The untold truth: the majority of New Zealand Mānuka honey is sold offshore to large international companies. These companies dilute and label the product outside of New Zealand regulations. They then on-sell it as premium Mānuka honey while falsely claiming its active benefits nor meeting New Zealand Mānuka honey certification standards. This leaves the customer little confidence and knowledge to know what they are buying and what the rating of the Mānuka product is measured against. Activist's brand and business are built on the genuine fact that their products are 100% Grade A raw Mānuka honey from New Zealand.
The Activist goal is to build a sustainable business while nurturing and celebrating the craft of beekeeping and the special resource of Mānuka Honey in native New Zealand; taking a truly authentic story and product to the world.
Where did your love for bees and honey begin?
Really it was a lifestyle progression and a shared passion for the earth and natural products. Luke’s love for surfing and the native coastal land of New Zealand lead him to understand the important role bees play as environmental indicators and was the founding catalyst for Activist. Gabrielle’s time in New York City working as a senior Art Director at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar led to a health slowdown, and the pursuit of new interests outside of the fast paced world of fashion publications. In search of answers for her health, Gabrielle spent four weeks at the Paracelsus Biological Medicine Klinic in Switzerland, where she learned about healing through a plant-based diet and natural therapies. Afterwards, ready for a change, we came back to New Zealand, where we spent a year living quietly on land we own in the Coromandel as Gabrielle recuperated. Some beekeeping friends asked if they could place some hives on the property while we were there and we agreed happily. Over that time, we became so aware of the bees’ activity as the earth warmed with the sun that we learned to tell the time by their activity and began to understand their key role as environmental indicators. That was a magical moment for us. We felt the need to build a business that was in tune with or lifestyle and passions.
What are the benefits of choosing Manuka honey? And what are its uses?
Mānuka Honey is one of the most unique and beneficial forms of honey in the world. In 1981, researchers at the New Zealand University of Waikato discovered that Mānuka honey has a considerably higher level of enzymes than regular honey and identified its active agent, methylglyoxal (MGO)—the concentration of which is widely measured in the industry to determine the potency of what’s in the jar. These enzymes create a natural hydrogen peroxide that works as an antibacterial. The literature makes it clear that Mānuka is no fringe therapy; along with anti-inflammatory effects, the honey has incredible value as a wound dressing—with efficacy even against antibiotic-resistant microbes. Mānuka honey benefits are wide, including helping with digestive issues; low stomach acid and acid reflux; treating acne and eczema; combatting Staph infections; treating burns, wounds and ulcers; preventing tooth decay and gingivitis; improving sore throats and immunity; helping with allergies; improving sleep. Mānuka honey is a beautiful raw resource for using as a beauty and skincare product – our favorite way to use Activist is straight out of the jar for a nightly face mask and also as a face cleanser!
Can you tell us about the different grading scales within the Manuka realm? What’s the difference between MGO and UMF?
Both grades are the only indicators of measuring truly authentic Mānuka Honey and are tested in either one of two laboratories in New Zealand for these results.
Our Mānuka is scientifically tested for both grading scales MGO and UMF but we prefer to grade our Mānuka with MGO. The reason for this is that we feel consumers more than ever want to understand how the product they are buying is measured or what it is made up of. The MGO scale is simple in the fact that it is testing and certifying for the amount of MGO = Methylglyoxal; which represents the active health properties and molecule found in Mānuka Honey. As an example our 850+MGO represents that there is a minimum of 850gm of Methylglyoxal per kg tested and certified in our Mānuka Honey. It’s very clean and simple and easy for our customer to understand. Each of our products have this on the jar and label.
Can you explain the connection between New Zealand and Manuka honey? Can Manuka be found anywhere else?
The Mānuka Bush is native to Aotearoa New Zealand and is only found here. Depending on the years climate and weather patterns of the Southern Hemisphere, Mānuka flowering starts at the beginning of spring at the top of the North Island of New Zealand and makes its way south. The flowering of Mānuka is a very short window ranging anywhere from two to six weeks of the year. Beyond the truly remarkable health benefits, this is also the reason that our genuine raw ‘mono-floral’ Mānuka honey is special and rare.
How does working together as a family impact your business?
Activist is really an extension of our lifestyle; our passions, ideas, heritage, inspiration and challenges are all shared together which adds value and essence to the brand and business. We sort of treat our business like a university band, it’s a little rough around the edges and maybe a little makeshift as we do things our way, but that adds to the magic.
Could you pass on a word of advice for those who are interested in working with their significant other?
Because they are your partner in business and life, the motives and goals for the business need to be of equal. For example, corporate greed is not a motive. We place value on family time and sometimes we choose to take the morning off and go to the beach together. That lifestyle is a benefit of a family business, but also business challenges are equally shared in home life which can be a trade off.
Can you describe the relationship you have with the beekeepers you work with? Have you ever worked with them to harvest honey?
Yes we work closely with our beekeepers, sometimes we even go surfing together. Through our relationships we understand that bee health is really the essential element for great honey, and the bees help us to understand environmental climates. We look for beautiful pristine isolated regions to situate our hives, it's also important not to overpopulate locations for bee health and productivity to flourish. Because of such a short window for the wild-crafting of Mānuka Honey 2-6 weeks over spring, the season is labor intensive and our beekeepers work hard and no time is wasted when the Mānuka is flowering.
Your product design is so beautiful. Where do you source your inspiration?
Inspiration comes from the arts and old hand made signs with subtle reference to New Zealand’s art and culture - heritage, protests, DIY value. We also build surfboards for friends and family and have a love for the ocean and sea life, so the curves have a subtle relationship to these elements and to the natural horizons where the sun and earth meet.
We love the phrase you mark on all of our products, “Give Freely”. Can you explain what you mean by that?
We think the greatest act and enlightenment for humanity is to give and to serve one another. If we can get past ourselves and a false sense of having an upper hand, we really all have a lot to benefit from giving and sharing. ‘Give Freely’ captures this essence and it reminds us not to get caught up in accumulative and self-obsessive living.
What are your top five CAP Beauty favorites?
Follow their journey on instragam, @activistmanuka