Friday, December 8, 2023

Honey firm sets sights on mānuka trademark

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Comvita bullish after buying Singapore chain of honey stores.
IP lawyer Tonia Brugh said misappropriation of NZ taonga, and the opportunities that brings, will not end with the mānuka honey saga.
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The chief executive officer of Comvita, David Banfield, wants to create an even bigger honey legacy – and the company is one step closer after buying the only chain of specialty honey stores in Singapore for S$8.5 million ($10.36m).

This comes after the “brilliant” week he had travelling with Prime Minister Chris Hipkins as part of a business trade delegation to China.

He said New Zealand needs to protect mānuka internationally as a taonga (treasure) of Aotearoa.

“It is of the highest strategic importance that we continue to do everything possible to protect mānuka as an autonomous species from Aotearoa,” Banfield said.

Comvita needs to continue supporting activities that deliver the right outcome for the country by securing trademark rights for mānuka honey produced in NZ, he said.

The new relationship with HoneyWorld will enhance Comvita’s ability to authentically tell the complete NZ mānuka honey story within the wider Asian market.

Banfield said he is “super-excited” to bring HoneyWorld into the Comvita whānau and they connected in a very deep way.

“I shared with the HoneyWorld team yesterday the most important thing in the world is he tangata, he tangata, he tangata (the people, the people, the people), and that’s what we’re getting here.”

Banfield said Comvita started a discussion with HoneyWorld because he was curious about the benefits of combining the two businesses.

“We accept the commercial reality but, philosophically, our values fit with HoneyWorld. We’re so aligned that we really do see this as a sum of the parts, which will create something that’s even bigger.

“Within the business, we’re describing it more as a marriage than an acquisition to create an even bigger legacy.”

Banfield said Comvita is committed to leaving the world a better place through climate action, ensuring bee health, biodiversity and focusing on reinvesting profits into causes for social and environmental benefits.

“And that’s something the whole organisation really believes, that we can have such a long-term positive impact,” he said.

Singapore is a market that connects the world with Asia and connects Asia with the world, Banfield said. 

He said HoneyWorld has a really strong presence in Singapore, where founder and director Pearline Goh created the company more than 25 years ago. She will stay with Comvita and help the business grow in Singapore.

With the two working in partnership, Banfield said they’d have 50% of the mānuka honey market, bring it closer to its 2025 financial year goal of $50m earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation.

“There’s a big influx of people here, I’m sat right in the middle of Singapore right now. And what you see is the vibrancy – there’s so many people here. I think Singapore is one of the world’s great cities, great countries.

“And it’s a brilliant opportunity for us to really grow and see the same success that we get through Hong Kong.”

As well as having 18 outlets throughout Singapore as part of the HoneyWorld partnership, he said there are some extra elements coming in Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Banfield said Comvita will “undoubtedly” continue to innovate and tailor products for the market.

“We iterate and reiterate at speed for the local market. And that means we can test the minimum viable proposition.

“And we can become even more relevant – that’s an exciting part of our future.”

For the Comvita group, the acquisition is forecast to deliver a 22% improvement in earnings per share. HoneyWorld is forecasting revenue in the 2024 financial year of more than S$13m. The acquisition is to be funded by debt.

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