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Top Award to Manuka Honey Company

Media Release
3 November 2008

Honey, You’re Great! Top Award to Manuka Honey Company

A major active manuka honey exporter with operations in the far north, Southland, and Masterton took the top award for Deloitte-Unlimited’s Fast 50 last week.

Watson and Son Limited (, established in 2003 by beekeeper and scientist Denis Watson, grew by 784 per cent between 2006 and 2008. It is now counted amongst the top exporters of active manuka honey from New Zealand to the world, with customers that include Tesco’s.

The company employs 60 staff, operates 20,000 hives, which it either owns or which are under its direct control, and harvests from over 17,000 hectares of manuka forest.

“We are literally blessed with active manuka honey in this country,” says business development manager Jono Scarlet. “There is no other plant like manuka in the world, and no other honey which has strong anti-bacterial qualities like active manuka honey. This makes New Zealand active manuka honey sought after, with a high price paid for it here and overseas. While this demand drives our company, it is also benefiting new beekeepers in the north of New Zealand and iwi who have hectares of previously poorly regarded manuka scrub. Active manuka honey is literally creating a new industry for iwi in the far north. We are delighted that this has happened.”

In the same week as the prestigious Deloittes’ New Zealand award was announced, Watson and Son also announced a new initiative between itself, iwi authority Te Runanga o Te Rarawa and regional development agency Enterprise Northland. The three organisations have agreed to work together to help increase production of manuka honey in the far north. They will set up a beekeeping college to train young Maori, and will build processing and storage facilities in the next five years.

“This means that manuka covered hills in the far north, long regarded as poor scrubland, will start producing a significant income,” says Mr Scarlet. “We already offer the opportunity for land owners, including Maori land owners, to contract with us for placement of hives on their land – or for helping manage hives on their land. It’s hugely beneficial, and given the returns from manuka honey overseas, should only improve in the future.”

Founder Denis Watson has Maori heritage and strong tribal links to the far north.

“Ethical production using a sustainable natural resource, and with the active support of Maori is very important to Watson and Son Limited,” says Mr Scarlet. “We are honoured by the iwi’s support.”

Mr Scarlet says the future for this unique honey lies in medicine, not as a food. Its qualities are so powerful and unique that it will be used in future for all manner of remedies.

“Honey based wound dressings are already being used in hospitals around the world,” says Mr Scarlet. “The Honey Research Unit of the University of Waikato is researching its capability in a number of projects, and we believe new products will be developed as a result.”

Meantime, the demand for the honey just grows.

“We’re in the thick of the season right now,” says Mr Scarlet. “The manuka is in flower, and the real employees – the bees – are doing the hard work.”


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