Global surge in demand for NZ Manuka honey keeping airlines busy

New Yorkers are particularly keen to spread the sweet treat.
New Yorkers are particularly keen to spread the sweet treat. Photo credit: Getty/Newshub

Just as a bee becoming airborne is key to the production of honey, getting the honey airborne itself is absolutely essential for Aotearoa's Manuka honey industry.

And as the world battles one of the biggest health crises in its history, demand for our honey has skyrocketed, with one airline transporting 10 tonnes of the product to New York alone during lockdown.

Egmont Honey says it was one of many businesses saved by the continuation of cargo flights to and from New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This past season has been really good for Egmont Honey," said the company's owner James Annabell.

"In terms of COVID-19, we were actually lucky to have seen an uplift in sales in both domestic and global markets."

His company relies on orders from markets such as the US and UK, but being able to continue production and trading this year meant there was also a boost in local orders too.

"I think anything to do with immunity and natural health people can't get enough of at the moment, especially overseas," said Annabell.

"Manuka honey has a huge range of health benefits and we find that people are turning to honey as an alternative to sugar."

Cathay Pacific is one of a handful of airlines continuing some cargo flights in and out of New Zealand. It's operating daily flights between Auckland and Hong Kong as part of a codeshare agreement with Air New Zealand, using its A350-900 aircraft to take Aotearoa's fresh meat, seafood, produce and honey to markets in Asia and beyond.

Data given by Cathay Pacific to Newshub shows the airline carried more than 417 tonnes of freight out of Auckland during New Zealand's lockdown period.

"I'm proud to say we did our bit to keep the economy going," said the airline's South West Pacific regional general manager Rakesh Raicar.

"We were able to utilise freighter fleet and passenger flights leaving Auckland to move a lot of cargo."

During April and May, 135 tonnes of medical supplies were transported overseas, with the majority sent to London and Chicago. 

The airline also said it carried 25 tonnes of Manuka honey during lockdown, with 10 tonnes destined for New York alone.

Raicar described the boost in demand for honey as "huge" and a seven-fold increase on previous years.