In an era so replete with processed and unhealthy foods, it’s comforting to know that American consumers can still benefit from a wide array of purely natural products from New Zealand, including Manuka Honey and Pacific Sea Salt (a far healthier salt option than what most of us consume every day). I recently chatted with David Noll, the founder, and CEO of Pacific Resources International (www.shoppri.com), which first introduced Manuka Honey to these shores and which has been importing premium-quality New Zealand products to America for some three decades. Here’s what he had to say:
Stacey Chillemi: Did you have a particular health journey that led you to New Zealand and how did that journey shape your professional and personal life?
David Noll: As a child, I had no less than 23 different allergies and asthma. Goat’s milk was the only liquid that was acceptable for a food. After months of antibiotics, I was headed for thick coke bottle type glasses and hearing aids at the age of five. The antibiotics were taking their toll.
Thankfully, my father Chuck was smart enough to think that there must be something better. He went on a mission searching for a way to help me. His investigation led him into better nutrition by healthy eating at a time when health food stores were hard to find. He started reading books and following the advice of early pioneers Carlton Fredericks and Adel Davis. These two pioneers paved the way for my father to understand that with diet changes the antibiotic merry-go-round could finally stop spinning for me.
So the change started with what little was available in those early days of nutrition. Unpasteurized milk, 100% Stone Ground Wheat Bread, and 1000 mg of vitamin C 3 x a day. With a regular diet regime in place, my health began to improve and I was soon off of the antibiotics with allergies diminishing as my Dad threw out all the white flour, white sugar, and processed foods. By the age of 15, I overcame asthma, sinus headaches and most of the allergies that had plagued me for years.
Stacey Chillemi: How did PRI first get off the ground and how did you wind up being the first to import Manuka Honey from New Zealand to the States?
David Noll: At the age of 21, the travel bug hit and I was off to New Zealand with a guitar in one hand and a surfboard under the other. After getting married and living in NZ for 13 years, I returned to California for a visit with my parents with three (healthy!) children. While on vacation, some beekeeping friends from NZ asked for help getting their products into the US. I had no idea that it would lead to 30 + years of importing exclusive New Zealand products to the US and the addition of three more children.
In 1989, Pacific Resources International (PRI) was the first to introduce Manuka honey to the US; today, Manuka Honey is a billion-dollar industry worldwide for helping digestive issues and providing wound treatment. The health food industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the years but PRI still only works direct with NZ beekeeping families that take pride in producing high-quality products. Pacific Sea Salt continues to be one of the only wind and sun-dried sea salts with no additives and still contains all the natural trace elements. New Zealand continues to be a bread basket for the world for high-quality products.
Stacey Chillemi: How well-informed (if at all) are American consumers about New Zealand-derived products?
David Noll: In the beginning, very few knew about New Zealand and often confused it with Australia. Kiwi Fruit started the awareness, and then the America’s Cup race when NZ took the cup home generated more attention. But the Lord of the Rings movies really brought New Zealand to the world’s stage and now there are few that do not know about NZ and the great products that it produces.
Stacey Chillemi: Are there any products that your company manufactures that you feel deserve special attention?
David Noll: Manuka Honey Nuggets are a hard candy made with organic ingredients with Manuka Honey added for those that want their Manuka dose in a fun way or for a quick natural energy burst. Manuka Honey Chocolates are simply 99% Dark cocoa, Manuka Honey, and Mint or ginger flavors. Just that simple and just that good. Just released are Classic Manuka Honey Salted Caramels using New Zealand gourmet Flaky Sea Salt. There are also Manuka Honey Lozenges for those not so well days in the form of a cough drop that contains the natural antibiotic Propolis that is found in the bee hive. This combined with UMF 10+ Manuka Honey packs a powerful punch that tackles the tickle.
Stacey Chillemi: What makes PRI unique?
David Noll: We only import exclusive products from NZ that meet all the export regulations. There are many sellers of Manuka Honey these days that pack their products outside the country to avoid NZ regulations and make false claims, such as using words like medical and Doctor on the labels.
Stacey Chillemi: How do your products help others?
