Will 2020 be a big year for healthy honey?

With their British heather variety hitting headlines, Black Bee Honey co-founder Paul Webb discusses the trend-touching potential of raw, artisanal honey.

6 February 2020

Health and wellness are particularly trendy topics in the UK food industry today, with sugar becoming more or less public enemy number one in the development arena.

It’s hardly surprising given the public’s current perception. Indeed, a recent survey from Swiss sweetener brand Hermesetas revealed that 64% of 1,000 British consumers believe sugar reduction is important when they are trying to lose weight.

Honey is seen as something of a saviour in this regard. In the same Hermesetas survey, almost a third of adults said they believe honey is the healthiest form of sweetener, with 28% having thought about using honey or molasses instead of sugar when cooking.

Honey is also widely considered to have far reaching health benefits. And, this month, British brand Black Bee Honey hit the headlines for its raw British heather honey that was found to have the same beneficial antimicrobial properties as some manuka honeys.

Manuka has long been considered to be the gold standard of healthy honeys, with pots of honey with the same antimicrobial rating as Black Bee’s heather honey retailing for over £100 a jar. 

Founded by Chris Barnes and Paul Webb in 2012 and now available in retailers such as Ocado, Planet Organic and Whole Foods, Black Bee Honey champions unpasteurised artisanal honey, with particular emphasis on provenance and ultra-seasonality.  

With consumer agenda being so heavily primed towards wellbeing, provenance and naturality (and considering the potential of exotic honey as a trend in 2020), should honey be a focus area for 2020?

Hive minds

Black Bee Honey was created to take advantage of a bit of a market grey area, namely the large gap between supermarket value honey and the expensive manuka, with clear focus on place of origin, the benefits of unrefined, and remarkable variety in range.

“We saw an opportunity in the supermarket arena for a raw, British honey that’s straight from the hive and a potential for honey to be recognised more by people into health and wellness,” co-founder Webb tells Food Spark.

“People are used to runny honey in a squeezy bottle that doesn’t really have any flavour. But we believe there is real potential now to educate people on how different honey is as a product, with the incredible variety with pollens and active ingredients. It’s a unique food type.”

Black Bee’s headline British heather honey is made by bees from Exmoor National Park in late Summer, with the hives moved onto the moors for only two weeks while the Ling heather is in bloom.

Said to have a toffee colour with a crunchy texture and an aromatic and smoky flavour, the honey is one of seven different jars sold by Black Bee, all of which have the name of the apiary it was collected from along with the name of the beekeeper.

Seasonal flavours

Black Bee also champion the varieties of flavour found in honey collected from different parts of the country, with their seaside honey, for example, coming from hives that have been taken to the salt marshes of the North Norfolk coast.

“Provenance is big for us - its unique putting the apiary and beekeeper on the label,” continues Webb.

“Big companies often blend honeys into one big batch, but we like to keep them separate as they all have different flavours and properties. And minimise processing from hive to jar so you’re not altering the honey’s original state.

“Our seasonal range (spring, summer and autumn) is our core range – we want to reinforce the seasonality of honey and how different the flavours can be at different times of the year.”

Webb says that Black Bee’s spring honey, which is a soft set honey, is well suited to the breakfast market while their summer honey is more like a traditional runny honey and good for hot drinks.

Their Autumn variety, meanwhile, has a “punchy” flavour, a unique consistency and is great for cooking.

But while raw honey touches on a number of prevalent trends for 2020, there is still some way to go in terms of educating the public. 

“There’s a definite move away from refined sugar, and a positive link between food and honey,” says Webb.

“But while there is big emphasis on health today, there are still a lot of people that see honey as something you can buy from the supermarket that tastes a bit like sugar. There’s a long way to go with educating people about what real honey is.”

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