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  1. #61
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    Default Re: Ethics of selling honey as your own

    Quote Originally Posted by Brandy View Post
    All I can say is enjoy you $15 lb. honey profits while you can. There is a beekeeper near you, coming soon to your area that will or already has purchased honey at $2.20 a lb. in either 5 gal. buckets or 55 gal. drums. Packs it locally and calls it local honey with a very nice label. If your at $15 lb. he'll go $14. If you're at $12 he'll go $10. If you sell comb honey, he'll cut the price in half. Just be ready to up your game to compete! It's happening now! They also call it marketing.
    First of all let me state quite clearly that I believe it unethical to misrepresent what you are selling in any way. But as a producer of lots lots and lots of that $2.20 a pound stuff that I KNOW is every bit as good as the designer honeys sold for far more. My question is how ethical is it to imply that there is something inherently better about a local product produced by a smaller beekeeper? What possible difference can the scale of an operation make. Dosent it all simply boil down to factors like handling, sanitation and ethics? My advice to the smaller guy is to take pride in your product, handle it well, package it attractively and build a customer base but don't try to grow your business by insinuating that the competition is unethical just because their prices are lower than yours.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  2. #62
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Ethics of selling honey as your own

    And to add to what Jim wrote, saying something bad about someone elses product won't cast you in a good light. Answer what you are asked about, but don't try to sell your honey by cutting down someone elses.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  3. #63
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    Dec 2005
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    Ft. Collins, Colorado
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    603

    Default Re: Ethics of selling honey as your own

    The problem with price is it doesn't reflect any work. The price is arbitrary to make the sale. It could be tomatoes that they pick up at the wholesale distributor. Why bother if you don't grow or manage the produce or product. I really don't care what kind of honey it is if it isn't from his hives. In the old days if I ran out of honey I extracted sooner. If I needed more honey I ran more hives. I never thought about picking up 55 gal. drums to sell at my local market. The fact that it's now easy to do, and is happening in anywhere USA is what this OP's comments were about. I'm with him, I don't like it since I'm still dumb enough to be doing the work myself, plain and simple. I'm the dumb one, the guy with the truck at the loading dock packing the honey up is the smart one!!!

  4. #64
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    Default Re: Ethics of selling honey as your own

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    My question is how ethical is it to imply that there is something inherently better about a local product produced by a smaller beekeeper?
    This is all theoretical to me, since I never expect to sell any significant amount of honey, but we're venturing into uncertain semantic seas here. If I say, "My honey is really good, for this reason and that reason, and another reason," am I thereby implying that my honey is better than yours? I don't really think so. If I say, "My honey is far superior to the kind of honey most folks buy in the grocery store," am I deceiving anyone, if I truly believe this to be the case?

    Last winter, before I had any bees, I tried to educate myself about honey. I've always been the sort of person who buys honey in a plastic squeeze bear. That's because I was ignorant. But when I started to try different kinds of raw honey, for which I paid a substantial premium, I realized how narrow and poor my perception of honey quality has always been. I tried blueberry honey from Maine, acacia honey from Italy, forest honey from Brazil, and so on. These honeys were a revelation to me-- I had no idea that honey had such a range of quality and flavor.

    And when I finally got honey from my own bees, I had yet another epiphany. The honey I got from my hives here in FL was completely different from the honey I got from my hives in NY, and both were as good or better than any of the varietals I'd been tasting (and paying very high prices for.)

    I think that one advantage that a small producer has over a large scale operation is that the small producer can more easily produce and market these distinct varietals. He can market his locally produced honey to those who prefer to eat as locally and seasonally as possible. It is true that his honey has lower associated external costs, such as the cost of transporting the product long distances, and the cost of middlemen who add no actual value to the product, at least from the viewpoint of the customer. He can point out that buying locally benefits the local economy, keeping money in the local community. He can market his honey by pointing out that the customer buying from him, rather than from a source that involves brokering large quantities of honey is in far less danger of getting an adulterated product, which has happened to the customers who purchased honey that has gone through the standard large scale marketing channels.

    The small producer is at an economic disadvantage compared to those who produce honey by the drum, due to the economies of scale involved. It is not unethical of him to point out that his product has as a consequence certain positive aspects, and to emphasize those positive aspects. This is just good marketing.

