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Bees use honey as energy and they instinctively make more than their colony needs.

Honey bees use honey as their primary energy source and their instinct is to make more than their colony needs. Beekeepers harvest the excess and bottle it for consumption, just like they’ve been doing since the beginning of time. Harvesting honey is good for the bees and also part of what makes successful beekeeping businesses.

The industry is committed to ensuring the honey you love is sustainable today and for future generations. This begins with healthy bees and extends to protecting the natural resources they depend on. That way, you can feel good about each drop and drizzle of honey you enjoy. 

For information about the benefits of honey and recipe inspiration, visit the National Honey Board.

US Honey Market

The value of honey to consumers is immeasurable, but it can be demonstrated through pure honey consumption and growing interest in products made with this all-natural sweetener. Based on a study by the National Honey Board, honey usage in the U.S. market is estimated at a total of 603 million pounds across all segments, including retail, foodservice, food processors and other industrial (non-foods). Of the total U.S market the study identified that the combined food and beverage segments (either as pure honey or in food processing applications) account for 92% of the market with only 8% of the market being utilized in other non-food industrial uses. Pure honey drives more volume in retail, but it is down 9 percent, or 21 million pounds, since 2015. While during the same time period, honey’s use as an ingredient in food and beverage products is up 18 percent, or 32 million pounds. In addition, the 13 percent growth in honey volume seen in the foodservice channel since 2015 outpaced the overall growth of the entire foodservice industry. The primary source of the foodservice growth came from quick-service restaurants (QSR).

Consumers Prefer Honey

It’s undeniable that consumers are paying more attention than ever before to the foods they are eating. This is part of a larger evolution that started many years ago when consumer preferences started shifting and natural ingredients became heavily sought after.

Consumers understand where honey comes from and its value as an all-natural sweetener. In fact, a 2018 online survey of 760 American consumers from Kerry rated honey as the #1 sweetener in terms of awareness, preference and perception as a natural sweetening agent. In the study, 94% of respondents perceived honey as a natural sweetener and 64% preferred the ingredient.

US Honey Production

United States honey production in 2021 totaled 126 million pounds, down 14percent from the prior year. Also, there were 2.7 million bee colonies producing honey in 2021, typically producing between 50 and 100 pounds per colony of honey for harvest. The average yield per colony was 46.9 pounds, down 14 percent from the 54.5 pounds in 2020. The top honey-producing states in order of honey-production, include North Dakota, South Dakota, California, Texas, Montana, and Florida. Beekeepers take colonies to these states to take advantage of the forage, sometimes outnumbering the human population! The chart shows how typical production has decreased steadily over the years, even though colony numbers have remained somewhat steady. Availability and quality of forage have a direct impact on how much honey a colony can produce. Even so, the US imports honey to meet demand. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and India were among the top exporters of honey into the U.S. Data collected from NASS.

Honey Industry Testing

The honey we love and consume every day should be wholesome and trustworthy. This is why the honey industry is committed to advancing stronger testing solutions to ensure the honey we consume is pure and authentic. In order to preserve the purity of honey, the industry is spearheading the ability for honey to be traced back to its original location and deploying new methods aimed at detecting adulterated honey, preventing it from entering the market.

For more information about the steps industry groups are taking to champion pure honey, click here.

Questions about testing methods? Click here for FAQs.

Economic Impact of the Honey Industry

While beekeeping is a labor of love and the true essence of the craft industry, the honey industry’s size and scope show that honey production makes a significant impact on our nation’s economy. From beekeepers in Washington state to packers in Maine, the honey industry’s impact is evident across the country, as well as in the overall U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

The U.S. honey industry is thriving, according to a study from the University of California Agricultural Issues Center. The research found that the U.S. honey industry in 2017 was responsible for more than 22,000 jobs and its total economic output was $4.74 billion. Total economic output includes direct effect, such as workers hired to move beehives, indirect effect, like packaging supply companies for honey products, and induced effects, the wages honey industry workers spend at local businesses.

In addition, the honey industry contributed approximately $2.1 billion in value-added to the U.S. GDP in 2017. For scale, Vermont Maple contributed $34 million to the Vermont economy in 2013.