New Zealand’s manuka honey is a worldwide hit – now an ASX-listed health and wellness company is hoping its Meluka honey from a 30,000-year-old tea tree plantation in northern NSW can become an iconic Aussie brand.
Eve Investments shipped its first honey orders into China in December and has had to make two unexpected air freight shipments into the United States to keep up with demand on Amazon, where the honey has at times sold out.
Amazon is an ideal distribution partner in North America because unlike in a supermarket aisle, selling via e-commerce gives Eve a chance to tell what it considers the compelling story of the honey, says chief executive Bill Fry.
The honey is produced by bees foraging on a 2,100 acre tea tree plantation in the Bungawalbin Valley in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.
Some of the trees on the plantation are 1,000 years old, and Southern Cross University has carbon dated seeds from the land indicating that Melaleuca alternifolia tea trees have grown there for 30,000 years, Mr Fry said.
“The tea tree oil has got some properties, and it is used quite widely in antibacterial products, disinfectants, cleaning products, skin care ranges and medicinal soaps,” he said.
Honey has been used to treat wounds for thousands of years, he noted.
Perth-based EVE sold 21,000 units to a Chinese distributor in December and has seen strong demand from US customers on Amazon, where the honey sells for up to $US34.95 a jar ($A52).
“We’ve seen an exponential growth in sales,” Mr Fry said. “It’s blown us away.”
So far Kiwis haven’t complained about the similarities between the names Meluka and manuka, he said.
The company’s website explains the difference – manuka honey is produced by bees that pollinate flowers from manuka bushes, while Meluka honey made by bees that forage on the Melaleuca trees.
“We made it pretty clear on the website that’s a shortening of the name, Melaleuca,” Mr Fry said.
Formerly an ASX-listed investment company, EVE bought the Jendale plantation and its operations from its owner Bryan Easson in 2018 for $2.86 million.
The operation is the world’s largest certified organic tea tree plantation in the world – although there’s not a lot of competition, Mr Fry admits.
EVE is also leasing some its land to THC Global to grow medicinal cannabis, with THC providing EVE with hemp seeds to infuse in a special blend of its honey.