Hillsborough native launches Bula Batiki to help residents of a small Fijian island

Hillsborough native Tim McKee (centre) joins partners Callum Drummond (left) and Ellis Williams (right) to launch a unique charity initiative, Bula Batiki Coconut Oil in Belfast.
Hillsborough native Tim McKee (centre) joins partners Callum Drummond (left) and Ellis Williams (right) to launch a unique charity initiative, Bula Batiki Coconut Oil in Belfast.

Hillsborough man Tim McKee is launching a unique charity initiative which is benefiting the residents of the picturesque and remote, Batiki island.

Tim and England-based partners Callum Drummond and Ellis Williams are also contributing to one of the most popular food trends to hit the UK in recent years.

Bula Batiki Coconut Oil, a raw and cold-pressed high-quality coconut oil, is made by hand by Batiki residents from native coconuts grown on their Fijian island. The oil, which is then shipped to market in the UK and Ireland, is now available for sale in select independent retailers across Northern Ireland with all proceeds benefiting the product’s creators.

The Bula Batiki brand, (‘Bula’ is a Fijian greeting commonly used on Batiki) got its start when Tim, Callum and Ellis enjoyed an extended stay on Batiki volunteering with charity Think Pacific. During their time on Batiki the team worked on a building and sport-coaching project for the island’s residents, and were inspired by the Fijian way of life and hospitality shown to them by their host families. Following their return to the UK after their initial project had concluded, they aspired to continue contributing to the island.

“The Fijians taught us so much about their way of life – a culture that we loved from the moment we arrived,” said Callum Drummond, Partner, Bula Batiki Coconut Oil. “Having seen that the island was able to produce coconut oil, and knowing the high demand for coconut oil in the UK, we spent the next year working and putting together different business grant applications to try and get enough money to trial our idea.”

“The concept for Bula Batiki is simple,” explained Ellis Williams. “The residents of Batiki produce the coconut oil from trees that are native to Batiki. The coconuts grown on the remote island remain untouched by pollution or mechanisation and are completely natural, resulting in an incredibly high-quality coconut oil which is perfect for a range of applications including cooking, skincare and more. Because of the small scale production of the coconut oil, Bula Batiki has the unique quality of being traceable to the exact family that have produced your individual jar of oil.”

Bula Batiki has officially launched its unique charity offering via a Kickstarter campaign to generate the funds to increase the production of coconut oil in Batiki. Consumers can enjoy backing the charitable organisation by contributing funds in return for designated numbers of jars of coconut oil, branded t-shirt, and even a possible trip to Batiki to experience the island first-hand for generous donors. These orders will be filled in April 2017 when Batiki’s fourth batch of coconut oil arrives from Fiji.

Residents harvest the coconuts and process the oil by hand. Next, batches are sent to the UK where they are jarred and labelled, with each jar receiving a label so the end user can see which Batiki family produced their oil.

“Unlike more global coconut oil brands, we are actively working to ensure the process does not become industrialised. Our goal is not to create a high-volume brand, but rather help the villagers of Batiki to develop an industry which can support them with ingredients which are already available to them,” added Tim McKee.

Existing on a subsistence lifestyle dominated by agriculture and fishing, paired with modern challenges such as residents leaving Batiki to pursue their education and career goals on the Fijian mainland have resulted in dwindling numbers over the past decades for Batiki. Following a cyclone in 2016 which devastated Batiki and surrounding areas, the income received from the sale of their coconut oil has offered much-needed relief for Batiki’s residents.

“Our mission for Bula Batiki is to help develop relationships between the consumer and the residents of Batiki, spreading the beautiful spirit of the island which has enchanted us,” added Callum Drummond. “Coconut oil is already a highly popular product across the UK and Ireland, and this brand offers consumers a way to consciously purchase a product that directly benefits its creators by preserving their native way of life, providing improved education and sport programmes for Batiki’s young people, and helping to form a safety net for Batiki to help ease the pressure of everyday life for its people.”

For more information on Bula Batiki and to contribute to the brand’s Kickstarter campaign, visit www.bulabatiki.co.uk or follow the brand on facebook.com/bulabatiki or on Twitter and Instagram @Bulabatiki.