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Meet The Maker - Callum Armstrong of Manuka Essentials

When we came across Manuka Essentials, I took an instant liking to the special concept that the founder Callum Armstong has created. I have always loved mānuka and kānuka oils which are amazing natural remedies! Turns out there are huge environmental benefits to growing these plants as well. Here we ask Callum a bit about his unique business & vision...

Manuka Essentials Founder Callum Armstrong


Your business concept is very unique and purposeful. How did you arrive at the concept of Manuka Essentials?

For many years, I've dreamed of building an organization that represents some of the best local NZ made products. There's alot to be proud of when you look at the wonderful things that Kiwi businesses do. I'm also really passionate about sustainability, and protecting/regenerating our native forests. So, I've been keeping an eye out for potential opportunities to build the company of my dreams for quite some time now.

During late 2017/early 2018, I was backpacking around South East Asia doing the typical OE when I stumbled across some very interesting articles and research papers about mānuka oil. One thing led to another, and I found myself engrossed in researching all things about mānuka and kānuka. Turns out, this was the opportunity I was looking for, so I returned home to build the business.

So what excited you most about mānuka and kānuka?
  • Mānuka and kānuka are seral species, which means that they function as an intermediate stage in the regeneration of native forest. They spread easily to new areas of unforested land and quickly establish deep & flexible root systems that help to prevent erosion. 
  • As they grow,  mānuka and kānuka provide canopy cover that offers a perfect nursery environment for slower growing native plants and also wards off grazing animals.
  • For many centuries, Māori used various parts of mānuka and kānuka plants to treat a wide range of ailments. When Captain Cook arrived in New Zealand, his crew brewed mānuka tea to prevent scurvy and made spruce beer by fermenting mānuka leaves with rimu twigs and mollasses.
  • When planted alongside waterways, mānuka helps to improve water quality.
  • It is widely known how mānuka honey is great for a wide range of applications, but the use of manuka and kanuka oil is not so well known yet. 

So anyway, that's the backdrop that led me to start Manuka Essentials - commerce build around a regenerative plant that is great for our health, our environment and our culture. 

Regenerating forest

What would you say your ‘mission’ is with the business?

It would bring me great joy (and probably many other Kiwis too) to see more of our landmass covered in native plants and forest. The mission for Manuka Essentials (in the long run) is to encourage landowners to plant mānuka and kānuka on their properties by providing supply chains for value-added mānuka and kānuka based products.

We have an online store, and we're also developing a range of consumer products that use mānuka oil as a key ingredient.

The first of such products is our Fresh & Fruity Aromatic Beard Oil. As we grow, we want to put mānuka oil, kānuka oil, mānuka honey, hydrosol and teas to use in a wide range of different ways.

If you look at the products made from mānuka honey, you will notice that it's much more thank just something sweet to spread on toast. You can get antibacterial bandages, face cremes, handwash, moisturizer, shampoo, toners and so much more. Buy why stop with just honey? Mānuka essential oil provides a much wider range of health benefits.


Tell us about what (or who!) you hold dear!

    Family and friends - I am extremely grateful to be surrounded by a wonderful assortment of people. I'm forever inspired by the motivation of my mother, the practical know how of my stepdad, Geoff, the business smarts and personality of my father, and the creativity of my stepmother, Maggie. 

    Your top 3 uses for Manuka & Kanuka?

      Relaxation and peaceful sleep - place a few drops of 100% pure East Cape kānuka oil in your palm, rub you hands together and cup your hands. Breathe the vapours for a few minutes and enjoy the relaxation. Scientists are currently researching the potential for using kānuka oil to treat anxiety and potentially other mental health issues too.

      Dandruff - add 2-3 drops of 100% pure East Cape mānuka oil to a handful of shampoo and thoroughly rub into hair. From experience, it normally only takes one wash to get rid of dandruff - however, if one wash doesn't fix it, continue using until your dandruff is gone.

      First aid kit in a bottle - our 25% East Cape mānuka oil blend is an essential addition to your first aid kit. I literally use this for almost any minor skin issue - cuts/disinfectant, anti-fungal treatment, anti-inflammatory for swelling, insect repellent, soothing insect bites, helping with coldsores and cracked lips, encouraging wounds to heal and so much more! Note: East Cape mānuka oil is known to be 20-30 x more effective than tea tree oil against certain types of bacteria. It also kills MRSA and Herpes Type 1 and 2... WOW.

      East Cape Manuka

      Your top 3 ‘secret’ spots in NZ?

        Great question, especially when there are so many hidden gems. Here's a few of my favourites:

        1. Lake Marian, near Milford Sound. Stunning glacier-fed mirror lake.
        2. Tapotupotu Bay, near Cape Reinga. Great surf beach, nice DOC campsite, awesome snorkling and a safe estuary for kids to play in. Really epitomizes the natural beauty of the Far North.
        3. Otānewainuku Forest, Bay of Plenty. This 1400 hectare patch of mature podocarp forest has never been milled. Native Kiwi and Kokako roam, and there is an abundance of other native birds such as Tui, Kereru, Tomtom and fantails. Climb through stands of kahikatea, miro and rimu to reach the summit of Mount Otanewainuku for views past Waihi, out to the East Cape, and all the way to Ruapehu (plus Mount Taranaki on a good day). The waterfalls are something else.
        What are some of your personal core values that translate into the values that underpin Manuka Essentials?

          Fairness and respect - we always try to treat people as fairly as possible. 

          Give it a go - if you don't try, you'll never know!

          Hearing people out - Einstein once said 'Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.' As an entrepreneur, it's easy to fool yourself into thinking that you know best about every decision. In reality, there are often people around you that can give you much better information if you're willing to ask. I try to listen to the views of other people as much as possible, as it's interesting to see things from a different perspective.

          What’s your vision for the future of Aotearoa?

            As a country, I think we are heading in the right direction for the most part. I would love to see more native bush, cleaner streams, and an active focus on sustainability. 

            We're living in an increasingly globalized world that offers enormous opportunity for local business. Whilst we are great at farming and creating primary products, I would like to see more value created in New Zealand. Our exports are often seen as premium quality, and I believe it's important that we capitalize on this. One initiative that I'm watching with excitement is the protection of local produce through geographic indicators. Think of how French champagne can be only made from grapes grown in one region of France - IP lawyers are currently negotiating to protect our right to geographic indicators on NZ products. Items such as New Zealand mānuka honey, Bluff oysters and Central Otago pinot noir are examples of how we can use geographic indicators to set ourselves apart on the global stage.

            We have an awesome lifestyle here in New Zealand, and I would like to see this great lifestyle continue - even as we become more connected with the world at large.

            Podocarp forest

            To learn more about what makes mānuka and kānuka special, check out the Manuka Essentials knowledge base:

            Check out the gorgeous range of Manuka Essentials products here

            Manuka Essentials product range

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