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Export Award For Comvita - Honey Bee Specialists

Export Award For Comvita - Honey Bee Specialists

Tauranga, May 28 2003 -- Comvita New Zealand, a Bay of Plenty company that started out manufacturing natural health products derived from honeybees in a garage in 1974, has won a Trade New Zealand Export Award for its strong growth in international sales.

(Note to editors: Media are invited to attend the Trade New Zealand Export Award presentation to Comvita by Winnie Laban, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Trade Negotiations, at 12.30pm on Wednesday 28 May at the company’s premises, Wilsons Road, Paengaroa, Te Puke.)

CEO Graeme Boyd says sales last year were $18.7 million. While about half that figure was direct exports, he says in reality about 75% of Comvita products end up offshore – with the balance either exported by other enterprises or taken back home by international tourists.

He says exports have been growing strongly at 50% per annum since the late 1990s, boosted by a major expansion and restructure, and following Comvita’s entry into the Australian market.

Comvita manufactures and markets a wide portfolio of natural health products derived from honeybees – honey, propolis, pollen, royal jelly and venom. The products are formulated and packaged into various applications – for example lozenges, elixir, throat spray and tablets – designed to appeal to different audiences, including digestive health, immune functionality and good nutrition.

Mr Boyd says Comvita positions its products at the premium end of the market, with the Comvita brand a key competitive advantage.

“We have developed a strong and well recognised international brand. One of our major points of difference is New Zealand – it provides us with a clean, green image, and the country itself provides us with the highest quality natural products found anywhere in the world.”

Comvita exports to 10 countries, with major markets Australia, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and the USA.

Mr Boyd says a key achievement has been the rapid growth in exports to Australia since Comvita entered the market in 1999. With annual sales of about $2 million last year, Australia is now its largest export market.

He says sales throughout Asia are also growing strongly, with people reaching for products such as propolis in an effort to build up immunity against the SARS virus.

Last year Comvita established its first 100% subsidiary offshore in Japan, part of its strategy to become more involved in its offshore markets in order to maximise export opportunities and control its future.

“In essence we are evolving from being an exporter to an international marketer,” says Mr Boyd. “We are moving towards having our own people on the ground in our offshore markets, rather than working through a distributor who handles products from many different companies.”

With demand for Comvita products continuing to increase, Mr Boyd says further expansion is required. In order to finance its growth, the company went onto the Unlisted Securities Market last year, with 130 shareholders investing in the business.

Trade New Zealand Account Manager Jodie Tipping congratulated Comvita on winning an Export Award.

“Comvita’s quality standards are high and the reputation of its brand has allowed it to achieve premium pricing in the international market. The imagery on its labelling and advertising material reinforces the quality perception.

“Over the last five years the company has undergone major change. It has invested considerable amounts in its infrastructure, systems, technology and marketing in order to support its expansion and fulfill its growth potential.”

Graeme Boyd says Comvita’s staff has grown from about 50 people in the late 1990s to more than 80 – 73 in the New Zealand operation and the balance offshore.

He says future plans include continued extension of its involvement in offshore markets in order to control its marketing and distribution. It will also invest heavily into research and development to both enhance its existing products and develop new natural health products using complementary ingredients.

“Our target is to be at $40 million sales by the end of 2006 and we are tracking towards that. The opportunities are huge, there is good solid growth in the whole natural products area as people begin to look after themselves and become more conscious of what they eat. They can see the possibility of preventing or stalling the onsets of certain diseases by diet and what they take – it’s a worldwide phenomena and very exciting for Comvita.”

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