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Comvita Founder Turns 99

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Comvita Founder Turns 99

18 August 2009 - If anyone knows the true value of bee pollen products, it is 99 year old Claude Stratford.

The Bay of Plenty man, the founder of iconic New Zealand natural products company Comvita, celebrates his 99th birthday this week. He is still passionate about maintaining his own health - he continues to take bee pollen and Manuka honey - and Comvita is a huge part of that passion.

In 1921, aged 11, Claude owned his first beehive, which sparked a lifelong affinity for bees (when working with bees he would often forego any protective gear). As he was born during the Depression - when nutritious food was scarce - Claude suffered from ill-health as a child and was often very sickly. His childhood was spent in and out of hospital but his life and his health changed dramatically for the better when he discovered the benefits of taking products from the hive. This inspired in him a desire to create natural remedies from bee-related products.

In 1974, Claude started selling his products from the basement of his house and in time for Christmas 1976, opened the first Comvita shop in Paengaroa, selling Manuka honey, propolis, bee pollen, royal jelly and Claude's own recipe, Herbal Elixir, which is still a best seller today (now known as Fortacold Herbal Elixir).

In 1999, Claude proudly received a Queen's Service Medal for his service to the Community and in 2005, at the age of 95, he was a finalist for an Entrepreneur for the Year Award for the Bay of Plenty Region.

Even at 99, Claude still demonstrates a thirst for learning and can often be found with his head buried in a pile of books reading up on the latest findings in natural health. In the past, he's also been known to call upon Comvita staff to get his hands on raw ingredients for experimenting with.

Claude's values and the heritage of his commitment to product quality and purity is still the cornerstone of Comvita today, says CEO Brett Hewlett.

"Claude is an inspiration to the people at Comvita and we continue to support philanthropic projects in New Zealand and overseas, in keeping with his philosophy that business should give back to the community."

Staff at Comvita, many of whom worked with Claude until he retired at 95, helped him to celebrate his birthday with a special morning tea at the Comvita Visitor Centre in Paengaroa, 10 minutes south of Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty.

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