Back home for the sweet life
Honey, honey, honeyKAT PICKFORD
Producing honey ticks all the boxes for self-taught beekeeper and owner of Putake Group Ltd, Renee De Luca.
The mother of three has just released her first vintage of Marlborough honey after buying 150 beehives when she returned to Marlborough to raise her family 18 months ago.
Mrs De Luca and her Kiwi husband Dale had been looking for a means to escape the Sydney rat race and were excited about the strong prospects for honey, she said.
"It ticked all the boxes. It's not grapes or wine, it's a product we can produce here in Marlborough and we can take time off during the off-season to travel."
Honey is also one of three products with the potential to be a billion-dollar industry, according to a Coriolis Research report released last month for the Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry.
The pair met in the army 18 years ago, but it has been their IT, marketing and logistics expertise which has been a huge asset launching their honey company.
Mrs De Luca's background in marketing and sales has been central to developing the branding and launching the product.
Mr De Luca did the beekeeping research and was in charge of all things bee and hive-related, she said.
He still ran his analytical data consultancy business in Wellington to help fund the new enterprise, and commuted home to help out in the weekend.
"It's very much a seven-day operation at the moment . . . His network of associates has been really useful getting this off the ground."
At $550 a hive, beekeeping required a large upfront investment, but being able to contract out the honey extraction this year helped manage costs, she said.
They had bought two hectares of land in Rapaura Rd where they expect to build their own processing plant and offices after the next vintage, she said.
They have also bought another 150 hives and plan to double production to 12 tonnes next year.
Mrs De Luca launched the four varieties of Putake honey at the Marlborough Farmers' Market and at Blenheim cafe BV Gourmet.
- The Marlborough Express