Bee Maid Honey finds sweet success in global exporting

Bee Maid Honey finds sweet success in global exporting

· The Pulse

The "Trade Heroes" series highlights Edmonton region companies who have 'EXPORT-itude' — the mindset and commitment to think globally when it comes to their business. It's brought to you by Edmonton Global.

Bee Maid Honey has been exporting honey abroad for more than four decades, transforming the organization from a local cooperative into a global ambassador of Canadian honey.

The company's approach to honey processing is simple: gently warming and filtering the honey, then packaging it for a diverse customer base that ranges from individual consumers to restaurants to large industrial clients.

CEO Guy Chartier said that while export currently accounts for about 15% of Bee Maid's business, there's significant potential for growth. The company currently exports its products to the United States, South Korea, and Japan, and it is making headway into China, too.

It is in Japan, where Canadian honey enjoys a prestigious reputation, that the company sees the most potential for growth. In Japan, honey is not just a sweetener for drinks but is also frequently used as a topping, such as on pizza, Chartier explained. Canadian honey tends to be lighter in colour, which is associated with higher quality in Japan, so that contributes to increased demand.

Bee Maid has adapted its products and marketing strategies accordingly, including a new package design for international customers.

Chartier said the company has benefited greatly from a long-time relationship with a broker in Japan, who has helped it navigate the complexities of the Japanese market.

"That's extremely important, to make sure you have somebody on the ground there that understands the regulations and can really help you with that," Chartier said. "Don't make any assumptions going into a country, because that could get you in a lot of trouble!"

The Alberta trade office in Tokyo has also been a valuable resource, Chartier added. Attending trade shows there has been helpful, too.

The main challenges the company has encountered along its export journey are logistical issues and fluctuating international demand, which has been affected by events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Chartier's advice to aspiring exporters is straightforward: Do thorough homework, understand the market, ensure financial safeguards are in place, and take advantage of government support.

To support more beekeepers and the future growth of the business, Bee Maid is in the midst of a $9-million expansion of its Spruce Grove facility. The additional 50,000-square-foot space is expected to be operational this summer. Chartier said the company hopes to explore new export markets thanks to the additional capacity.

Bee Maid's story is a sweet reminder that with the right approach, dedication, and understanding of global markets, local businesses can achieve international success.

Photo: Bee Maid recently launched a new package design for international customers. (Supplied)