Honey life sweet for Blueskin Bay couple

Blueskin Bay Honey owners, Dawn Yu (left) with 12-week old Abigail and beekeeper David Milne, in...
Blueskin Bay Honey owners, Dawn Yu (left) with 12-week old Abigail and beekeeper David Milne, in front of their new sachet packaging machine. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
When former Cold Chisel front man Jimmy Barnes hit Dunedin last week, he had one dietary request included in his concert riders.

Authentic New Zealand manuka honey - in a glass jar.

After googling "manuka, Dunedin and glass'', his minders headed to Blueskin Bay Honey, an exclusive supplier of manuka and kanuka honey in glass jars.

Blueskin founder and apiarist David Milne has long been a believer not only in the benefits of natural honey but also in using glass containers for his premium product.

"It's better for the environment, it doesn't affect the honey and it's actually cheaper as well,'' he said.

Mr Milne's passion for bee keeping dates back 25 years. His first major beekeeping stint came in 1999, working with co-operative farm Zephyr near Madison, Wisconsin, in the US.

He has been in the industry ever since.

It was in the US that he was sold on the benefits of unpasteurised honey, and his range has always been sold as the real deal, with as little processing as possible - and always in glass containers.

The North American market is used to glass, though unfortunately most of the major producers locally use plastic.

Mr Milne became known for his quality honey through the Dunedin Farmers' Market, where he still sells a range of manuka and kanuka honey sourced from hives in Blueskin Bay, clover honey from Palmerston and thyme honey from Alexandra.

Blueskin Bay also sells through its website and a number of grocery stores throughout Otago and the Queenstown Lakes district, with expanding sales into the US and Chinese markets.

Honey is a real family affair for David and his wife Dawn Yu, who met at the farmers' market.

Their relationship blossomed after Dawn Yu gave Blueskin Bay honey to her family in China several years ago.

Her family have been big buyers ever since.

The arrival of daughter Abigail, now 12 weeks old, has not dented their energy for the business.

Dawn Yu has recently helped launch an aligned brand, 70 degrees healthy everyday, packaged in smaller sachets and aimed at the active and "quick energy'' segment of the market, either for making hot drinks (under 70 degrees please) or for a direct honey "fix''.

Unlike the Blueskin range it uses plastic packaging, which Ms Milne said was necessary and catered to the convenience factor of its potential market.

For Mr Milne, the commercial aspects of the business are almost secondary to spreading the gospel of honey.

"Our product, our brand promise, is about inviting people to lead a more inspired life.''

He said spreading the word was not the problem these days, particularly as word of the health benefits of honey - and manuka in particular - spread around the globe.

That global appeal has had a potentially negative spinoff for the bees, he said.

"We've had a real influx of beekeepers into the local market. Hives are definitely getting closer to each other and that's challenging the ecological stability of the hives.

"Bees essentially have a range of around three kilometres from the hive. Now it's become one beekeeper to one farmer, which often puts bees within that ambit.

"It's created challenges because when it comes to making honey, the number one rule is look after the bees.''

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