Consumers continue to move away from artificial sweeteners and back toward the classics: cane sugar, maple syrup and honey. Honey is especially popular, because bees are found everywhere and farmers from all walks of agriculture can add a small apiary operation to their enterprise to reap some rich rewards.
Keith Seiz of the National Honey Board has talked about the many products that include honey today – and how that number continues to expand. In 2022, honey was found in the following products (listed from the most honey utilized to the least): beer, breads and doughs, packaged cold beverages, hot cereals, liquor and distilled spirits, deli and processed meats, snack and nutrition bars, salad dressings, cookies, dairy and yogurt, sauces and marinades, crackers, baked desserts, candy and juice and juice drinks.
One product Seiz highlighted is similar to maple water. Melle Honey Water has literally two ingredients – and “honey is sweet spot of being a healthy ingredient and a marketing standpoint,” he said. “No one is going to buy ‘sugar water.’”
Seiz added that consumers are no longer looking at just how a product tastes but at the actual ingredients in it too. “That’s a testament to the kind of explosive growth we’re seeing in honey across the food and beverage industry,” he said.
The National Honey Board’s research has found that 73% of consumers are trying to limit or avoid sugars in their diets. At the same time, though, consumers love to enjoy sweet foods. Their research has also found that 31% of consumers prefer any type of sugar vs. 24% who prefer low/no-calorie sweeteners. Seiz said it was “interesting they prefer the caloric sweeteners.”
“Do consumers consider honey a sweetener or something separate?” he posed. “We see it as a selling point – you don’t see that as much with sugar or stevia.”
Honey is a highly complex substance, made up of carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, prebiotics, acids, volatile organic compounds, bacteria and yeast. It has thousands of varietals, all dependent on where the bees forage for nectar. Seiz suggested telling consumers to look at all the qualities of honey – color, aroma and flavor – just like you would with a wine tasting.
Honey features an average Brix of 70 – 88, making it about as sweet as glucose (found in many fruits) and slightly less sweet than sucrose (from sugar cane and sugar beets).
“Think of not just sweetness, but the flavor component,” Seiz said. “Different flowers create different flavors.”
He also noted the concentration of multiple sugars gives honey its unique properties – its high viscosity, its stickiness, its tendency to granulate and its ability to absorb moisture from the air. It also has an immunity from some types of spoilage.
If you keep bees and are looking for some new value-added products to create, be sure to check out what the National Honey Board can offer by way of inspiration at honey.com.
by Courtney Llewellyn