Top honey awards for novice bee-keepers
A Marlborough apiarist with only two seasons of bee-keeping experience received top-level recognition in a national industry competition last week.
Founder of Putake Group Ltd Renee De Luca was thrilled to pick up three awards for her honey varieties at the National Beekeepers Association conference in Ashburton.
Her Putake Manuka Honey and Putake Wildflower Honey were first and second respectively in the Liquid and Clear Honey category, while her Putake Matagouri Honey was third in the Beekeepers Special Reserve category.
"As a small family-run company, it gives us huge bragging rights," she said. "It was a bit of a surprise though, because we are such a new company. We're pretty well known in Marlborough, but the rest of the country."
The mother of three was born and raised in Marlborough, and had a career in marketing before returning to start beekeeping two years ago. While her background in marketing was central to developing the branding and launching Putake, the product's packaging had nothing to do with the judges' scores.
Judge Maureen Maxwell, of the National Beekeepers Association, said they blind-tasted honey from producers around the country. They were scored on colour, aroma, taste, texture and how clean and pure they were.
Although Mrs De Luca cringed at the sight of her honey in plain plastic containers, the recognition was "a big boost", she said.
"I'm right into marketing and how the honey looks in the jar, because that's what my expertise is in. But the fact that it was a blind-tasting up against some really experienced beekeepers and big brand names backs up that it's a really good product."
The Marlborough farmers, who looked after their farms so well, had a huge role to play in the health of their bees and the quality of their products, she said.
Mrs De Luca and her husband were self-taught apiarists and ran all aspects of the business themselves.
This year, their second harvest, they hired a factory to process the honey, but planned to build their own shed and factory to be fully self-sufficient next year, she said.
■ Marlborough-Nelson-West Coast has 350 beekeepers with 29,881 beehives.
■ They produced 940 tonnes of honey last year.
■ Nationally there are 3806 beekeepers, with 422,728 beehives.
■ They produced 10,385 tonnes of honey last year.
■ Between one third and half the honey is exported every year, valued around $81 million.
- The Marlborough Express