The firm, which is the first in the UK to market a honey water brand, has just celebrated its first year in operation, and its founders say the business horizon looks bee-utiful with its drinks being sold in premium British outlets such as Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and As Nature Intended.
The company, which was founded by third-generation beekeepers, said from spring 2016 its brand will also be available in the UK's leading health and wellness retailer Holland & Barrett.
Co-founder Joe Harper told FoodNavigator that part of the company’s success is due to the fact that Just Bee’s brand of beverages avoid the current backlash against refined sugar in products.
He said: “Honey is still a form of natural sugar, however unlike refined sugar, it hasn’t been processed or had all its other elements removed, so honey contains a mix of over 180 different nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
“In addition, honey actually tastes sweeter than refined sugar which means that we can use less of it to create the same level of flavour. But less means lower sugar content per 100 ml and lower calories.
“Finally, honey has a lower Glycemic Index (GI) than refined sugar meaning that it is released slower into the body and therefore avoids those nasty sugar highs and subsequent crashes.”
Priced between £1.70 (€2.19) and £2.00 (€2.57) per 330 ml drink, Just Bee is targetted towards health-conscious consumers looking for an alternative to products made from processed sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Harper said: “Our drinks are suitable for anybody who is looking for a low-sugar, low-calorie refreshing drink that only uses natural ingredients. We don’t use any artificial sweeteners like a lot of other brands are starting to do.
“The industry seems to be turning to artificial sweeteners as the solution. But as the use of artificial sweeteners becomes more widespread, so will the concerns around their usage with consumers. There will always be a large and growing group of people who don’t trust artificial sweeteners and only want to consume natural products.
“Using natural sweeteners like honey will therefore play an increasingly important role in new product development (NPD) as brands try to find a solution that ticks all three key boxes; natural, low sugar, great taste.”
Harper said Jest Bee’s success mirrored similar developments in the US where natural honey is growing in popularity as a drinks sweetener.
He said: “The trend has already started in the US market. However Just Bee is the first brand of honey water drinks in the UK. A number of established honey water drinks in the US market have secured major grocery listings in recent years and are becoming more widespread. Brands like Honey Drop and Hunni Water have seen strong growth with the natural sweetness message and also promoting the detox properties of honey.”
According to Harper, honey has many natural benefits over processed sugar when used to sweeten beverages. “Made by bees from the nectar of flowers, honey is the very essence of Mother Nature’s magic! Rich in over 180 different nutrients, honey contains a mixture of vitamins, minerals and flavonoids which are natural antioxidants, helping to protect cells from damage.”
Last year Just Bee won the Lunch! Gold Innovation award and was acknowledged by industry experts as a pioneering addition to the UK's FMCG market.