, and tips for some home remedies, that included Manuka Honey in it. How lucky am I that I have access to heaps of good quality Zealandia Manuka Honey!
Apparently not all pimples have puss. I have gathered that there are six different types of pimples. They are
Whiteheads – these are small pimples that remain under the skin and have flesh-coloured papule
Blackheads – these are clearly visible on the surface of the skin because of their colouring. They are either black or dark brown, due to the oxidation of the skin’s pigment, melanin
Papules – These are small, round bumps that rise from the skin and are often pink
Pustules – These are slightly bigger papules but filled with pus. They are clearly visible; the base is red, and the pus is on the top. They can be painful
Nodules – Similar to papules, but only larger. They are quite painful and embedded deep in the skin
Cysts – these are visible on the surface of the skin, filled with pus, painful and usually leave scarring behind
When pores become clogged with sebum and dead skin, that causes pimples. Sometimes this leads to infection and inflammation. They affect some people more than others, and the reasons for it is largely unknown.
The sebaceous glands are tiny skin glands that secrete sebum, a waxy or oily substance that lubricates the skin and hair. Sebaceous glands are found inside the pores of our skin, all over the body, except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. There are more sebaceous glands on the face and scalp than elsewhere.
As the glands produce sebum inside the pores, new skin cells are constantly growing, and the outer layers of skin are being shed. Sometimes, dead skin cells are not shed. They remain in the pores and get stuck together by the sticky sebum, causing a blockage in the pore. Pore blockage is more likely to occur during puberty, as the sebaceous glands produce more sebum during this time.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post I am sharing is about what I have done to alleviate my acne, from an anecdotal perspective. It is in no way a cure or promoting to say Zealandia Manuka & Kanuka Honey are a medicine. The blog is based on my research of articles on the internet and the severity of hormonal acne varies for each person. There are lifestyle factors that have an impact for most people and I am just sharing my home remedies that have helped me tackle the issue so that it may help you broaden your knowledge and perspective and hopefully give you some new tools to try out.
The timeline I worked on for my pimples – 7 days
The 1st pimple that that breaks out in my PMT cycle confirms my period is around the corner. As I mentioned before there is no magical solution, I watch what I eat, make sure I am not eating more chippies or fried food. There are times when it just flares up bad and some months it is subtle. My recent one flared up quite a bit. I went a bit over of the top with pimple popping. And that only worsened, as you can see from the pictures. I made a face mask and religiously applied it for about 8 days at anywhere between 30 mins to an hour. It is the best preventative care I could give to my skin.
The recipe - I used just 3 ingredients for my facemask – 1t Zealandia Manuka Honey MGO550+, 1t Exotic Blooming Teas Himalayan Rose water (optional) and a pinch home ground turmeric.
Zealandia Gold Label – MGO 550+ Manuka Honey – This is monofloral honey has only Manuka in it. This honey has a very earthy taste and has bitter afternotes because of the higher potency and is dark amber in colour. Not only does the 550+ help with cold symptoms and gut health, it has an additional benefit of treating minor wounds like cuts, grazes, small burns, skin inflammation etc. because of the high anti-bacterial activity.
Zealandia Certified Organic Kanuka Honey – This is Manuka’s lesser known cousin. It has similar properties to Manuka, except the anti-inflammatory content of this honey is super high. So, it is stronger than our gold label – MGO 550+ and perfect for skincare like facemasks, it is loaded with anti-ageing properties too.
Rose water – is a natural fragrance and has been used in skin applications since medieval times. It helps maintain the skin’s pH balance and helps controls excess oil. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can help reduce the inflammation of irritated skin, acne, dermatitis, rosacea, eczema etc.
Turmeric – Is known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been long used in Traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
Happy trialling people! Visit our website – www.zealandiahoney.com for more product information
The key natural compound in Manuka honey is Methylglyoxal (MGO). It is found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities. But where does it come from in manuka honey?
In Manuka Honey, MGO comes from the conversion of another compound dihydroxyacetone (DHA), that is found in high concentration in the nectar of Manuka flowers. So what do I look for on your label and what makes MGO so special?
MGO is a very reactive compound and due to its unique chemical structure, it reacts with bacterial DNA and disrupts its structural integrity and function. Thus, it directly damages the formation of new bacterial cells. Okay I understand now but how much of the concentration is needed?
The potency of MGO can be expressed as MIC (Minimum Inhibition Concentration). MIC is defined as the minimum concentration of MGO required to inhibit 100% of bacterial growth. MGO is the most effective against the below bacteria and as well of the suggested MIC.
Escherichia Coli (ATCC 8739) – M.I.C is 220 mg/kg
Psudomonas aeruginosa – M.I.C is 310 mg/kg
Staphylococcus aureus – M.I.C is 100 mg/kg
Streptococcus mutans – M.I.C is 150 mg/kg
Candida albicans – M.I.C is 550 mg/kg
Group A Streptococcus bacteria – M.I.C is 100 mg/kg
H.Pylori – M.I.C is 250 mg/kg
The difference between MGO & UMF® is easy to describe, as a rule of thumb these are the main differences
Simplicity at heart. No hard conversions. The amount of MGO in honey is quantified at independent accredited laboratories and indicated on the label in milligrams per kilogram.
Paid membership for the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA). A rating based on the quantity of DHA, MGO and presence of leptosperin in honey products.
To get even more of an idea here is a comparison table to see the different values between the two rating systems. The amounts might differ slightly and this is only an indication.
|Zealandia Honey® Bronze||MGO 100+||UMF 5+|
|Zealandia Honey® Silver||MGO 250+||UMF 10+|
|Zealandia Honey® Rose Gold||MGO 400+||UMF 13+|
|Zealandia Honey® Gold||MGO 550+||UMF 16+|
|Zealandia Honey® Cobalt||MGO 850+||UMF 20+|
|Zealandia Honey® Diamond||MGO 1200+||UMF 25+|