The Honey Industry: Sweet or Sticky?
Industry Challenges & Solutions, Plus 3 Honey Producers Doing It Right
Honey is one of nature’s most perfect substances. Bees (and other pollinators) are one of the earth’s most invaluable creatures. This sweet nectar of the insect gods is an excellent source of numerous nutrients including vitamins, minerals, calcium, and antioxidants.
Honey also has medicinal properties that improve metabolic activities, maintain blood pressure levels, reduce the risk of diabetes, and even heal burn wounds.
In all parts of the world, people consume and enjoy honey, from food and beverages to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. As a result, the market for honey is strong and growing.
The Global Honey Market: Facts & Figures
Commercial beekeepers (those with more than 200 hives) make a living from bees through a combination of honey sales, pollination services, and selling bees. Many farmers, gardeners, and regular people keep bees as a hobby. With fewer hives, they are not considered commercial beekeepers, although their honey products may reach small, local markets.
North and South America, Asia, and Europe are the regions that produce the most honey. In recent years, China has emerged as a key exporter of honey to Europe and North America. Climatic conditions all over the world affect production and supply of honey.
In 2020, the global honey market was worth around USD 9.21 billion, and will continue to grow by 8.2 percent annually. Major factors driving market growth include high demand for nutritious food products and the rising awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
In 2017, in the United States alone, 2.67 million honey-producing colonies generated 1.47 million pounds of raw honey. Per capita, people consume approximately 1.51 pounds of honey per year.
Spoiler Alert: Humans Need Bees for More Than Just the Honey!
Insect-pollinated plants like fruits, legumes, and vegetables are the base for approximately one third of the human diet.
Almond trees, for example, are entirely dependent on honeybees for pollination. This means that California, where almond production is king, needs more bees. Pollinating California’s 790,000 acres of almonds requires more than a million colonies of honey bees.
Crops such as apples, avocados, blueberries, cherries, cranberries and sunflowers are 90 percent dependent on honey bee pollination. Honey bees also pollinate other crops such as cucumbers, kiwi fruit, melons, and vegetables.
Cutting Corners for Profit
Not all honey is nature’s perfect food, however. As in many industries, as demand rises, lower quality products begin infiltrating the market. The same is true of honey. Honeys tainted with illegal animal antibiotics and heavy metals often originate in Asia. Some contain rice or corn syrups that increase quantity while decreasing quality. Tests show that 75% of grocery store honey does not contain pollen, which some would argue means it’s not even honey.
These false or low-quality products are often transhipped to hide the country of origin and skirt import regulations. False honey results in an unstable market, lack of consumer trust, and underpayment of beekeepers.
The Buzz about Transparency
For all these reasons and more, transparency along the supply chain is crucial. When we get to know the values, stories, and processes of the brands we choose, we can avoid purchasing low-quality or even falsely advertised products.
We are connected with some amazing beekeepers and honey producers that offer high-quality, ethically-sourced and innovative products. Here are a few we love. (There are many more! Check them all out at our marketplace.)
Revival Queen Bees, Canada
What happens when a family history of an apiary meets a biologist? Deep knowledge of queen breeding techniques and a positive impact on local beekeeping. In Alberta, Canada, Glyn and Shevelle Stephens focus on producing queens that are suited to Alberta’s unique conditions. Their breeding program selects traits based on local honey bee health concerns and the desires of local beekeepers. The goal is to continuously improve the health of Alberta’s honey bees through the production of local queens.
Revival Queen Bees is committed to leveraging research and scientific testing to help overcome challenges in honey bee breeding.
Duavata Honey, New Zealand
This brand was founded by Benjamin Kumar in 2020 with the mission of helping people heal naturally from wounds, eczema, and much more using pure honey rather than conventional medications. Duavata Honey have plenty of antioxidants and high levels of antibacterial properties. These nutrients improve the immunity and complexion.
Skilled beekeepers in Tauranga, New Zealand carefully extract honey from their beehives to fill every jar of Duavata Honey.
Honey AM, Armenia
Honey Am is a family business with the best raw and organic honey from the border regions of Armenia. With 26 different gourmet, organic, nut-infused, and creme products, all with different color and taste composition, the brand really showcases the different breeds of bees and the endemic vegetation of the surrounding land.
Devoted to social responsibility and rural development, Honey AM is not only a honey producer, but a resource for traditional beekeepers in the region. Honey AM provides the beekeepers in their network with new techniques, advanced natural and organic medical treatments, and financial support.
Green Bee Space, Ukraine
Here’s a little honey bee history for you! Did you know that during the 10th century, Ukraine was the main exporter of honey and wax to Europe and the Middle East? Beekeeping in Ukraine has gone through many stages of development. In 1814 the famous Ukrainian researcher and beekeeper, Petro Prokopovich, was the first in the world to invent a frame hive. He also founded the world’s first beekeepers school.
Discover more about beekeeping in Ukraine from Green Bee Space.
Pollinators are critical to life on earth. We are grateful to be connected to producers who are supporting pollinators and providing nutritious products for humans.
Discover them all at our marketplace.