    As an example, if I were marketing Mark's Squeak Creek honey, I would sell the dickens out of his association with the North Country. (I buy some of his honey every time I'm in the North Country, and it is very tasty stuff.) I would design a label that evoked as many of the North Country tropes as I could fit on that label-- loons and trout, pack baskets and snowshoes, dry flies and canoe paddles. I would emphasize the unique environment that produced that honey, in my copy, I would put the most positive possible face on the relatively small size of his operation-- "I keep Squeak Creek small enough that I can be sure that my bees are cared for as well and sustainably as possible; my beekeeping is hands-on because only in that way can I be sure that the honey my bees produce is the best possible honey." As much as possible, I would emphasize any varietals I could separate out from more general descriptions-- blackberry honey instead of wildflower honey, for example. I know that Mark is active in his community and I'm pretty sure that he makes significant efforts to support good works there-- he gives beekeeping talks at local events, for example, and it was an informal talk he gave at a local club that reawakened my old dream of keeping bees. I would emphasize in my copy that he is a vital part of his community, so that those who appreciate that kind of contribution can support him in return.

    All of these things do imply that his honey is better than mass-produced honey. In my opinion, it is. But I don't think that any of these marketing approaches are unethical.
    Ray--1 year, 7 hives, TF

  5. #65
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    Default Re: Ethics of selling honey as your own

    Ray: All the things you suggest are great marketing ideas and each would apply to our operation as well as Mark's or any other regardless of size. Ours is a fourth generation family business, everyone involved in the production are residents of a small rural community. The hives forage in the scenic rolling hills of rural South Dakota, the landowners quite often folks we have grown up around and the processing done in a modern sanitary facility with modern stainless steel processing equipment, plus we can provide documentation of the honeys purity and absence of chemicals. We produce far more than I would ever attempt to market by ourselves so of course it's sold to larger packing and marketing organizations. To the best of my knowledge they are ethical in their practices as well but that isn't really the point here which is that my "$2.20 a pound" production is gathered by the same type of honeybees as one of much smaller scale and may well be processed in a facility with even stricter standards and given greater care than a small scale one.
    Its a good thing to be proud of ones products and a common theme here on Beesource. It seems everyone is convinced their honey is surely the best. For my family it's been our life's work for 80 years. Why should I feel any less pride.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  6. #66
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    Default Re: Ethics of selling honey as your own

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Its a good thing to be proud of ones products and a common theme here on Beesource. It seems everyone is convinced their honey is surely the best. For my family it's been our life's work for 80 years. Why should I feel any less pride.
    You definitely should feel great pride. If anything, you have more to be proud of than most beekeepers, large or small.

    It's a shame you can't use that to your advantage in marketing directly to consumers. But you've made the choice, it sounds like, to avoid the hassle, overhead, and extra expense of selling the majority of your product at retail.

    It's also a shame, I think, that you don't get as much of a premium for your honey from the packers as you deserve, while operations that may not care as much as you do about the integrity of the product are still getting a price in the same ballpark as yours... though I may be completely wrong about that. Do packers differentiate between your product and the product of beekeepers with less integrity and devotion to the superiority of the product? If not, they should but their incentive to do so is not as obvious to me as the incentive of a smalltimer selling at retail. He has to somehow make his product seem to be superior to what people can buy at Walmart, because he can't compete on price. He has to compete in other ways to be successful.

    I might be off the prophecy mark here, but I'd be willing to bet serious money that a time is coming soon when, if you were willing to make the necessary investment, you could sell at retail without going through the present marketing channels. The internet is bringing customers and producers together in ways not previously possible. It's going to weed out those who try to market an inferior product, because of the internet's almost instantaneous feedback. Mechanisms like this are already at work in several markets, and they are only going to get more responsive and more powerful. For example, yesterday I ordered a used book from an Amazon reseller. A number of resellers had the book, but I bought from the one with a 98% satisfaction rating.

    You could much more easily than was the case in the past develop a brand to which consumers would have a serious degree of loyalty. You could market your brand based on the those things you mentioned in your post, even though the fact that you mentioned them implies strongly that not every producer has a product as good as yours. Not every producer can certify the purity of their products in the way you do, for example. By mentioning that you can do this, are you thereby asserting the superiority of your honey over those whose operation is not as sophisticated as yours, or who cannot afford this kind of truth-in-advertising? I don't think it would be unfair for you to use this selling point, any more than it is unfair for a smalltimer to assert that the size of his operation means that he can give more individual care to each bottle of honey that he sells.

    In the end, this is marketing, and as long as you tell the truth scrupulously, I see no reason to doubt anyone's ethics based on truthful marketing.

    In my short time on BeeSource, I've seen this question brought up and examined from many different angles. From an outsider's viewpoint, there seems to be a lot of strange leaps of faith involved in these criticisms. Folks have often complained, for example, that beekeepers shouldn't market their product on the basis of treatment free or chemical free management practices, as they think it is an unfair and irrelevant and even worse implies that chemical management of bees produces an inferior product, which they assert is untrue. Unfortunately, it doesn't really matter what an individual beekeeper thinks about the truth or falsehood of such assertions. What really matters is the customer's perception.

