Western Australian honey producer Australian Rare launched its brand of luxury honey in August 2023 to a warm reception in Harrods in London.
It has been a whirlwind few months for founders Rick Bains and Natalie Bussau. But the journey began some years before.
Bussau already had an established business selling honey and described the exceptional quality of Western Australian honey to Bains. ‘I kept thinking, why doesn’t the world know about these amazing honeys being produced in remote biodiversity hotspots?’ says Bains.
Market research convinced them of a gap in the UK market for premium Australian honey. It was also an opportunity to disrupt the luxury gift market.
‘As the world’s leading luxury department store, Harrods was the perfect retailer for us to showcase Australian Rare honey,’ says Bussau. ‘We reached out to Austrade UK to help arrange an introduction to Harrods.
‘Once people saw our sample and tasted the product, things started moving quickly,’ says Bussau.
The Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (A-UKFTA) entered into force on 31 May 2023. It removes tariffs on over 99% of Australian goods exported to the UK – including honey.
‘Removing the 16% tariff has made this venture viable for a small business like ours,’ explains Bussau. ‘Another benefit seems to have been a lot of goodwill in the market. That helped us negotiate the import process.’
The A-UKFTA is also raising the profile of Australian produce with UK importers and buyers.
‘It highlighted the gap in the luxury honey range for an exclusive Australian product,’ says Alberto Oliva Macias, Austrade Senior Business Development Manager for the UK and Ireland. ‘That may have helped with the decision-making process for Harrods to partner with Australian Rare.’
Each jar of honey is the result of nearly 2 months of rigorous selection and testing. Once they settled on a shortlist, Australian Rare took the best samples to one of the world’s few honey sommeliers, Jessica Locarnini. ‘Based on the combined results of scientific testing and the sommelier tasting, we selected the 3 varieties now on sale at Harrods,’ says Bains.
Just as much care has gone into other details, making Australian Rare honey the perfect exclusive luxury gift.
The auspicious launch date of 8 August is no coincidence. Nor is limiting each batch to 888. Each individually numbered jar is gold plated, with a handcrafted Australian timber lid and hand-blown glass honey dipper.
‘We knew this amazing gift would be something everyone could appreciate,’ says Bains. ‘It’s appropriate for those who don’t drink. It transcends cultures as a gift of prosperity, good health and good fortune. We knew the packaging had to match, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this magnificent honey justice.
‘But it’s the taste that blows people away,’ says Bussau. ‘After that, most people don’t really take a lot more convincing.’
‘Australian Rare was very clear about their ideal customer and market positioning. That made it much easier to introduce them to the right buyers,’ explains Macias.
Bains and Bussau believe customers value the experience of choosing between the range of honeys.
Each variety tells its own story, and customers respond to different elements. For some it’s the relatively low glycaemic index and other health benefits of jarrah honey. Others are drawn to the rich taste of the dwutta honey. Still others are fascinated by the images of the giant karri trees that bloom once in 7 to 10 years.
‘Ultimately, the biodiversity of our forests is the key to our honey,’ says Bussau. ‘We need to be thoughtful about our impact. We work with beekeepers who make sure the load of the honeybees on country is at a level that doesn’t affect native pollinators and our native insects.’
‘We are also aware of our whole supply chain, sourcing the packaging, using reclaimed timber, making sure everyone involved is paid a fair wage. We believe our commitment to sustainability, authenticity and craftsmanship has made us stand out,’ adds Bains.
There were a few anxious moments, as Australian Rare pioneered bringing Western Australian honey to the UK.
‘In hindsight, maybe we were pushing the envelope a bit in agreeing to deliver in 12 weeks,’ laughs Bussau.
Bains and Bussau are quick to acknowledge the support they’ve received in Australia and the UK. ‘We’re very humbled at how many people have gone above and beyond to help us succeed,’ says Bussau. ‘When I sent out my thank-you email, there were more than 40 names, and that’s not even counting all the teams behind those people.’
As well as Austrade, the Western Australian Government assisted through the TradeStart Adviser program. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry provided technical advice.
‘So many have really bought in to our story,’ adds Bains. ‘As one example, we used DHL for shipping after Alberto introduced us to the head of perishables. He came to visit us at Harrods the other day, to make sure we’d launched successfully.’