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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a 2nd year beek hobbiest, with a vertically integrated, niche, poultry background. Here's a thought for consideration on getting a leg up in marketing for those who small size allows for nimble zig-zagging in honey production...Institute a "Trace and Trace" program and incorporate its data into your marketing. We in the animal feed production business have had it for years. It's the ability to track n trace your production back to the individual inputs it was made from. My company has turned it from a onerous paperwork issue into a marketing strength. The smaller honey producers and hobby folks can actually have leg up as they can zero in for an even tighter id picture.

Picture an additonal tag (OMG, more work:pinch:!) around the neck of your bottle listing some or all of the following;
Beeyard Id___________
Hives Id ____________
Date honey extracted___/__/___
Spring___Summer___ Fall__ Mixed___
Date bottled___/___/___
Refractor value___
Hive medicationed? __Yes__No

I know it looks like a lot of work, and if your content producing "commodity honey" just forget this post. But (IMHO) if you're trying to differentiate your product, this can be a successful way of doing it. It does mean you will need to set up a bookkeeping and lot numbering system, but for the smaller producer, working with 5gal/7gal buckets, this should not be insurmountable.
As I said at the top, "I'm a relative newbie beek", but I still see this as an avenue to differentiate your product.

Picture this;

You walk into a farmers market and there are two honey vendors, selling honey in identical containers. One has a banner that sez "The history of your honey included with each purchase". Which stand are you going to gravitate too? Which vendor has the higher value-added product?

What, we at our company, call our "white table cloth" customers, want and will pay up for this type of product. We have found it is financially rewarding to give them what they want.
 

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How much more so? What are you getting for a one pound jar of honey? How much more w/ the "Track and Trace" hangtag?
 

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Well our wonderful state is now requireing a lot of what you have on your tag + an experation date :doh:

I dont do markets I sell Local Honey
 

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Some producers already do this. The problem is, when the guy next to you sees what you are doing, he just gets some cards and fills them in at random. He suddenly has "non-medicated honey" too, even though he pours on the Apistan. When questioned about my honey, I simply tell them it comes down to who you trust. It is the same with produce, etc. There is one joker around here who sells at "growers only" farmers markets. All 13 of them. On the same day. He just gets someone off of craigslist to sit in the hot sun all day. His sign says "Buy Direct from the Beekeeper." Yeah, right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yup, "Trace n Trace" (TNT), is coming to ALL food production. They work out the bugs/paperwork/legal issues of the system with the big commercial guys and then just keep pushing it down to the smaller operators and eventually the hobbiest. I'm of the opinion, "don't fight it, use it to differentiate yourself". Give the consumer MORE info than the minimally required. The consumer is far more educated/opinionated now, food is no longer just a commodity, what he wants is clean, safe, "green-grown" food. So give them what they want.

Now here's the (humorous, I hope) disclosure: I haven't sold a single pound of honey, not even an ounce. I will shortly, but to be honest I haven't sold one single plastic bear's worth the honey (yet).

I just applying what has worked wonderfully well in the poultry biz I have worked in for 25+ years where profits are razor thin, and the competition is always will to undercutting you on price. ("They know the value of their product better than me")

Here's some further (probably contraversial) marketing thoughts for consideration...
1--The guy in the booth next to you states his honey is never stored in a steel drum, and he has a poster showing muddy, rusty drums with a honey label on them. (the honey version of a PETA livestock downers video, and probably just as effective):eek:
2--all his product is in glass. He'll sell/give you an empty plastic bear, but "prefers his honey be stored in glass until the last possible moment".:no: (plays off the perception/fear of leaching).
3--If asked, he admits some of his hives are medicated ("out of necessity for the bee's well being") but that honey from medicated bees is NEVER mixed with his honey from his nonmedicated hives, he sells that into the "generic/commodity honey business".("I'm not organic, but I'm as close as I can get", "I document all my medication schedules and exceed all govt regs on withdrawal periods, would like to see an example on my laptop?").

***Now what is interesting about this is that your operation doesn't have to 100% fit this scenario. We can raise organic, Kosher, pasture-raised, nonmedicated and just plain o' just-poultry...and we do,--- meeting the demands of each sub-niche the market offers. If I was serious about marketing honey, I'd do the same there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Some producers already do this. The problem is, when the guy next to you sees what you are doing, he just gets some cards and fills them in at random. He suddenly has "non-medicated honey" too, even though he pours on the Apistan. When questioned about my honey, I simply tell them it comes down to who you trust. It is the same with produce, etc. There is one joker around here who sells at "growers only" farmers markets. All 13 of them. On the same day. He just gets someone off of craigslist to sit in the hot sun all day. His sign says "Buy Direct from the Beekeeper." Yeah, right.
Yup, that the way the market operates. We spent tons of money working out our Animal Well-being Policy. It top notch and expensive. Competition claims to have one too, not (IMO) as good as ours, but it open our markets to him, whether thats fair or not. There are always shysters you have to contend with, but that doesn't mean you have to abandon the mkt to them.

