June 2010

A processing and marketing company of regional, mono-floral honeys and bee products

BeesOnline is a honey processing and marketing company selling a range of specialty New Zealand honey products.

Honey is supplied on contract by independent beekeepers, and processed at BeesOnline. The business is open to visitors who can observe bees at work in a two storied bee theatre, taste honeys and dine in a honey-themed restaurant.

BeesOnline is a privately owned company established by Maureen Maxwell, who later sold her interest in the business but stayed on as honey ambassador.

BeesOnline honey ambassador, Maureen Maxwells love of honey started with a hive placed in her back garden to pollinate fruit trees. The business began in Maureen's kitchen in 1999, initially supplying honey to delicatessens and restaurants in Auckland then throughout New Zealand. In 2003, a purpose-built honey production centre and restaurant was opened with a focus on education about bees and honey.

Having discovered the wonderfully varied flavours of raw honey, Maureen began experimenting with its potential as a cooking ingredient. A cookbook was written featuring mono-floral (single flower) honeys.

Forty percent of BeesOnline products are sold in New Zealand. Direct sales are available from the companys Auckland facility and website and the products can also be purchased at a range of tourist and gift shops and delicatessens.

Export markets include the UK, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, USA, Japan and China.

BeesOnline processes approximately 350 tonnes of honey per year.

The companys mono-floral range includes manuka, rewarewa, tawari, kamahi, and pohutukawa honeys supplied by beekeepers throughout New Zealand. Specialty products include honeydew from native beech forests and orange blossom.

Manuka, alpine borage, clover and pohutukawa honeys are part of an organic range as well as honeydew. Depending on season, rose, lavender and thyme honeys can be available.

Another specialist line is products containing Unique Manuka Factor (UMF), effective against a range of bacteria. Use of the UMF trademark providing quality assurance requires BeesOnline to be a licensed member of the Active Manuka Honey Association.

One of the most popular products, BeesOnline Honeygar , was developed in Maureens kitchen using old cider vinegar and a recipe based around a homeopathic formula. Naturally fermented and barrel-aged vinegar is blended with manuka honey then fined, filtered and aged.

High in anti-oxidants with antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, honeygar can be used as an alternative to balsamic vinegar in dressings.

BeesOnlines culinary selection also includes honey mustards and roasted nuts in honey. A cookbook featuring honey is also on offer.

BeesOnlines Honey Centre is more about telling the story of BeesOnline and promoting its specialist honeys than selling significant volumes of product.

Tourism has been a strand of the business from its inception, presenting honeys as a range of specialist varieties which like wine, each have a unique colour, aroma, texture and flavour. Tutored honey tastings are integral to the BeesOnline experience.

Roughly half the visitors to the centre are New Zealanders and half tourists, both independent travellers and tour groups.

Honey arrives at BeesOnline in 300kg drums.

Up to five staff work fulltime in the processing facility, usually for eight hours a day but sometimes longer plus local casuals are called in when needed. Volumes processed are relatively uniform throughout the year, due to different flower varieties flowering at different times and also to the geographic spread of suppliers.

BeesOnline is committed to stewardship of the environment. The company;

Is active in supporting local environmental awareness especially the promotion of GE free and organics.

Supports local trade to minimise fossil fuel consumed in transport

Buys organic produce where possible

Promotes re-cycling of all consumables

Uses only organic sprays and fertilisers

Collects rainwater which is filtered and UV sterilised before use in food production

Has a waste management system that purifies all wastewater on-site

Has chosen indigenous site landscaping to increase local wetlands and encourage wildlife to inhabit these areas.

No antibiotics are used by BeesOnline honey suppliers.

The factory site is certified organic, as are some of the companys honey suppliers who are each year audited by Asure Quality.

Being organic has become especially challenging, since the spread of varroa mite throughout New Zealand has required pesticide strips to be inserted in many hives. Organic honey producers tend to be found in remote locations, where bee populations remain healthy.

Organic and non-organic lines must be processed separately, with equipment washed down between.