David Noll: Manuka Honey is renowned for its healing properties for digestive conditions and wound treatment. All the honey from NZ are 100% unprocessed and retain all their natural enzymes for good health. They are more than just a sweetener. Pacific Sea Salt is one of the only sea salts that is naturally dried so that all the trace elements are retained. This is a true Sea Salt not just Sodium Chloride taken from the sea.
Stacey Chillemi: What’s your top category?
David Noll: Natural Grocery.
Stacey Chillemi: What is your single best-selling item?
David Noll: By volume Pacific Sea Salt, by revenue, Manuka Honey.
Stacey Chillemi: Name some new products you’ll be introducing soon.
David Noll: Barbeque Pacific Sea Salt, Manuka Honey Salted Caramels, Manuka Honey Sticks, Organic Manuka Honey Lip Balm and traditional Handmade Manuka Honey & Pacific Sea Salt moisturizing soap.
Stacey Chillemi: How do variations of Manuka Honey differ and how can consumers know when brands are making false claims about their honey’s origins, ingredients, and potential benefits?
David Noll: This is a tough one as there are a few that have their own labeling process that is not approved. They get away with it as they often pack their honey outside of NZ. We only deal with NZ beekeepers. Some that are in their 3rd generation. Published on every jar is the beekeeper’s address where the honey was packed and license number when required. Batch numbers are also applied that have backup COA (Certificate of Analysis) to show test results for proof in labeling. All of our honey brands are packed under the NZ government requirements.
A good red flag for suspicious suppliers is that they only have one or two strengths of Manuka Honey available – generally around 12 to 16+. This usually suggests that they’re blending from any source and may be packing outside the country. We carry the largest selection of Active and UMF graded Manuka from 5+ to 20+. Over 12 different strengths, to suit any consumers need. Most enjoy the 5+ active as it was the first used in the original experiments and worked for 80% of the problems. Most people do not have an acute problem to address so the more expensive higher grades are not required. In many cases, with Manuka honey, more is not better.
Stacey Chillemi: Most people assume all salt is in some way bad for them. Please discuss why New Zealand sea salt is superior and why American consumers should make it a part of their regular diet?
David Noll: The short answer is that most sea salts are just sodium chloride extracted from the ocean with no trace elements. Sodium Chloride alone is dangerous for the body. Just check out the ingredient list on the so-called sea salts in markets today. The anti-caking and free flowing agents, yellow dye and dextrose compounds are the dangers. An easy way to think about it is that refined sodium chloride is as bad for you as refined white sugar. Natural evaporated cane juice is just like unrefined Pacific Sea Salt still containing the natural trace elements that the body can utilize naturally. Good salt, with all the natural trace elements, will help promote sleep, lower blood pressure, and balance body fluids.
Stacey Chillemi: Though your products are especially appealing to health-conscious consumers, I would imagine you’d suggest that just about everyone use them at least occasionally. Please discuss how PRI’s various products are winning over mainstream consumers who aren’t necessarily the typical Whole Foods-type shopper.
David Noll: Good Question. With skyrocketing health insurance costs, more and more people are researching healthier diets and remedies to stay healthy and have a good quality of life in their golden years or to keep their children off the antibiotic merry go around. There is no real secret about the qualities of these products. They are simply harvested in their natural form just the way nature intended us to enjoy them for a healthy lifestyle. Just have a look at organic product sales over the last three years. New Zealand is blessed to have one of the last clean environments left today to produce high-quality products. It pays to remember that old saying,” You are what you eat.”
Stacey Chillemi: What’s the best decision you’ve made in the 20 past years?
David Noll: Wow, from a business perspective, to keep family in the business, so I can not only enjoy my children at work but also the grandchildren. I have a saying that was handed down to me: “A family that can work together stays together.” Not always easy but it helps builds character. We also made the decision together to help the disabled. So, we have become part of a federal program that enables us to help others find their place in the workforce. Everyone has a gift that only they can contribute to make our society whole.
Stacey Chillemi: Where can people find your products if they want to learn more about them or if they are interested in purchasing them?
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