Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Is There Enough To Go Round – As Kava Demand Grows?

As Fiji recovers from the effects of Cyclone Winston, and local Fijians face a shortage of their beloved root, increasing kava demand from overseas is putting extra pressure on the kava market.

It’s been well reported that farmers were forced to harvest early on some of the major kava producing islands in Fiji; this has led to price increases and shortages of kava a few months down the line.

It’s not just Fiji feeling the strain, either. A recent severe drought destroyed many plantations in nearby Vanuatu.

This has wide-reaching implications, not just on quantity – but also on quality. Pacific nation governments are currently on a drive to educate farmers in the region about the importance of quality, both for domestic and export markets, so any downturn in quality due to the shortages will not be welcome.

Meeting local and international kava demand

In truth, the governments know how important kava is to the local economy, so every effort will be taken to maintain its quality.

Fiji earned $20.9 million from kava exports between 2012 and 2014, and this is on the increase; exports to the US alone are expected to reach $15 within the next 12 months.

There have been many challenges to the kava industry in recent years – not only from climactic effects on crops, but kava bans too. So the present shortage is just one more hurdle to pass. The renewed focus on ‘noble’ kava varieties will help to safeguard the all-important future of the industry.

Kava is gaining popularity in the west for both its medicinal properties (anti-anxiety, especially) and as a healthier alternative to alcohol.

In the United States, there are already over 100 kava bars. Increasingly, these have been opening in major urban centres like New York and Chicago, instead of the traditional kava bar beach communities of California and Florida.

In New Zealand, a country with a population of only 4.5 million, it is estimated that 20-25,000 people drink kava on a Friday or Saturday night.

Kava is a slow-growing crop and can take five years for its roots to mature. There are no short-term solutions to meeting increasing demand. But, by maintaining quality now, the growing worldwide reputation of kava will only increase in years to come – and that’s what really matters.

That’s why we have invested our own time and efforts into growing elite kava varieties in our nurseries on Ovalau Island in Fiji. This represents the future of Taki Mai shots, capsules, and instant kava!

By Zane Yoshida

Where is Kava and Taki Mai Going in 2016?

2015 was another great year for building awareness about kava and Taki Mai.

In addition to the exciting release of our kava powder and capsules to supplement the four flavored kava shots, we received approval in Australia as a therapeutic good, and continued to grow our presence around Oceania, as well as in the US.

We closed the year in Australia with appearances at the Rugby 7s tournaments in Queensland and northern New South Wales, as well as appearances in Auckland (New Zealand), sponsoring well-attended events.

We are also growing awareness in Fiji with the Manai Island Resort using Taki Mai in a cocktail they have developed called Taki Mai Tai; there have also been plenty of educational exhibitions and product demos in Fiji.

What can you expect in 2016 in the US?

Towards the end of last year, a Fijian Ministry of Agriculture delegation went to the US and visited the Whole Foods Market in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is one of 50 outlets in the US where Taki Mai is sold, including supermarkets, pharmaceuticals, and department stores in the Pacific and Hawaii.

Taki Mai kava shots are sold as sports drinks that can calm, soothe and relax the body.

James Tonkin is company president, and he explained a little more about what can be expected in the coming year:

“Taki Mai products will be promoted in the major outlets through demo awareness to consumers and also in the Food shows in March 2016.”

Expect to see Taki Mai kava shots hit more store shelves this year. Judging by how many new kava bars are opening across the country, demand is spiraling.

Experience the calm from our online store

Another exciting development in 2016 is the unveiling of the Taki Mai online store.

Our online platform will be up and running by mid-January for deliveries of Taki Mai kava products in New Zealand and Australia.

This is hopefully the first step in being able to ship our kava all over the world, and we are working with our distributors to make it happen.

Key challenges in 2016

Of course there are always challenges –and a consistent kava supply is one of the key challenges for Taki Mai in the year ahead.

Only the finest kava from the island of Ovalau in Fiji is used and 70 contracted farmers on the island supply the natural root to maintain the flow of kava shots to the market:

“We are keen to increase our volume and push for the four flavored Taki Mai shots to the market, but our problem is always the supply of the two varieties we require from the farmer. These two varieties that have the kava lactones levels required for the special products,” Tonkin said.

The Fijian government is doing its bit to spread awareness of the potential that export markets hold; the Taki Mai nurseries in Ovalau also continue to be a shining light for the future quality of kava coming out of the island.

There is a recognition within the Fijian government, through the blossoming success of Taki Mai, that the country has a valuable and much sought after international commodity within its islands.

The acting Permanent Secretary for Agriculture in Fiji recently said:

“What the delegation have witnessed and observed from this visit has confirmed that Kava is one of the potential commodities for Fiji and the market is huge. We have not yet tapped into Australia and New Zealand with this product and then now you have Europe that just recently reopened its market.”

We will continue to push into new frontiers in 2016, to help our Ovalau farmers, Fiji as a whole, and kava lovers around the world.

Bula!

By Zane Yoshida

US Market for Fijian Kava Set to Grow

Fijian kava exports to the USA are set to grow and potentially earn the country $15 million, according to Acting Permanent Secretary for Agriculture in Fiji, Uraia Waibuta.

Fiji earned $20.9 million from kava exports between 2012 to 2014, so the U.S. market is a key contributor.

Mr. Waibuta, who is currently on a market scoping mission in the U.S, said that around 10 tonnes of kava is exported to the US per year and the potential is there for this to double.

Fiji currently produces around 4000 tonnes of kava from a total area of 1300 hectares and it will need to increase in order to meet growing worldwide demand for kava.

As well as visiting Northern California’s first kava bar for a taste of kava with an American-style twist, Mr. Waibuta met key kava importers in California.

Maintaining Fijian kava quality

“The Ministry of Agriculture will increase its efforts to support the Kava industry,” Mr Waibuta said, adding that kava nurseries would be established in key areas in Fiji. This will ensure that farmers can access good quality planting materials and maintain the quality standard demanded by the market.

The Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) is an Australian and New Zealand government funded programme to assist with the development of the Fiji Yaqona (Kava) Quality Manual.

The main aim is to help farmers and exporters identify the 13 ‘noble’ kava varieties in Fiji, areas in which these Kava varieties are cultivated, and also to run laboratory tests on the varieties with the best kavalactone level.

Within Fiji, public awareness campaigns about production, processing and a national kava standard based on food safety are going a long way to raising kava quality, which is key to maintaining growth in exports.

All kava entering the U.S. needs to meet strict safety regulations, requiring clearance by the Food & Drugs Administration (FDA), with analysis of its chemical compositions and kavalactone levels.

Taki Mai is proud to be doing its bit…

South Pacific Elixirs is on the frontline of maintaining kava quality, as our previous blog post about elite kava pointed out.

In order to ensure consistency in supply and quality of raw kava we are working with 70 contracted farmers in Lovoni, on the island of Ovalau, where all our kava originates.

We are also doing our bit to help the Fijian kava export market grow, with Taki Mai kava shots in four different flavors marketed through major supermarkets in the United States.

The shots are sold as sports drinks to calm, soothe, and relax of the body.

Company President James Tonkin pointed out that North American consumers are aware of the Taki Mai product and sales are beginning to grow in the U.S. It is sold in more than 50 outlets around the country, including pharmaceutical and department stores.

Taki Mai products will be promoted in major outlets and food shows in March 2016, with further product demos to raise awareness – so keep your eyes peeled for one near you!

Is There Enough To Go Round – As Kava Demand Grows?
Where is Kava and Taki Mai Going in 2016?
US Market for Fijian Kava Set to Grow