From a single swarm to over 24,000 hives, the story of Arataki Honey started when 17-year-old Percy Berry was asked by a neighbour to remove a swarm of bees.
Percy then began to split and build hives in Nireaha. In 1942 he gave up farming sheep and cattle and moved with his wife and five children to Hawke’s Bay with the dream of becoming a full-time bee keeper.
With Ian, his eldest son, they turned their small family bee keeping business into a commercial venture and began a journey that resulted in the Arataki – New Zealand’s favourite spread!
“Dad gave me a hive when I was 10, along with my brother Alan who was only 7. I bought Alan’s hive as I realised you needed hive numbers to make money and this enabled me to double my hive numbers,” Ian recalls.
Ian was also the one who, as a school boy, developed the iconic Arataki logo in 1944, along with its highly recognisable sunshine yellow and black writing – which has stood the test of time.
Alongside Ian, wife Pat has been the “human resource” over the generations caring for their children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren, enabling their parents to keep working and devote the time necessary to grow the business.
The Berry family are still the heart and soul of the Arataki, after 75 years of leading the way in the business of honey in New Zealand. Along with the Havelock North operation, there are two other divisions run by Ian’s brother Russell in Rotorua and Gore.
Ian’s daughter Pam has been in the business ‘forever’ starting at the age of five “always paid and always into a bank account”.
Number four in a family of six children, Pam has so many fond memories of working with her siblings, neighbours, cousins and school friends (including her husband Rhys) on weekends and school holidays.
“Everyone of us grew up with an incredibly strong work ethic. I developed my sales, marketing and accounting skills very early on.
“When I wanted to play intermediate netball on Saturday mornings, it was up to me to find someone to cover my shift in the honey shop – work and responsibility came first.
“We worked in comb honey production and packing and helped Mum balance the till each night. I didn’t work on payroll until I left school but some of our weekend team from Karamu High got paid in cash and at 13 I would hand out their pay at school.
“I learned so much working with Granddad and Dad but what I really love is working with younger people. By providing seasonal work we have helped fund many, many university degrees including my children and their cousins.
“Our permanent team welcome the skills and enthusiasm of the students and share their own skills and work ethics with them.”
Pam enjoys how young people challenge her to look at alternate ways to achieve goals. “I love it when I teach them a job and they end up doing it faster and better than I can,” she says.
As with all businesses, there have been challenging times and lessons learned in what has become a very aggressive market.
But we’ve had so many more highs than lows and I still get such a buzz when people tell us how much they love our honey and brand.”
Arataki Honey is an honest, reliable, New Zealand family business. Rhys recently became a company director joining Pam and aunt Barbara Bixley, who led Arataki’s marketing and sales for over 16 years.
Today, it’s the next generation of Berry’s who inspire Pam the most with their passion and commitment for growing a sustainable and successful business that will continue to enhance the environment and care for Arataki’s honey bees. “We have an amazing group of young people working with us. The family pool now includes 19 fourth generation and nearly 21 fifth generation so there are many options for the future.”
Working fulltime in the business are nieces Caroline Burnett in accounts, Nat Berry in retail, Nat’s partner Ben Morgan, and nephew Rob Berry in beekeeping.
Nat has been responsible for managing the recent changes in the Visitor Centre. The upgrade is amazing, if you check it out in the holidays you will also see niece Bridget Berry in the visitors centre.
“We don’t start them working quite as young now, but you can spot the cousins in past publicity shots,” Pam says.