Abuse of medication will always be a problem, especially at the small-guy level. The cost of testing is coming down, the need for tax revenue (fines) going up, expect more scrutiny. Medium to big guys should be able to afford certifying of the honey with outside lab results. Every semi load of fat I buy has written certification accompanying it that shows the results of testing for herbicide and pesticide residue. I realize I have economy of scale, but the logic still stands. (good place for somebody to post Apistan testing lab costs).

Regarding "some joker off CraigList..." Great! You can spot those guys a mile away. What do you need to do so your booth attendant isn't mistaken for one of those guys???? Have them smile? Be well versed in the product??? Enthusiastic??? A true-believer in our product??? Smartly dressed???? Polite????

Everything you can successful do to raise the preceived value of your product is a barrier to your competiton entering your niche.
 

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While I like the idea, I haven't had an issue selling "local honey" from my front yard (off of a state highway) by just putting up a few signs. I sell it as "raw honey" and explain crystalization, point at my hives in the backyard, etc... to the buyer. I even tell them that the only things I put into the hives are the 3Ws (wood, wire, wax) but tell them that there is no such thing as organic. I don't medicate, haven't medicated, and don't feed. Mother Nature decides who gets to make it through the winter and I produce more hives from those survivor colonies.

I tried to sell at a local farmers market but when I went to set up there was already a beekeeper there selling "organic honey". I found it quite amazing that he can produce "organic" honey and sell it for $10/lb when his hives are no more than 100 yards from the public golf course and surrounded on three sides by soybeans (the roundup resistant type). I suppose that it is up to all of the rest of us to educate the consumers of our product to keep guys like that clown from gaining an edge based on false advertisement and playing on the ignorance on the majority of the people purchasing the product. I agree with the previous posts about "trusting the source" and am gaining quite a following for my locally produced honey in my little community.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
For your size, location, I think you are correctly marketing your honey. It seems a little bit of "you" goes into each bottle, and as Martha Stewart sez, "that's a good thing".

Lastly, if your neighbor is fraudulantly selling honey as organic...turn him in.
 

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It is hard to keep a tight leash on your bees. Unless you are deep in the desert or in the far north they are probably on flowers they shouldn't be. The bottom line is that 95+% of the chemicals found in hives are placed INSIDE by the beekeeper. If someone asks me if my honey is organic, I explain that it is as close as they are likely to get. It is very risky not treating my bees (I have lost quite a few since 96) in a risky business to begin with, which is the reason I get full retail on my product. When I saw the talk given by one of the workers from Merrimack at EAS (25k hives, heavily treated) she says that she tells customers that nothing is "organic" when they ask. Maybe so, but there are degrees of purity. If you are dumping stuff in there you are being compromised by treatments. It is all a matter of degree.
 

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Give the consumer MORE info than the minimally required. The consumer is far more educated/opinionated now, food is no longer just a commodity, what he wants is clean, safe, "green-grown" food. So give them what they want.
Now I don't know anything about marketing poultry and I certainly don't know your customers, but I am a firm believer in telling people what they need to know, while giving them what they want.

I don't explain anything. Unless asked, I don't say anything on my label or in advertising other than what I am selling, "Honey", where it is from "North Country", and who produces it, "The bees of Squeak Creek Apiaries". "Natural North Country HONEY from the bees of Squeak Creek Apiaries". Other than the address and phone number and the weight, that's it. Except for the varietals which indicate which floral source the honey came from.

Unless asked, don't volunteer any info. Most people don't read anything unless they are really interested in knowing. And most just want honey from someone near by. Very few want to know details. And those that do, I find, think they know more than they do.
 

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The bottom line is that 95+% of the chemicals found in hives are placed INSIDE by the beekeeper.
Actually this is wrong and at best a gross exageration, according to what I heard from Maryanne Frazier at the POllinator and Pesticides Conference in Alfred,NY. 95% of the different chemicals found in bee hives are brought in by the bees. Percent in volume, I'm not sure about. And I don't know if anyone does.
 

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If they don't ask - don't tell them - totally disagree. This may be the military's policy but I am trying to sell honey and build trust with the consumer. I am as open with my customers as possible about the honey because I have nothing that I am trying to hide and most people are just fascinated with the whole beekeeping concept anyway. If they want to buy some low-grade honey from an unknown source I send them to the local super market. A lady was "price shopping" me over the phone the other day and said "well, it is cheaper by the pound at Kroger's". I told her it was even cheaper at Wal-Mart and she thanked me for the tip. haha.
 

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But what is the point of telling someone what they don't want to know? I didn't say "Don't tell them anything." and I didn't say to withhold information. I just know that people don't read signs and people may read these hangtags once, but once they have read them they won't read them again. So you have spent money unnecassarily.

But I expected this sort of response. I understand how you can misunderstand what I wrote.

Does the author of this Thread tell people that when they slaughter their chickens that they cut their heads off and hang them on the clothes line until all the blood drains out of them. And then the carcasses are dunked into boiling hot water to loosen the feathers? Do customers really want to know all of the details? How do you know which details to tell them? How do you know what your customers want to know? How do you know when too much info is too much? Or enuf is enuf? How much is enuf?

bamindy, what is on your label? When someone comes up to your booth at the farm market do you start by telling them everything you think they aught to know? Or do you say, "Hi, would you like to try some honey? I stole it from my bees."
 

