There's a buzz in the air about the medicinal uses of kanuka honey thanks to Wellington-based pharmaceutical research company HoneyLab.
Its product, Honevo, has undergone laboratory and clinical studies - including those at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the United States - to establish its effectiveness for the treatment of common skin conditions including acne, rosacea and cold sores.
The global market for over-the-counter treatments for these three conditions alone is worth about $28 billion.
Further clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic are also on the cards as HoneyLab strives to prove the effectiveness of Honevo.
Honevo is pharmaceutical grade kanuka honey which has high-potency anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The honey is purified, sterilised and natural products added to make it heat-stable and increase its shelf life.
While Honevo products are available in New Zealand - they are made at a factory in the Waikato - HoneyLab's aim is to eventually license its technology and platforms to a big pharmaceutical company.
Chief executive Laurence Greig said they were "not generating revenue" out of product sales.
"We are putting $8 out of every $10 we have into the clinical trials. The goal is to achieve those international pharmaceutical licences."
HoneyLab has so far sourced kanuka honey from the Bay of Plenty. But it wants to extend the supply chain and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Conservation to access kanuka plantations on DOC estates.
"The Department of Conservation are very keen. They will see value returned to conservation and we will be able to identify on [our] products . . . where those products were sourced to help with Destination New Zealand and conservation."
Greig said a 10 per cent share of HoneyLab is owned by Maori who also own considerable stands of kanuka which, apart from firewood, has few other uses other than for bees to make honey.
"It's a wasteland. It doesn't generate anything for them."
Potentially, Maori would be able to make more out of kanuka honey than if they converted the land to dairy farming, Greig said.
"A beekeeper might get $20 a kilo . . . for the high quality kanuka from us but it retails [as a topical medicine] for anything up to $1600 to $1800 a kilo."
The long-term vision is to keep the business in New Zealand.
"We want to anchor it with Maori land owners who want to generate revenue for their communities out of beekeeping and . . . out of this very high grade and high value honey.
"This is taking added value to the extreme," Greig said.
Established four and a half years ago, HoneyLab has the equivalent of five fulltime employees.
Honevo by HoneyLab is a finalist in The Dominion Post-sponsored business Gold Awards. Winners will be announced at a ceremony next month.
- The Dominion Post