The syrupy, sweet and rich flavor of honey makes it one of the tastiest health superfoods in the market. Honey is produced by bees after gathering nectar from various flowers, and it has been consumed by humans since around 5,500 years ago. Apart from the sweet taste, honey provides health benefits and skin benefits. It does not spoil, does not need to be refrigerated, and is less processed and healthier than sugar. Honey contains antioxidants and is effective as an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, boosting respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and nervous system health.
The honey market trends show that the Asia Pacific region is the largest, as well as the fastest growing market for honey, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.2 percent until 2020, holding a 41.2 percent share of the honey market. China is the largest producer and consumer of honey in the world, consuming around 55-70 percent of its overall production to meet domestic requirements which are driven by a rising consumer preference for a natural alternative to harmful artificial sweeteners. At a global level, the significant honey producing regions are China, India, Turkey, Europe, and the U.S., while major importers of honey are the U.S., Japan, and Germany.
Advancements in the Honey Market in the Health Domain
The health benefits of honey had been believed since ancient times, with more home remedies evolving over the years claiming to even cure cancer and prevent diabetes. In recent times, official studies carried out by medical research teams have verified several of the purported health benefits of honey such as improved heart health, effective treatment of coughs and its effects as a wound healing agent.
Apart from the identification and verification of the health benefits of honey, there are other advancements as well in the honey market with reference to the health domain.
- Adulteration Detection
The popularity of honey, it’s applications in healthcare, rising consumer awareness and higher disposable incomes are resulting in a rapid increase in demand for honey. However, honey cannot be produced artificially and one bee colony produces an average of only 60-100 pounds of honey per year. As a result, there has been an increase in adulteration of honey, with the addition of various sugar syrups, molasses or enzymes from corn, sugar, and beets. Adulterated honey may look similar to typical honey, but the benefits would be affected detrimentally.
A significant advancement to target adulterated honey has been the development of a variety of techniques to detect the presence of foreign additives through thermal analysis, stable isotope methodology, trace elements techniques, chromatographic, and spectroscopic analysis. Earlier classical analytical methods for detecting adulteration were found to have limitations when applied to honey.
- Organic Honey
All honey is produced by bees, therefore all honey should have a similar quality, but the truth of the market is that there are varying qualities of honey. The differences in the quality of unadulterated natural honey have resulted in separate market demand for ‘organic honey’. Research has found that the taste and quality of honey are dependent on the flowers that the bees have collected nectar from. Organic honey is specified as that honey that has been produced by bees visiting flowers that have not been chemically sprayed and is said to be healthier, albeit more expensive, than regular honey.
Other types of honey include manuka honey made by bees visiting manuka flowers, which is said to be an excellent antibiotic for wounds. Similarly, honey from acacia flowers is helpful in the cleansing of the liver and digestive tract while buckwheat honey is full of antioxidants and neem honey is helpful for high blood pressure and diabetes
- Bee Health
The most important factor in the production of honey is the bees, which collect nectar from flowers and use enzymatic processes and regurgitation to make the honey. Therefore, any illness among the bees, disorder or disease whether from parasites or pathogens has the potential to wreak havoc on honey production. In the past, colony collapse disorder (CCD) where a majority of worker bees disappear entirely, has caused massive losses in honey production.
The integral role of bees, especially considering the increasing demand for honey, has led to advancements in genomic approaches to understand bee health. Identifying genetic markers can help in breeding more resilient bees, reducing the bees’ genetic propensity towards illness, and improving their overall health. Protecting the health of bees can ensure a more stable supply of honey and easier expansion of bee colonies.
The market for honey is expected to grow at a rapid rate driven by its myriad applications for good health and as an effective sugar alternative. As the medical community corroborates the traditional home remedies with scientific research, the role honey plays in promoting good health is expected to increase further. Recent advancements in the honey market are ensuring that good quality honey is produced and that quality is not sacrificed for speedy production processes.