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Actually this is wrong and at best a gross exageration, according to what I heard from Maryanne Frazier at the POllinator and Pesticides Conference in Alfred,NY. 95% of the different chemicals found in bee hives are brought in by the bees. Percent in volume, I'm not sure about. And I don't know if anyone does.
I am talking about volume here, and there are studies to show this. I am not sure what you are talking about? You are refering to the percentage of the make-up of chemicals?? What?
 

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sqkcrk - my label has my name, phone number, XX oz Raw Honey, and the harvest date. I mostly sell 12 oz bears and quart jars and print the labels off on the home computer. As far as the booth at a farmer's market goes, I mostly stick to word of mouth advertising in the local community and putting some signs up in the yard. I live in a pretty rural area where if your kid gets in trouble at school the person at the gas station asks you about it. As far as honesty goes, I do have some labels printed up with "Bee Barf" on them. I think that most people understand that the honey is "stolen" just like milk and eggs are "stolen". I printed the labels up as a joke but people have bought them, probably more for the novelty of it. I don't think they will be putting it on their biscuits any time soon but my $4 sale bought me some more free advertising sitting on their desk at work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Does the author of this Thread tell people that when they slaughter their chickens that they cut their heads off and hang them on the clothes line until all the blood drains out of them. And then the carcasses are dunked into boiling hot water to loosen the feathers? Do customers really want to know all of the details? How do you know which details to tell them? How do you know what your customers want to know? How do you know when too much info is too much? Or enuf is enuf? How much is enuf?QUOTE]

Thank you, you make a good point by asking these types of questions. And as a company whose products require the killing of the animal to obtain the products we market as compared to eggs or milk or wool, our frontline people need to be ready to answer those types of questions. And those answers need to truthful, forthright, and unambigious. (as ours should be in answering "Honey" questions). That aspect of the biz is not gone into unless we are asked, but if asked, we do not hesitate to answer. Do you have a crafted answer to somebody who asks ("I saw it on the news last nite...") you how you handle/dispose of a hive that is heavily infected in with AFB?

Most folks are aware where meat comes from, they are really more interested in if the animal lived in a clean and healthy enviroment. I do not intend to go beyond hobby beeking, but if I was, I'd have some well considered answers, BEFORE I was asked the questions. Whatever the customer asks is important, because it is important to the customer. We may think it is crazy, stupid, off-the-wall, but that is irrelevant. Can you, off-the-top-of your-head explain to a mother with a PETA teeshirt on, how you "humanely" dispatch an old queen?

But the real point is that 95% of the conversation is not concerning humane treatment in the bee industry, as compared to the livestock biz, but has much more to do "the story of your honey".

I am amazed at how much folks are aware of the environmental issues we face. And when they meet you; an honest-to-god, for-real, in-the-flesh beekeeper, they have a million questions on your take/opinion of everything they have seen on the web, heard on the radio news, or saw on the Discovery Channel in regards to bees/honey. They are asking you to step up to the mike, so think about what you will say BEFORE they ask.
 

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sqkcrk - my label has my name, phone number, XX oz Raw Honey, and the harvest date.
So, you do exactly what I do. Sorta. Why don't you do what you advocated and tell people through your label all the things you think they might want to know?
 

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Do you have a crafted answer to somebody who asks ("I saw it on the news last nite...") you how you handle/dispose of a hive that is heavily infected in with AFB?
I never hesitate to answer questions asked. As you may have noticed. And that is a question I have never had from a honey consumer of mine. Though I have had plenty of questions which people were prompted to ask because of something that they heard on the news.

I try not to "craft" my answers. I try to address each question as if it were the first time I was asked it of me. I worked at Colonial Williamsburg, Wmsbg, VA for 5 years talking to 1,000 people a day sometimes, answering the same question over and over again. The public can tell when you are just repeating the same words over and over again. It's hard to keep it fresh. Buit we learned to answer the question that was asked. Which is usually what the questioner wants to know. Just like the consumer of your jar of honey.

What sells your jar of honey? Most of mine is on a shelf in a store. I don't do farm mkts. I wholesale. I believe that what sells my Honey is a plain straight forward label which identifys the Honey as being from the area and then Name Recognition. I had a guy at a machine repair shop, who I don't know, who told me that my honey is the only honey she will buy. Even though they have to travel 20 miles one way to get it. He saw the name on my van. My van sells my honey.
 

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Since we are a federally inspected facility we already do alot of what you are thinking.
On the label is our name and address. The product name, grade and color. a lot number and ingredient list. Each yard has a number and each yard is given a lot number for each round of extractions.
We have a paper trail for our honey. We keep track of all we do to our honey and bees and when.
Our honey is tested at the packers by lot. When we get inspected, our first honey gets tested as well.
I have attended farmers markets where there are beekeepers selling their honey who are not inspected. They sell their honey...some the same price, some higher and some lower. When there are multiple honey producers, I make a point of telling them I am inspected. Some buy from me because of it, alot though, buy because of tasted and price. Sometimes i loose out on the price because i charge a bit more.
 
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