Letter from Tom Ross | Products | Producing Comb Honey | Marketing | Home

 

- Marketing Ross Rounds Sections -

Markets: The current markets for Ross Rounds™comb honey sections are in general the same as for liquid and granulated honey, but special markets such as fancy-food, gifts, and export also offer chances for steady sales at good margins of profit. Grocery chains, Natural Food chains, and Tourist Gift Shops are prime buyers for large quantities. Wholesale buyers generally look for lots of 1,000 or more, but if sections are scarce, will deal for as few as two or three hundred. Both large commercial producers and sideline beekeepers can sell to these outlets, as well as to farm markets, fairs, and neighbors.

The hobbyist or small sideline beekeeper usually has the most difficulty selling his or her honey, whether in liquid or section comb. It is not that the demand is not there, but some beekeepers find it difficult to find an outlet. Three examples used by others, and personally known to me, might be helpful:

  1. One beekeeper lives on a road well traveled during the summer and fall as people go to their summer camps on a nearby lake. He has a very small stand on his front lawn, but it is well advertised by signs placed up and down the road. (Those signs are taken down when honey is not being sold.) While the beekeeper only raises section comb honey, he "trades" with another beekeeper for liquid honey and sells both. Every year he sells several thousand sections and countless jars of honey. Repeat customers make up a substantial portion of the business. Signs at the stand provide prices and customers are asked to leave payment and make change from a box on the counter. He almost never has any honey taken without payment.

  2. Another beekeeper provides "free" pollination to a truck farmer raising several acres of melons, squash, cucumbers, etc. When the wild bees were lost to mites, the beekeeper approached the farmer and offered to put hives on the property in exchange for the farmer taking his honey to the Farmers Market. This is a "true" Farmers Market with produce sold only in commercial lots and a requirement that the farmer raise at least 50% of the products sold. This beekeeper sells approximately 2,000 sections a year through the farmer…all in cases of 32 sections.

    A variation on this is the beekeeper that provides hives to a pick your own operation to pollinate raspberries and blueberries. In exchange, the owner lets the beekeeper stock section comb honey in his retail store selling produce and gifts. This beekeeper sells 200-300 sections through the one store.

    Another variation is a beekeeper that lives near a reasonably large metropolitan area with several farmers markets that cater to the retail trade. This metropolitan area has a reasonably large population of Middle East heritage. The beekeeper provides "consignment" sections (meaning that the farmer does not pay until the sections are sold) to as many farmers as will take them and provides the farmer with a 25% commission.

  3. For some reason pick-your-own operations attract customers who are especially desirous of "natural" foods. A beekeeper living in an area of several pick your own apple orchards sells several thousand sections through their retail stores. In 1997 this beekeeper sold the sections to the pick your own operations for $2.00 and guaranteed them that all unsold sections would be taken back at full credit. In five years he has never taken back a single section! This beekeeper also strains the honey from damaged or unfilled sections and sells in jars as "raw, unheated" liquid honey to the same stores at $2.00 a pound! The beekeeper reports that he can never produce enough of this!

If you are fortunate enough to live in an area with a population of people with a Japanese or Middle East heritage, visit the stores that cater to those community. These cultures consider comb honey a delicacy that is consumed as part of their family tradition and you should have no difficulty selling considerable amounts. You might even find yourself selling in reasonably large quantities for export.

Selling: It is a fact that expert honey producers are often not expert at selling honey, or simply would rather keep bees than sell honey. If you have trouble selling your crop, our advice is to wholesale it to someone who makes a living selling honey or other foods. There are wholesale buyers who will take your entire crop at one time. Some buyers advertise in the bee journals, but in general will not look for you - you will have to find them. You may have to advertise, but buyers are there if you look for them. Check out the paragraph on advertising below.

Export: An overlooked market available to many beekeepers is exporting to other countries. Help in exporting is available to producers from State and Federal Departments of Commerce. Call them and ask for information and leads. These departments attend product and food exhibitions in various countries, and will take and show your samples either free or at nominal cost. Both State and Federal Departments of Commerce will give advice on the details of exporting. It is easier than you might think, and the market potential is enormous.

Advertising: The old saying "It pays to advertise!" is still true. I am reminded of the letter I once received from a School of Nursing asking me to place an ad in their yearbook. They said: "Trying to do business without advertising is like winking at someone in the dark; no one knows what you are doing but you!"After reading that, they got the ad, and I never again winked at anyone in the dark. If you have honey to sell, let others know about it by taking advantage of a listing in the Yellow Pages, weekly local publications in your area, etc. One beekeeper sold several hundred sections at premium prices by advertising in Vermont Life, a reasonably well known magazine in the Northeast.

Section Pricing: The magazine BEE CULTURE publishes a monthly report on honey and beeswax prices, and includes retail prices for Round Sections. The November 1997 issue lists retail prices at an average of US$3.83 each, with a range of $2.29 to $6.50. There is no regularly published source for wholesale pricing, but prices known to us for the 1997 crop range as follows: US$1.50 to $2.25 for large un-graded lots that include some culls, $1.75 to $2.50 for good quality sections, and $2.50 to $3.00 for premium quality sections. The supply of sections was far short of the demand. The sources of our wholesale price information are reliable, but are held in confidence. We intend to update pricing on this page from time to time as information becomes available, so check back now and then.

Letter from Tom Ross | Products | Producing Comb Honey | Marketing | Home

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