African honey appeals to markets locally and regionally and can tickle taste buds continents away. But as many producers in East Africa are smallholder bee-keepers with limited market access middlemen tend to take most of the profit while diluting the quality of the honey.
The producers get next to nothing for their product – and consumers who want quality and the good taste of pure honey at an affordable price get substandard products that have been overcooked, diluted and mixed with artificial ingredients.
Enter Honey Care – set up in 2000 as an NGO with the purpose of contributing to economic development for farming families in rural Kenya. Honey Care has helped build a sustainable supply chain through which it buys high quality honey and agricultural outputs at fair market prices from smallholder bee-keepers and farmers.
Since the beginning in Kenya Honey Care has expanded into Tanzania and South Sudan and provides training for farmers, ensures that the beekeeping is done with consideration to the environment and that the product is of the highest possible quality thereby retaining its natural health effects.
The supply chain that Honey Care has built is one of the largest sustainable honey supply chains on the continent, a vertically integrated smallholder supply chain, and Honey Care is now sourcing peanuts, cashew nuts and sesame too.
In 2015 Honey Care was sourcing products from 5,600 bee-keepers and farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan. It evolved into a for-profit FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) brand in 2013 and expects to reach an operational break even in 2017. Other than honey the main products are honey infused sesame and peanut crackers and nut butters (peanut and cashew).
The benefit for the consumers is that a range of affordable honey products are now available which are based on pure, undiluted honey where the health and nutritious properties are preserved.