It’s easy to find Kris Jansen buzzing around town – just look out for her little yellow and black car with plates BEEUTI. Adopting the sunny shade of her favourite insect, the honey bee, is no coincidence as the business woman has an affinity for the winged creature.
Growing up the daughter of Robin Jansen, owner and beekeeper of the now named Huka Honey Hives in Taupo, bees and their by-product have been a big part of her life from day dot.
“I was one of five kids – three boys and two girls. One of my first memories is of Dad and his Bedford J4 full of beehives and millions of bees. As kids we’d sit in the truck and watch him go from hive to hive, beekeeper to beekeeper. He had about 5000 hives. I loved it. I’d often get stung though, because the bees would come through the vents. I didn’t mind.”
When her beloved father passed away in 1992, Kris took up the mantle. She was a busy bee, opening her first Honey Hive retail shop on the Kapiti Coast in 1995, before bringing the factory production down from Taupo as well, and opening a central city Wellington store under the name Honeymeisters. Then, eight years ago, she travelled to Christchurch to expand the brand.
But then earthquakes hit, her marriage came to an end, and Kris suddenly found herself wondering, ‘What next?’
“I tried and tried to make it work there, but people weren’t coming into the CBD, which is where I wanted to be.
“I looked at what I wanted to do. I had a couple of brothers in Tauranga, so I moved up here. I spend most of my time in the store and just a couple of days in the factory as one of my brothers is now helping me out.”
The factory she refers to is her Greerton-based production facility, where she makes the various honey products she sells out of her Honeymeisters store in Mount Maunganui.
The store itself is an ode to her rich history in the industry. Lining the walls are an array of honey tins, some collected from as early as the 1930s. It began as a project to find a piece of her father’s history, and grew and grew when she couldn’t find ‘the one’.
“I do have a Beeville honey tin which is where my father grew up in the 1930s and 40s. Beeville was a well-known commune near Morrinsville which began with my grandfather and uncles. Some of the brothers were beekeepers and that’s how my father learnt the craft.”
But for the serious honey lovers, it’s the shelves and shelves of edible goodies that catch their eye. Gingerlicious Ginger Bee (a mix of honey and ginger) is a popular choice in the Bay of Plenty, while Rob’s Apricot and Honey is created using her father’s 30-year-old recipe. And what about the Beenut Butters, a caramel-like combination of honey and peanuts that tastes heavenly.
“I always want to be able to create more and interesting products,” she says. The store allows me to directly connect with my customers and better understand their needs.
She’s also turned her Mount store into a pseudo office, in which she can be found educating visitors on the joys of respecting the honey bee – or rolling her own beeswax candles.
“The honey bee is such an awesome insect that we have to educate people about its importance. It’s like the canary in the cave. If the bee is struggling in the world, then we have an issue. Through retail, I think you can educate people.
“There’s a growing awareness of the danger to the honey bee, particularly in New Zealand, but the problem is there are many people doing beekeeping for solely Manuka, and in some areas there is too much.
"As soon as you do intensive farming in one area, that puts pressure on the animal and before we know it, there may be serious sustainability issues.”
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