Meet the team: Honey team the perfect mix of talent, expertise, and customer service
Worth billions of dollars every year, honey is one of New Zealand’s most valuable export products – and has a global reputation to match.
It’s no surprise then that Hill Laboratories’ honey team have become an extremely in-demand service as they help their honey clients meet New Zealand’s strict guidelines around the production and offshore sale of our prized Mānuka honey.
Led by Pramit Patel, Hill Laboratories’ honey team is arguably at the forefront of honey testing in New Zealand, thanks to their collective experience in the testing industry and expertise in all things honey.
Now comprising 15 technicians, over the past year Pramit has worked alongside his team to totally revamp operations, including buying new technology and automating several laboratory processes in order to increase testing throughput and satisfy our growing client base with even better service.
He has also overseen the growth and expansion of the honey team into the high-performing group it is now, with a great culture to boot, which he says has been the biggest driver in the team’s success. A variety of senior technicians also help with day-to-day testing management, taking charge of different areas of testing such as chemical and isotopes, and other overall operations.
“We’ve got a team of great people who come into work, get things done, and have a great time doing it. They understand what they’re doing, and they know the needs of the client come first. We’re very lucky with the team we’ve got in there.”
While the Government’s introduction in 2018 of a standard for honey, alongside the general increase in demand for natural products has helped build its solid reputation, New Zealand Mānuka honey has held its place for some time as a premium product, and is exported to more than 40 markets around the world. However, before it can be exported, honey must meet a set of MPI-enforced requirements.
Known as the ‘MPI 5’, Pramit says this test makes up the bulk of the work his team does.
“The MPI 5 test is basically a set of guidelines set out by MPI that say you need to have four chemical markers and one DNA marker for it be classified as a certain type of Mānuka honey – mono-floral or multi-floral.” To be classified as either, and ready for export, the honey must meet all components of the test, including both chemical and DNA markers.
“The next most common test we do is the 3-IN-1 test, which tells you about the grade of the honey at the time of testing, which includes HMF – a measure of age and heat treatment of the honey.
“Then another test we would do is the C4 Sugars, which looks at adulteration levels in the honey, to make sure it is pure honey, and that no sugar has been added to bulk it up.”
Pramit says the team has an outstanding reputation for customer service and are known to go above and beyond for clients, often at short notice.
“We understand the commercial considerations that are often at play with producing an export product, the processes around shipping and frequent need for a tight turnaround; you don’t want product sitting on the docks incurring cost. We do everything in our power to get samples out to clients before a certain time so that everyone benefits.
“Recently we had a client trying to send us a sample with five different courier companies just to get the sample into us in Hamilton, because he urgently needed to get it overseas, but lots of routes were closed after Cyclone Gabrielle. When we got the sample, we prioritised it and got the sample back to him on time, and he was super grateful for it.”
While it would be easy to rest on their laurels, Pramit says the team is constantly innovating and always looking at ways to do things better, and faster.
“With all the new technology we’ve taken up, and the processes we’ve mastered, we’re able to keep tightening our turnaround time, which in turn makes clients seek us out more. The feedback that I get from clients who I interact with regularly all say we’re doing a stellar job, and delivering on what we say we will. That’s what sets us apart.”