Kiwi mānuka firm Comvita expands in US and Canada as it seeks to move on from tough 2017

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

The company is optimistic for a better 2018.
The company is optimistic for a better 2018.

Related tags Honey

Mānuka honey brand Comvita has expanded its retail availability in the US and Canada, after securing a deal with Costco and launching a new store on Amazon.

Comvita's top selling Certified UMF® 5+ Manuka Honey is now available in 200 US Costco locations, and warehouses throughout Canada.

Mānuka honey is one of the fastest growing categories in the health and functional food market, growing at a CAGR of 33.5% from 2012 to 2016 according to QYResearch.

North American revenues for mānuka honey have quadrupled over the last five years, and are projected to more than double over the next four to an estimated $170 million.

A mono-floral honey produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the indigenous mānuka tree, the mānuka plant is climate-sensitive and only flowers two to six weeks per year, making the honey a scarce resource. 

"Following the success of Comvita internationally, it's great timing to introduce our certified UMF® Mānuka Honey to millions of health-conscious Costco members across North America,"​ said Comvita North America VP Corey Blick.

"Through responsible beekeeping and setting the bar for mānuka in the industry from a quality perspective, Comvita has earned the highest level of trust with retailers and consumers."

The firm said its honey is independently tested under the criteria established by the UMF Honey Association (UMFHA). UMF — or Unique Mānuka Factor — assesses the quality and key beneficial compounds in mānuka honey.   

Tough 2017

Comvita, which was founded in 1974 and is publicly traded on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, had a tough 2017 due to weather-driven production issues.

Additionally, like many vitamin and supplement firms, it also suffered from drops in sales to Chinese daigou​ shoppers, amid e-commerce regulatory uncertainty in China.

Writing in the firm's annual report, chairman Ian Craig said: "It has been well communicated that we have had a difficult year, with two significant external events that have impacted our business.

"Firstly, the changes to the regulatory environment for the grey market channel sales from New Zealand and Australia to China, and secondly, the extremely poor honey season."

However, he voiced optimism for the company's 2018 outlook.

"The stronger-than-expected end to the 2017 financial year, now extending into the new year, together with significant permanent cost savings and other initiatives, provides us with a good deal of confidence as we head into 2018.

"This optimism is of course predicated on a return to a normal honey production season."

CEO Scott Coulter added that a greater focus on e-commerce, especially in Asia, would help drive future growth.

"We reshaped the business on several fronts during FY17, and this has given us all a sense of confidence moving into FY18.

"Our focus is to continue building on our strength in Asia and also leverage our respected brand position in the UK and North America as we balance our East-West growth.

"E-commerce is an essential route to consumers, and the acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon underpins this trend. In other markets, partnerships with Tmall, Taobao and in China and Rakuten in Japan are starting to be a real growth driver for Comvita."

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