Nestlé’s Gale’s brand leads the sector having a 59% volume and 58% value share, up 4.2% and 3.2% respectively, and it hopes to improve these figures next spring. Then Nestlé is rejuvenating the brand with new labelling and lid designs which it says will increase on- shelf presence and act as the category beacon, drawing new users to the fixture. Category manager Alia Ounssi says: “Honey is showing an increase in value at a time when other sweet spreads are showing marginal decline. One of the key drivers of growth comes from Gales’s broad appeal.” Blended honey accounts for 80% of all jars sold, but it is speciality honeys from around the world which have made huge inroads in the past year. Thanks to consumers trading up to higher quality products, the latter has soared a staggering 10.5% to almost 20% by volume and 25% by value. These products include specialities, squeezable and organic. The sector has also been buoyed by celebrity chefs who have lent a hand in persuading consumers to use better quality honey in recipes. The only cloud on the horizon is the Honey Association’s warning of higher prices which may affect the sector’s future. This is because poor crops in major producing companies and more stringent production requirements have forced the price of raw honey upwards. But, meantime, upmarket own label ranges such as Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, Tesco Finest and Waitrose Select have been spurring growth. This year Sainsbury has more varieties in 227g jars, six being extra special. These include Spanish rosemary, Spanish thyme, New Zealand Manuka and Romanian lime blossom. Martlet Natural Foods is forging ahead with a range of honeys with functional benefits. Its latest recruit is New Zealand Manuka honey which is renowned for its health benefits and antibacterial properties. Another growth trigger has been Easy Squeezy honeys produced by Rowse, which has triumphed with squeezable packs where jam manufacturers have failed. MD Stuart Bailey says these jam products were aimed at children but both packs were unsuitable because the contents were disguised. “Compare them with a clear honey which you put in a clear PET bottle, complete with a non drip valve. It looks stunning and you can see it’s a liquid,” he explains. Rowse claims its brand share has increased by 33% in the last year, fuelled by its Easy Squeezy range. This year the range has been extended to include acacia, orange blossom and organic variants. The latter has proved a winner for the sector, accounting for a 6% share, and Rowse claims to pack most of it ­ own label and branded. The company is now investigating other ways to increase honey usage other than spreading on bread. One way is to communicate via neck tags its versatility in recipes such as mixing it with yogurt and on barbecue food. And it is linking up with Twinings to promote the use of acacia honey in infusions. It has also moved organic and pure blossom honey, and maple syrup into individual portion packs for foodservice, and believes there are retail elements which could be explored. “One idea,” says Bailey, “is to include a portion of honey with a cereal, and we’ve already started talking to cereal, croissant and yogurt companies. About a year ago we looked at mini jars and talked to partners. Then we decided to go into thermoform plastic packs which would be more cost effective. We are now following this up. “We just have to get over the logistical complications such as including a portion of honey on a line wrapping buns.” n {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}