The company based in Paengaroa in the Western Bay of Plenty, has completely revamped its Visitor Centre. Bay of Plenty locals have found themselves happily at the centre of a natural health experiment: the company’s first ‘global concept store’ - that incorporates a café where the visitor can get a ‘hit of Comvita nutrients’ in a range of extraordinary fruit or vegetable juices and smoothies.
One of the most popular is ‘Smooth and Soothing,’ containing blueberries, juice of a lemon, banana, yoghurt, milk, and Comvita 5+ manuka honey and bee pollen. Other tempting drinks have jolt-your-immune system names like Bionic Tonic. Gourmet Kapiti ice cream is also on sale and of course, there are flavours such as honey and kiwifruit. The slightly less adventurous can still find a sandwich or a cake and a good cup of expresso.
A health education theme is carried right through the store in matter-of-fact educational signage, brochures and videos – and not least, friendly staff including trained naturopaths. The customer is encouraged to stay a while in lounge areas off the main store equipped with comfy sofas and reading material. And if the weather’s friendly, there’s a sunny, sheltered courtyard.
A key product on sale is the manuka honey with antibacterial properties that Comvita is famous for. Sourced from pollution-free native forests, the honey is lab-tested for the extent of its antibacterial activity, and receives a UMF (unique manuka factor) rating. There are even children’s lemon and honey lollipops with a UMF of 10. Comvita’s ‘new breed’ of health products includes Forta Cold herbal elixir (many locals swear by) and an Echinacea and Kiwifruit liquid extract. Always innovating, Comvita will soon release a full skin care range called Huni (honey).
Comvita isn’t one of those cynical companies that have suddenly discovered phrases like ‘ecological footprint’ - because it helps sales. The company chiefs correctly point to their sustainable business practices ‘long before it became trendy.’ They insist that ‘sustainability’ is more than a buzz word (acceptable phrase for a company that deals in so many bee products) for Comvita, and the ethos is carried through in the new concept store.
The store is housed in a snazzy, modern building with recycled rubber on the floor, cork walls and natural riverstone features in its interior design. This building is also Greenglobe benchmarked, which means it’s met global tourism industry standards for sustainable waste management and other environmentally-friendly practices.
But while Comvita’s given the old visitor centre a huge shakeup, thankfully some long-standing features remain. Honey-tasting is still provided and the educational gallery, with displays on the history of bee-keeping, even a ‘see-in’ working beehive, have been retained. A new auditorium allows visitors to watch a video that takes them on a virtual tour of the factory. A guide is on hand to answer questions after the viewing.
Opened by the Prime Minister in April, NZX-listed and highly successful, Comvita says the first global concept store is a model for concept stores to be rolled out in other parts of the world, including Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.
Meantime, they predict (accurately!) it will be a big drawcard for tourists visiting the region. And if you only go for one of those health-hit smoothies, it’s a big ‘don’t miss’ for residents of the Western Bay.