In Conversation: Blanche Morrogh

Words by Blanche Morrogh

Blanche Morrogh—Managing Director of Kai Ora with the Claudia Tote in Canvas

Another big aspect of community for Yu Mei is meeting—and learning from—other regeneratively-minded businesses, and the people behind them. One person we’ve been fortunate to meet recently is Blanche Morrogh—Managing Director of Kai Ora—who Jessie first met during the Prime Minister’s Trade Mission trip to Australia in July 2022, where Jessie and Blanche were both representing their respective companies.

Kai Ora is a leading Māori business based in Awanui, renowned worldwide for the innovative products they create through sustainably harvesting and developing the medicinal properties of mānuka and kānuka trees. The result is a range of products as good for the planet as they are for you, including everything from 700+ active mānuka honey, to skincare and hand sanitiser. Here, Blanche tells us a little about Kai Ora’s community ethos and endeavours.

Kai Ora was started by our young whanau, born and raised in Te Hiku, who in 2006, aspired to develop a Māori-owned mānuka brand to create a future for ourselves and our tamariki. We are proud to prove that the ethos of “Do Locally and Act Globally” is possible for Māori wanting to live off their whenua in rural and remote areas of Aotearoa.

Beekeeping is one of the oldest and traditional ways of extracting the natural health benefits of mānuka and kānuka trees, but we don’t plan to stop at honey in a jar. Recently, we have installed a steam distillery to extract and harvest from branches and leaves.

We have a mixture of ways of incorporating Kaitiakitanga to allow people to engage in the way they like. An easy way of contributing to reducing carbon within our business was through introducing ‘Carbon Click.’ It's a platform that people can donate to at checkout, which directly supports projects we select—for example, planting native forests. What’s great about it is that it’s fully transparent, with the project’s impact being tracked and traced.

A more complex and technical role we play is through our high native forest. It’s been specifically planted to grow high value, sustainable native extracts for innovative products, ones that are good for both people and the planet. This also enables us to be a vertically integrated operation—from our landowners to beekeepers to processors and marketers—which enables quality control over the entire process of creating our products, and guarantees our processes are truly circular—both economically and environmentally.

In terms of our community involvement, we are so pumped that in November 2022, we’re beginning a native and tropical fruit symbiotic plantation trial with our local school! Planting for both food and land is something we want our kids to learn. We’ll be planting native trees in developing wetlands to both attract, and be a home for, migrating birds and insects. We’re pairing this with the planting of tropical plants, which produce food that’s delicious for them to eat—and will have them buzzing! ( Pardon the pun, given our primary business is beekeeping ).

Our ultimate business goals are about creating opportunities for—and building capacity of—Indigenous entrepreneurs, to allow engagement in global trade that creates meaningful change for their people, place and communities. The most important lesson we’ve learnt in business is the value of relationships. Not just with people, and culturally, but also relationships with Te Taiao and how we can leave Te Taiao healthier than how we inherited it. As a Māori business, it’s also about embracing our past, capturing and honouring our lessons from our tupuna, while acknowledging their past and authentically engaging with our global customers.

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