    Again, a smalltimer may assert that his customer is more likely to get a pure product from him than from a packer that blends honey and may buy honey from a beekeeper whose product contains sugar syrup to a significant degree. Or the packer may be using illegally imported Chinese honey. That's okay; he's correct, as such things have happened often enough that the industry has been tarnished by it. In these threads, I've seen many times the sentiment that fellow beekeepers should never say anything like, "My honey is pure. I know it is because it goes directly from the hive to the extractor to bottles."

    They should not advertise their product in this manner, it goes, because it infects customers with skepticism, and may be the ruination of the industry, if customers begin to treat all honey with suspicion.

    I just don't get that notion. It seems to me that the real problem is adulterated honey, not those who make the purity of their product a selling point.

    Ah well, sorry to have written a book on what is probably obvious stuff to the more experienced beekeepers. And all of them are more experienced than I am.
    Ray--1 year, 7 hives, TF

  7. #67
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    Default Re: Ethics of selling honey as your own

    Ray: Nice thoughtful post. First of all I consider $2.20 a pound a really good price, I sold honey for as little as .85 only about 7 years ago. I pinch myself all the time wondering if this is reality. Do buyers differentiate my product? Yeah sort of. You build up relationships based on past sales so a buyer is no doubt more willing to give certain suppliers preference to a degree but they are pretty much bound by prevailing commodity pricing and don't want to offend their other suppliers unless there is a concrete reason for it. We spend more time than most sampling and grading our honey so there is never a misunderstanding about exactly what they are buying and I have never had a complaint that our honey has been misrepresented. There are lots of things one can do to better market their product but at a considerable cost in time and money. I have decided that my time is best served producing and not marketing. Oddly enough Sue Bee, the nations largest marketer, was founded on just such an idea. The notion that we need to market honey ourselves and not rely on others. In the end, though, their producer pricing is still pretty closely related to prevailing commodity pricing as well.
    One other thing to remember is that as a producer I can only guarantee the purity of our honey, not the flavor or coloring which can vary widely from year to year. The consumer, on the other hand, judges more on taste and appearance and just assumes it is pure.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  8. #68
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Ethics of selling honey as your own

    Thanks Ray. As you can see by my label, I say very little about my honey beyond "Honey from the bees of Squeak Creek Apiaries" and my address. I let the consumer make up their own story. Or none. The abundance and length of time my honey has occupied shelf space in the stores where it is available tells a story too. I leave that to the customer to make up too.

    My Little Honeybee turns 25 this year, 2014. We moved to Squeak Creek that year too. I have a 25th Anniversary sticker and a special story to go on the back label the bar code label. Maybe people will read it and get a kick.

    I have little reason to think that most folks read beyond the front label and they don't really read that more than once, really. Once they are in the market for honey they are already sold. Then it's a matter of choice on which one to buy. The slightly less expensive store brand or the more expensive local brand. Seems like people in Potsdam, many of which are college students, prefer Squeak Creek Honey over IGAs' store brand. Even when on sale. I can imagine why but I don't really know. Maybe I should do a market survey. Could be interesting.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  9. #69
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    Default Re: Ethics of selling honey as your own

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Seems like people in Potsdam, many of which are college students, prefer Squeak Creek Honey over IGAs' store brand. Even when on sale. I can imagine why but I don't really know. Maybe I should do a market survey. Could be interesting.
    I bet it would be interesting. Some marketing major at SUNY Potsdam would probably like to do such a survey, and I think it would generate some thought-provoking material on niche marketing.

    Anyway, interesting thread. I can understand the original poster's problem with those who repackage commodity honey and sell it as local honey. That seems pretty dishonest. I don't know much about the honey market, but I often like to torment the vendors at the farmer's market who are obviously buying their produce from the wholesaler and taking advantage of the current urge to buy local and support local farmers. It goes like this:

    "Nice tomatoes. What variety are these?"

    "Uhhh... vine-ripened?"

    "Yeah, I see that on the box under the table." Then I laugh.
    Ray--1 year, 7 hives, TF

  10. #70
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    Default Re: Ethics of selling honey as your own

    Quote Originally Posted by clyderoad View Post
    Full disclosure on all honey labels will enable us to sell more honey, at higher prices to more people.
    All well and good, but once you produce all the honey you can from all of the hives you can run and demand excedes supply where are you going to get the honey to fill the demand you created? Will you do like your competitors and buy other peoples honey and label it by your standards or will you raise your price thereby making more profit from a limited supply and driving customers into the arms of those you speak of?

    Seems like if you sell only your own honey, you will have to be satisfied w/ whatever price you sell honey for and keep on doing that or raise your price. And get more hives to try to increase your personal supply or buy someone elses. Am I missing something?

    I still think you should not be so concerned about what others do. Are they keeping you from selling all the honey you make?
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



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