BeeMaid Honey

Sweetening the beekeeping pot

Honey is one of nature’s sweetest gifts to the human palate. BeeMaid Honey is a 100 per cent Canadian tradition and has been delivering only the highest-quality honey to consumers. What makes this highly recognizable brand truly unique is that there are two cooperatives behind it—the Manitoba Beekeepers Association and the Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association. Members are the actual beekeepers who raise the colonies, and these important people are also the co-owners of the BeeMaid brand. This issue, The Canadian Business Journal explores this successful business model and its plans for the future.

The Manitoba Honey Cooperative has been in operation since 1938, organised by the Manitoba Beekeepers Association to help better organize a struggling industry. Beekeepers at that time were responsible for their own packing and marketing, and the industry was experiencing an influx of product at the end of every summer. The need for an organized, collective effort prompted beekeepers to combine forces and better market their high-quality honey products. The effort, without a doubt, has been a success. In its early days, the intake order was about 600 to 1,000 pounds of honey. “Today we are taking in 8 to 9 million pounds in an average year,” says Karen Miles, Manager of the Manitoba Cooperative.

The Manitoba Cooperative, in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Cooperative, operates a brand called BeeMaid Honey. The honey is sourced 100 per cent from Canadian beekeepers who are members—the only honey brand in Canada that can make this claim. Its highly recognizable bee-shaped bottle and other supplementary products such as creamed honey have a solid place in the Canadian food market.

Cooperative management style

The Manitoba Cooperative has a number of critical roles. “Definitely having orderly marketing is a huge thing and helps everyone as a whole,” says Miles. The regulation of the market is important in keeping the price steady throughout the year. There is also the added benefit of having honey packed and marketing with the BeeMaid brand name. This, as Miles explains, is a major reason that beekeepers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan want to join the cooperative. “The BeeMaid name has a reputation which allows members to expand outside of Canada and the U.S. and this is something some producers on their own wouldn’t have access to,” says Miles.

There is also the cost benefit of having drums and equipment supplied by the BeeMaid brand, a notable savings for beekeepers who must purchase such materials. The BeeMaid brand supplies drums to its members, who can reuse them each year, in an effort to remain as environmentally conscious as possible. The Manitoba Cooperative also, under the direction of Miles, operates a store where it sells all equipment and supplies to the beekeeping industry overall.

BeeMaid places a great deal of pride on being truly 100 per cent Canadian honey. “As we are owned by the beekeepers, those kinds of things are an advantage and there is no other packer that can say that…our members are producers, they own the company and they have a stake in this,” explains Miles.

“This is huge. It is very important to them to make sure they are providing their quality products.”

Research, development, and social initiatives

Research and development is an important part of any agricultural industry and BeeMaid supports the continual progression of the industry by whatever means possible. “When you support research that supports healthy colonies industry-wide, it is also going to benefit us back here, of course, because our members are beekeepers—so what is good for the industry is good for us. When the industry is strong we are,” says Miles. “They both go hand-in-hand.”

BeeMaid is also proud of its 50th anniversary scholarship fund, established in 2004 to help the children and grandchildren of BeeMaid employees with post-secondary studies. It also has a program to provide funding for any area of pollination or agricultural research, and proposals are submitted to a dedicated team. “We are extremely proud of these,” says Miles.

Future growth plans

The BeeMaid Honey brand has a long history in Canada and the organization has no plans of slowing down. So what does the future hold for this proud Canadian enterprise? “On the BeeMaid side we are looking to become the leading national packer in Canada,” says Miles, “This is a goal we have set for ourselves. BeeMaid is already the leader in Western Canada but would like to expand that market share coast to coast. BeeMaid is also seeking an increased presence in international markets.

“On the Cooperative side we’re looking for our members become registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency by the end of 2013,” says Miles. This voluntary registration is being encouraged as another marketing tool that will prove to the public the quality of BeeMaid Honey. This will mean that BeeMaid product is recognizable and registered as totally 100 per cent traceable from farm to fridge.

The beekeeping industry has come a long way since the beginnings of the Manitoba Honey Cooperative. The BeeMaid brand will continue to be a proud Canadian staple for many years. “Our longevity is a real success for us,” says Miles. “We’ve been here since 1938 and we still have continued interest in people becoming beekeepers and becoming members, which is great to see.”