New tool has industry buzzing
With New Zealand’s annual honey exports currently valued at $300 million and growing, a new web-based honey blending tool is set to save honey distributors significant amounts of time and money.
The tool, developed by a team of scientists and data analysts at Hill Laboratories, allows honey distributors with large inventories to easily blend individual honeys to form a target blend to meet specific sales and export criteria.
New Zealand produces around 15,000 — 20,000 tonnes of honey each year. Most honey bought from a supermarket is blended honey.
The Honey Blending Tool won the Roy Paterson Trophy at the Apiculture New Zealand conference in July for the most innovative idea or invention designed to benefit beekeepers.
Hill Laboratories market sector manager for food, bioanalytical and microbiology Mark Jones says in a growing industry, exported honey must meet very strict criteria set by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and overseas markets.
“Previously honey distributors could blend honey to just a few markers, such as MGO and sugar levels, but now with MPI’s tightened food safety regulations, exported honey has to meet much stricter and more complex criteria,” says Jones. “The Honey Blending Tool takes the guess work out and calculates exact honey blends to meet the criteria required.”
To use the tool, honey distributors log in to a web-based portal and enter the exact compounds and specifications they want to achieve in their blend. The app then scans through the honey drums in their inventory and specifies the optimal set of drums to make the required target blend.
A large-scale honey distributor can have more than 1000 honey drums, weighing 300kg each, on site at a time.
“The tool ensures that when you enter the desired honey specification, including the UMF rating, you get exactly what you want,” says Jones. “Previously, it was very easy to over specify a honey blend and ‘give away’ more value than you needed to.
“Providing the exact calculation for honey blends and their UMF rating allows honey packers to maximise the value of their honey inventory.”
Jones says the tool has had positive feedback from industry, including an award at the Apiculture New Zealand conference, which he says came as a welcome surprise.
“It was great to be recognised for the hard work that’s gone on behind the scenes with the tool, and with honey being a core focus for our team we were pleased to see our efforts pay off.”
Dr Kyle Devey, research and development manager at Hill Laboratories, led the development of the tool and says he’s pleased with the end result.
“Our team worked hard on it for months and we’re really happy with how it’s come together,” he says.
From left: Hill Laboratories key account manager Kellee Henton, Apiculture NZ CEO Karin Kos, Hill Laboratories sector manager Mark Jones, Apiculture NZ Chair Bruce Wills.