Can you guess what food ingredient everyone’s buzzing about? It’s free of fat and cholesterol. It goes great in recipes. People love the taste. It’s even all-natural!
OK, it’s honey. Not exactly new. It seems like every few years, people find out again that honey “is not just for tea and toast anymore,” to quote one of the experts cited in the latest issue of Food Processing. The leading trade magazine published a special report on honey.
The article says honey’s popularity among food and beverage manufacturers is increasing. Why?
“Honey is the perfect sweetener, inclusion and flavor enhancer for consumers who want natural products but want them to taste like indulgent foods and beverages,” according to Catherine Barry, director of marketing for the National Honey Board (NHB).
Here are some of the places honey is popping up:
- Chocolate (Swiss and milk) bars made with honey almond nougat
- Salad dressings made with honey Dijon and honey Dijon yogurt
- Yogurt smoothies flavored with honey
- Honey cough lozenges in menthol and eucalyptus varieties
- Honey vitamins, available in C and D varieties
- Cooking shows using honey, especially in all-natural recipes
- Breakfast cereals and granola bars using honey as a sweetener
- Energy drinks and bars for athletes using honey for its quick absorption into the bloodstream
- Honey whiskeys and other alcoholic beverages, including honey-infused vodka, tequila and rum, which are being used in unique, innovative cocktails
- Mead, made with fermented honey and one of mankind’s earliest alcoholic beverages, which now is gaining attention among home brewers and vintners
One of the biggest drivers behind honey’s surging popularity is consumer recognition that honey is well-known as an all-natural food. In a survey by the NHB, participants were read a list of sweeteners they might find in foods in a grocery store and asked to indicate whether they considered each one a natural sweetener. As the percentages show, honey was the big winner:
- Honey 96%
- Granulated sugar 74%
- Molasses 73%
- Cane juice 61%
- Corn syrup 49%
- Fruit juice concentrate 49%
- Agave nectar 23%
- High-fructose corn syrup 23%
- Non-calorie sweeteners 15%
Finally, Food Processing quoted Sue Bee Honey’s Lisa Hansel, assistant vice president of sales and marketing (she’s the expert mentioned at the start of this post), summing up the reasons people are so sweet on honey.
“One-hundred percent pure honey is also fat-, sodium- and cholesterol-free and contains healthful antioxidants and micronutrients. Second, a growing number of consumers are becoming aware of the importance of the American honey bee, which is responsible for pollinating hundreds of American crops, like almonds, oranges, apples, cherries and more. Third, honey is the perfect all-natural sweetener to replace sugar in recipes for both consumers and manufacturers.”
Well said, Lisa!