Naturally we wanted the purest, most environmentally sustainable manuka honey to use in our premium natural skincare products. Enter Watson & Son, a New Zealand company that specialises in the production of premium manuka honey and whose cornerstones of sustainability, quality and science fit perfectly with our own.
Founded by scientist, beekeeper and nature lover Denis Watson in 2004, the highly-respected company is based among the rolling hills and lush pastures of the Wairarapa, a beautiful rural region an hour north of New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, where we are based.
Watson & Son currently owns over 40,000 hives, harvesting from regions in the North Island of New Zealand with very dense manuka trees. Many hive sites are located in some of the most remote areas of New Zealand, where only a helicopter can reach.
“We are fully integrated from beehive to market, placing us in a unique position of being able to manage every stage of the production process and to ensure full traceability back to the hive,” says Denis.
Harvesting manuka honey from New Zealand's wilds
Harvesting the honey is a sophisticated operation, says Denis, whose son Dan Watson manages the apiary department. Each hive is strategically placed to ensure honey bees draw from only the best mono-floral (or manuka only) areas. Each site is government-registered, and identified with a GPS locator.
Because their hives are located in very isolated and bush-clad areas of land, Watson & Son has formed strong partnerships with dozens of landowners across New Zealand's North Island including in Spirit's Bay, Mangawhai, East Cape and Mount Bruce.
The manuka honey harvest takes place between early December and late March. Because manuka in different regions of New Zealand flowers at different times, beekeepers 'chase the flowers', moving hives around as they go. But with mountain ranges, dense bush and rugged coastal expanses, getting to the hive sites can be a difficult and at times a challenging job.
Luckily Watson & Son works with an adventurous team of beekeepers. Year round they travel through wild remote terrain to monitor each colony. To ensure the health of the hive and purity of the honey, their beekeepers follow a strict hive management system. From the materials and foundations of the beehive to feeding and protection from pests and disease, every detail is carefully monitored.
“When the frames in the hive boxes are full, they are transported to our Wairarapa headquarters. There they go through a machine that shakes them gently to release the honey. The honey is then filtered to ensure it is as pure as possible.”
All Watson & Son Manuka honey is tested at their own international standard ISO17025 accredited laboratory.
Looking to the future of manuka honey
Given manuka honey’s ability to act as a bacterial barrier – scientists have discovered that manuka honey has far greater beneficial properties than any other honey due to a special compound called methylglyoxal which is found in high concentrations in manuka honey - a key focus for Watson & Son is its medical products.
“Science is the foundation on which we are built and we are firm believers in the natural power of bee products. We see real value in manuka honey’s beneficial properties in a medical setting, and we currently have a team of scientists working on new research around the application of our honey in medical products.”
Meanwhile, you can find manuka honey as a key ingredient in many of Antipodes natural cleansing and moisturising products.
What is manuka honey?
Manuka honey is a high-performance bioactive ingredient that helps promote youthful, fresh and blemish-free skin.
This rich honey – famous around the world for its extraordinary properties - is produced only in New Zealand. Here, bees harvest the nectar from the petite pink and white flowers of wild-grown native manuka shrubs.
The honey is rich in antioxidants that are sought after for skincare. Manuka honey can help you:
- clear blemishes
- draw moisture into the skin, keeping it hydrated and supple
- protect the skin from harmful UV rays
- balance pH levels.