Another “world first” for Island Abbey

By Margaret Magner (Special to The Guardian)

Published on January 17, 2015

CEO John Rowe's Island Abbey Foods Ltd. recently launched Honibe Honey Gummies™ using the world's first chewable honey as a unique delivery platform for vitamin supplements.

© Submitted photo

Those who still equate Island Abbey Foods Ltd. with its celebrated first product, the Honeydrop® — the world’s first 100 per cent pure solid honey lozenge — will marvel at the company’s rapid evolution.

In six short years, the Charlottetown-based company has become a Health Canada and FDA-licensed specialty food and natural/medicated health product producer with an ambitious line of merchandise and partnerships with leading pharmaceutical companies internationally.

A recent announcement that it is expanding into the vitamin, mineral and supplement category with the world’s first honey gummy vitamin supplements is yet another indication of Island Abbey’s meteoric rise.

A patented technology platform that dehydrates honey into 100 per cent pure solid form factors enables Island Abbey to deliver health remedies through a unique honey base. Honibe Honey Gummies™ include six adult and children’s products with naturally sourced vitamins and supplements without artificial ingredients and animal by-products. A partnership with Vitamin Angels™ allocates a percentage of product revenue so at-risk mothers and children can access essential vitamins and minerals.

By strategically partnering with leading European and Asian pharmaceutical companies, Island Abbey leveraged those established brands with Honibe® technology to develop products designed and marketed for local audiences. It’s a win-win situation for all concerned.

“It’s costly to develop a new brand in other countries. Instead, we’ve created a business model targeting existing health companies with our unique value proposition,” says company founder and president John Rowe.

“We deliver natural food and health products with the anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-oxidant properties of pure honey. We’re thrilled to introduce them to international consumers.”

Global partnerships include SATO Pharmaceutical, Japan; Comvita Natural Health, New Zealand; and Gifrer, France, which through a co-branded effort under the Alma miel brand of cough-and-cold products is creating France’s first all-natural honey lozenges with Vitamin C, menthol and eucalyptus. Gratified by international partnerships, Rowe knows his company is firmly rooted in P.E.I., and is proud of it.

“We’re small, but there are 130,000 Islanders on our marketing team,” says Rowe.

“We wouldn’t exist if we were located anywhere else. With help from the National Research Council (NRC), federal and provincial partners, and the P.E.I. BioAlliance, we can access innovative R&D programs, financial assistance, and a very collaborative Cluster network. That level of support is hard to find elsewhere.”

The results are apparent, with Rowe predicting significant growth for the company.

“Today, we are 40-to-45 employees, but I can see 100-to-150 in the coming years, and a target of 50-to-60 countries as future markets for Honibe®. Our biggest strength is R&D and taking the product to market.”

Dr. Bob Chapman, program leader for NRC’s Natural Health Products Program, agrees. Working from the UPEI campus to foster collaborative working relationships amongst emerging bioscience companies, the NRC is an extension of Honibe®’s R&D environment, helping define new products and technical innovations.

“Island Abbey produced 100 per cent pure-dried honey when many others tried and failed. It’s at the forefront of two major trends now — convenience and all-natural. That’s clearly a success story.”

Margaret Magner, Ph.D., is a freelance journalist in Charlottetown (www.magnerink.com). This is one in a series of articles on P.E.I.’s bioscience sector.