What’s next for honey? The National Honey Board talks about upcoming opportunities for the category

Although challenged by the chaos of the pandemic, which has led to a drop in sales in 2021, honey consumption has steadily increased over the past three years as consumers appreciate the less processed nature of honey. golden liquid sweetener, argued Margaret Lombard, CEO of the National Honey Board.

“Honey tends to have a cachet that attracts people and makes them feel good”,Lombard told FoodNavigator-USA, noting that one of the attributes that has worked in honey’s favor is the “craft”The nature of the production process, which is almost the same when visiting a beekeeper’s farm, regardless of its size or scale: the honeycomb frame is removed from the hive, the honey is extracted , then undergoes a simple filtration process before bottling and packaging.

“There is no factory that makes honey. The factory is the bees, the field and the farms where they are created. It is our biggest differentiator.”

According to the National Honey Board study of consumer habits and attitudes​, the two main motivating messages for the general population are that honey serves as a natural source of antioxidants and that “Honey helps keep bees alive to pollinate our food supply.”

While the process and origin of honey paints a pleasing image for many consumers, especially in a time when recognizable “pantry” ingredients carry more of a halo than hard-to-pronounce additives on label claims , what growth has the category really seen in recent years? , and what are the upcoming opportunities for the industry?

Honey in trouble?

According to USDA data, honey production fell 14% in 2021 to 126 million pounds from 2020. Retail dollar sales and unit growth were down 5.1 % and 7.4%, respectively, according to Nielsen xAOC Data​​ for the week ending 04/12/2021. Meanwhile, prices jumped 21% in 2021 to $2.54 per pound from $2.10 per pound in 2020, and if current inflation numbers are any indicator, rising honey prices are not has not yet reached its ceiling.

Additionally, 3.7 million fewer households purchased honey in 2021 compared to 2020, a 31% drop in household penetration.

“We know that in 2020, consumers were buying absolutely everything they could get their hands on, including honey,”said Lombard, who pointed out that a bottle of honey is not a frequent purchase for many due to its long shelf life and the average time it takes to go through an entire bottle.

“We were worried in 2021 when the results came out because we were coming down from the crazy peak of COVID. The good thing is the category is still outperforming 2019 from a retail data perspective, so that’s what we’re benchmarking really.”

According to data from Nielsen, honey reached $796 million in total dollar sales in 2021, a 28.4% increase from 2019 dollar sales of $620 million.

Among the category’s consistent growth drivers is the rise of raw and organic honey, which has been gaining market share at a faster rate than non-organic and processed honey. Raw honey recorded a year-over-year dollar sales increase of 30% versus a 22.1% increase in processed honey and organic honey increased 31.2% versus non-organic honey , which increased by 24% in 2021 compared to 2020.

Lombard added that there are several segments and product categories containing honey in the CPG landscape that are seeing slight growth.

“We are seeing huge growth in sauces, spreads and dressings. At retail, we are seeing the shelves expand as people discover that there are different varieties of honey,”she says.

New consumers are entering the category

Looking at the performance of the honey category from a broader, multi-year perspective, there has been a clear trend of consumers from all age groups entering the category, Lombard said noting that when she joined the National Honey Board in 2015, older consumers (55+) tend to be the heaviest consumers of honey.

“Bringing new people into the category was really one of our biggest objections,”she says.

According to consumer demographics from the National Honey Board, 32.9% of honey purchases are made by women over the age of 55. However, younger consumers have become more frequent buyers of honey, and households with children are an emerging growth opportunity for the honey category, Lombard notes.

“Young families – parents with children at home – use honey all day. They use it for breakfast and lunch, they give it to their children in the evening as a cough suppressant. Honey really does its place in the way of life of young families.

Restoration, a smooth return

While recent honey retail sales have been lackluster in 2021, the reopening of the restaurant channel has reinvigorated the category with honey appearing in all classes of restaurants, from QSR and fine dining to brasseries and cocktail bars.

“We are seeing the restoration come back and it is huge”,said Lombard.

While mentions of honey decreased slightly in 2021, honey is still mentioned on 59% of menus tracked by Datassential​​ which predicts an increase to 64.1% of mentions on the menu in 2023.

Over the past two years (2019-2021), the share of mentions of honey in side dishes and non-alcoholic beverages has increased while its use in starters, starters and desserts has remained stable.

While 2021 was more of a slow comeback than a booming resurgence of honey in the restaurant business, Lombard said 2022 will outpace the growth seen in the previous two years.

“We’re going to be watching 2022 closely, and we’re going to continue to make sure we’re positioning ourselves correctly.”said Lombard.

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