The humble coconut is once again throwing small Pacific Islands a lifeline through increased international demand for coconut products.
Ernestine Maxtone-Graham and her husband Mungo own MaxtoneHaus in Papua New Guinea, a company specialising in manufacturing 100 per cent organic coconut oils scented with natural essential oils.
Her company was one of three small businesses invited from PNG to be part of the Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) Pacific Path to Market delegation at Auckland’s Pasifika Festival recently.
The delegation of 22 companies and four officials from Economic Development Agencies (EDA) from eight Pacific Island countries were PTI’s largest Pacific Path to Market delegation to Pasifika in recent years. Pacific Path to Market is a structured approach to entering the New Zealand market. Participants attend PTI’s Path to Market workshops in their home countries where they are identified as being potential exporters. They are then invited to attend the next stage of the programme consisting of three parts – the Pasifika Festival, a Gap Analysis Workshop and business to business meetings. Last year PTI held 10 workshops throughout the Pacific Islands including Port Moresby in PNG.
The Pasifika Festival is an opportunity for the small businesses to trial their products, test the demand and gain a wider understanding of the New Zealand market place.
Ms Maxtone-Graham tested her new packaging and labelling on festival goers and the response was positive and “overwhelming,” Ms Maxtone-Graham said. The eye catching new packaging on brown pump bottles with 100 per cent organic coconut oil on the labelling and a beautiful PNG patterned design. The logo also incorporates the PNG words ‘Kokonas Blo Yumi’ in a circle around the MH initials, meaning – coconuts for you and me. The logo has special meaning for Mrs Maxtone-Graham who lived in Australia and moved back to PNG.
Coming to the Pasifika Festival was a great experience for Mrs Maxtone-Graham who said,
“People loved the scrubs and ointments. It was positive and quite overwhelming. I couldn’t believe the response.”
The visitors to her stall were treated to hand massages with the scented coconut oils where Mrs Maxtone-Graham was keen to get their feedback – they loved the oils and bought lots of the product. She received many helpful hints and feedback from the public at Pasifika and also industry representatives at the business to business speeding dating sessions held at Te Mahurehure Marae in Pt Chevalier, Auckland.
One of her biggest take-aways from Pasifika and the feedback was the natural health aspect of her products.
MaxtoneHaus products are based on plants and ingredients that are found locally in PNG. The coconut oil and essential oils used for the scents such as citronella, lemon grass and eucalyptus are all sourced locally. Some of her products have been developed with the local community in mind.
The antiseptic ointment stemmed from the awareness that many in PNG couldn’t afford ointments and don’t have hospitals. “I wanted to make it affordable for people,” she said. And she knows it works on skin conditions such as eczema.
At the festival Mrs Maxtone-Graham was also pleasantly surprised by the popularity of her coconut oil based Pet Insect repellent from the human owners. “They wanted to use it on themselves,” she laughed. The pet repellent is based on natural ingredients such as coconut oil and citronella. Demand arose from a surprising quarter, thoroughbred horse breeders in Victoria.
A customer who took the pet insect repellent to try and protect their thoroughbred horses from biting insects and flies after several weeks emailed back for more. The product was not only keeping the insects away but it was also healing the sores caused by the insect infestations.
While Mrs Maxtone-Graham was busy at Pasifika testing her products packaging and labelling, husband Mungo was also in the process of moving to bigger manufacturing premises in Kimbie. The busy entrepreneur plans to make a few tweaks before relaunching her product line in the Australian market. For more information please contact Joe Fuavao, PT&I Trade Development Manager on firstname.lastname@example.org