Coronavirus: Global demand keeps business booming for Taranaki honey company

Business is booming for a family-owned Taranaki honey company despite the COVID-19 crisis with international demand for its product surging.

Egmont Honey was launched in 2014 years ago by James Annabell and his father Toby.

The pair began with one hive and now have over 4000, and export their mānuka honey to 20 countries.

The company also supplies New Zealand outlets, including supermarkets and chemists.

Chief executive James Annabell said demand was high despite COVID-19 lockdowns in many countries.

"In the UK we sell into Holland and Barrett, which is bricks and mortar but it's their online sales which have taken off," said Annabell.

"It has eclipsed Black Friday in terms of sales and they have had to put a two jar limit on honey," he said.

James Annabell and his father Toby launched the company in 2014 and now export to 20 countries.
James Annabell and his father Toby launched the company in 2014 and now export to 20 countries.

There had also been a surge in sales in New Zealand at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown as people stocked up on supplies.

"It was probably a combination of the fact we are selling immunity, and our table grade honey has probably benefited from some of the panic buying that was going on."

Despite the strong sales, Annabell said it was difficult to predict what would happen in the future.

"We are under no illusion that the world is heading into a recession, and we are probably going to face some headwinds later.

"There could be people with a year's supply of honey in their cupboards the way some of that panic buying went." 

The growth of the company meant it was always on the lookout for good staff.

"Good beekeepers are always really hard to find, and hive health is such a huge part of what we do.

"We are always on the hunt for good beekeepers and advertise all year around."

Annabell said the availability of foreign workers could be an issue going forward due to COVID-19 restrictions, and he encouraged New Zealanders to look at getting into the honey sector.

"It's a good industry to be in for people looking for work, and an opportunity for a lot more local people to learn to become beekeepers."