Honey business buzzing in Hamilton
Nature's Country Gold Ltd
Hamilton couple Adrian and Lania Pohio launched their honey business three years ago with a handful of hives. For several years, they brought their range of honey, Nature's Country Gold, to the Hamilton Farmers' Market, winning many fans with delicate and flavourful honeys. Last year son Hayden Pohio, a food technologist, joined the family business and has been developing new products. His creation, a manuka honey and roasted nut health bar, debuts at The Food Show in Auckland tomorrow. Branded Manuka Boosta, the gluten-free bar is dense with ingredients including 18 per cent manuka honey, cashews, organic apricots, sultanas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds and no colours, flavourings or preservatives. "Manuka honey is so good and has so many wonderful qualities," says Pohio. "The world is just beginning to learn about the power of honey. "It is good for burns an anti-inflammatory, and manuka has antibacterial properties. It also helps with allergens because it has pollen in it. It is good for energy sucrose gives immediate energy and glucose and fructose have a longer release of energy." He is hoping the bars get a good reaction at The Food Show, and wants to pick up retailers willing to stock the bar. Health food shops could be one target market. A fitness buff himself, Pohio, 32, has done the Coast to Coast and other multisport events, and reckons the energy-packed bars are good for those on the go. "I'd also like to see them in schools, because they are such a healthy snack, and in golf clubs and offices. "Instead of people snacking on a Moro Bar, they can try this. The Manuka Boosta bar is good for you, but it's nice too." Like many young New Zealanders, Pohio junior flew the nest before returning home to work with his folks. After completing a food technology degree from Massey University, he went to the UK on his OE. During his five-plus years overseas, Pohio worked developing new food products, including an extra virgin olive oil margarine. Returning to New Zealand in February 2005, Pohio worked in Mount Maunganui for a company making fruit toppings and sauces for yoghurts and sundaes. Last year, he joined the family business. "I thought `I have to use my food technology skills here, so I took the plunge,"' says Pohio. "I initially wanted to develop manuka honey drinks, but the drink market is so saturated. Then I thought, `let's play around with a muesli bar."' He took one of his mother's recipes one he loved from childhood and added manuka honey, and worked to reduce the fat content. The Hamilton Farmers' Market became their testing ground, as they presented trial versions of the muesli bar to their regular customers. "The feedback was really good," says Pohio. His mother and father did lots of taste-testing too. The bar was born, and it only received its wrapping last week, as Pohio was in the Te Awamutu Pop `N' Good factory supervising the final stage of foil wrapping and packing. With no artificial preservatives, the bar has a three-month shelf life rather than the typical 12-month shelf life of some other muesli bars. And despite the usual family disagreements, the business team runs smoothly. And Pohio has learnt to listen to his mother. "Mum always likes natural things, she says no numbers in her food," says Pohio. "We used to have big arguments about it. With my food technology background, I told her it was okay, but I have since found out more about allergies. So many people are gluten-free now, and it's a crazy reflection of how we eat these days, and all the preservatives in food. I've been turned on to farmers' markets and fresh produce and the like. I've done a complete u-turn towards pure natural ingredients, they have to be good for you." The Manuka Boosta health bar is just the beginning. Pohio hopes to expand the range to include other healthy products under the brand name. Nature's Country Gold also continues to make a range of gourmet honeys, including manuka, lavender, blackberry and thistle, rewarewa, farmland, clover and thistle and clover. Adrian takes care of the hives and works with Hayden in developing products. Lania spearheads the marketing side of the business and is actively involved in the farmers' market movement in New Zealand. The Manuka Boosta bars will be stocked in Wise Organics in Clarkin Rd (Fairfield, Hamilton) and available via the website www.naturescountrygold.co.nz. And from a small start, it looks like the Pohio's family bar is making friends in high places. Prime Minister Helen Clark has endorsed it. "We had a stall at Te Puni Kokiri (Maori Development Ministry) and Helen Clark said `I just tasted the best bar I have ever tried'," says Pohio proudly. The Tempo team of tasters can thoroughly back up the prime minister on that one. The bar doesn't scrimp on ingredients or flavour, is tasty and morish, packed full of nuts and manuka honey, and gave a late afternoon energy boost that lasted for hours. Here's hoping The Food Show gives the Hamilton company a boost into retail stores.