In the Bees with Ben podcast episode 79, Ben chats with Jay Curtin, the CEO of Australian Honey Ventures, based in Western Australia. The AHV website describes the business as ‘a 100% Australian privately owned aggregator of Australian honey with impressive honey inventory levels capable of supplying packaged honey products to export markets’. Through ‘collaborative relationships with beekeepers and distributors, and product innovation in the medicinal, endurance racing and well-being markets’ AHV claims that it is well on the way towards a target of brokering at least one-third of Australia’s total commercial honey production by 2027. And by investing in product development and marketing, AHV aims to lift the value of Australian honey and return higher prices to beekeepers. Wow!
Jay also highlights the predicament of beekeepers as being similar to that of dairy farmers; traditionally, apiarists have not been getting a fair price for their honey in an industry controlled by a few large players that was rife with price-setting. Jay remembers hearing of jarrah honey from WA selling for $500 per kilogram overseas at a time when local producers were receiving a mere $12 per kilogram. She says she hates seeing Aussies being rorted; AHV’s business model is to identify exciting and lucrative sales opportunities overseas, and then pay beekeepers a high upfront price for their honey. In addition, beekeepers also receive a quarterly profit share, and using AHV’s deal with Kuwait as an example, this means that local apiarists can expect a return of about $33 per kilogram for TA35+ honey, as opposed to $4.80 per kilogram from the major local packer.
Jay can’t understand why jarrah honey has previously been touted as the ‘be all and end all’. She says we need to market ourselves as a powerhouse of medicinal honey, with a whole range of attractive varieties, each with its own unique flavour. She says many people in the Middle East don’t actually like the taste of manuka honey but eat it anyway as it is a luxury item with medicinal properties! Manuka has, however, paved the way for export opportunities for Australian honey as it has desensitised overseas markets to high prices commanded by medicinal honey.
Australian Honey Ventures is currently engaged in a drive to raise new capital. The company has earmarked $1 million for marketing in the next twelve months and is in the process of building a state-of-the-art processing plant. They are also negotiating with Woolworths to supply the domestic market and are intent on devising new science to accurately measure the medicinal properties of Australian honey. Presently the top rating for medicinal honey is TA35+; some Australian honeys have raw test results up to TA66 but are unable to be labelled as such because this is beyond the scope of the current procedures, and Jay is convinced we are missing an opportunity in this regard.
Jay is also excited about AHV’s new brand ambassador, prominent TV personality and former professional rugby player, Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins. His nickname is a fortunate coincidence since it has nothing to do with his love of honey. Jay explains that although Nick may have lacked size and speed in comparison to other players, he made up for any other shortcomings with a ferocious on-field nature. Likewise, the honey badger will take on far larger creatures thanks to its tenacious character and an iron jaw! Nick lives ‘off the grid’ in the midst of a national park; he uses solar power and grows much of his own food. He has declared his association with AHV to be a ‘match made in heaven’ and has actually bought shares in the company.