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Waikato creating a buzz on international stage as Raglan couple win silver at London Honey Awards

Hannah and Rory O'Brien with their son Mickey and their award-winning Kānuka honey. Photo / Danielle Zollickhofer

Raglan honey business Hunt and Gather Bee Co is creating an international buzz as its Kānuka honey won a silver medal at the London International Honey Awards.

Together with Te Aroha-based company Ora Foods whose Raw Manuka Honey (UMF 25+) won gold, Hunt and Gather Bee Co is the only Waikato brand that was recognised in the awards out of 17 New Zealand winners.

Hunt and Gather Bee Co's honey has already won some national awards, including the Outstanding Food Producer Awards, but getting international recognition was unexpected for founders Hannah and Rory O'Brien.

"Usually, we enter one product a year into New Zealand awards but this year we decided to go big. I read about the London awards online and thought we should just go for it. We weren't really expecting to win anything," Hannah says.

Hannah and Rory founded Hunt and Gather Bee in 2016 and with their small team, they produce raw and sustainable Kānuka, Mānuka, Rewarewa, West Coast Blend and Bush Blend honey.

They kept their entry into the awards a secret, thinking their brand might be too small to compete on the world stage, as in total, 321 honeys from 37 countries have been recognised in the awards.

New Zealand is among the top five countries winning the most awards, after Saudi Arabia with 70, Spain with 63, Greece with 41 and Kuwait with 19.

Hannah says they are happy about New Zealand's results in the competition.

"It's great for the whole industry. Honey is one of [New Zealand's] biggest exports and we are well known for our Mānuka honey all over the world."

She says this was exactly why they are so stoked to have their Kānuka honey recognised.

"We are looking beyond Mānuka because we are looking at what's next. Mānuka has been well researched and marketed and it is a great product, but we strongly believe Kānuka is the next big thing. It's not well known yet, ... so we are offering something different."

Hunt and Gather Bee Co's Kānuka honey won a silver medal at the London International Honey Awards. Photo / Supplied
Hunt and Gather Bee Co's Kānuka honey won a silver medal at the London International Honey Awards. Photo / Supplied
Hannah announced Hunt and Gather Bee Co's win on social media last Thursday and by the weekend, their customers were buzzing for the award-winning Kānuka honey.

"Our website is going crazy! We are almost sold out of Kānuka honey, we only have about 50 jars left... We also received about 150 messages from our customers who are so excited for us. We are absolutely blown away by the support."

Rory says Hunt and Gather Bee Co was now working on getting their honey onto the shelves of supermarkets in the United Kingdom.

"We want to be leaders in sourcing and promoting rare and unique New Zealand honey varieties."

Hannah says winning a silver medal in an international competition was "such an honour".

"It's the ultimate validation that we can play with the big boys. It gives us the confidence that although we are small, [our] product deserves to be on a world stage."

To enter the awards, the honey had to be analysed for purity, authenticity, pollen composition and chemical make-up.

The products entering the awards were blind-tested by 14 judges from Europe who rated them based on the honey's distinct and individual properties, including appearance, odour, texture, flavour and mouth-feel.

The award categories are Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze and all branded, non-bulk honeys available in retail stores are eligible to enter.

Full credit for this article goes to the Waikato Herald and was written by Danielle Zollickhofer. Find the link to the full article here.

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