When Bee Free Honee enters the Shark Tank friday night, it won’t be the first time the investors have heard from entrepreneurs concerned about the plight of bees. This company is a bit different, however; instead of promoting greater bee populations, Bee Free Honee has created a product that is designed to reduce the strain on bees.
Bee Free Honee is exactly that: a sweetener made from apples. The product is vegan and is designed to make a dent in a market that craves honey — and hurts the lives of bees as a result. As co-founder Katie Sanchez told VegNews, bees are tasked with pollinating single crops with a lack of nutrients and are exposed to pesticides. The place of the bee in the global ecosystem is crucial, but, “everything about the life cycle of a bee is unnatural now.”
Sanchez points out that bee products used to be seasonal, and were cherished products. Now the production schedule does not follow the natural pollination and life patterns of a bee. Sanchez told Heavy this belief that the bee is crucial to the ecosystem is part of the ethos behind Bee Free Honee.
“We cannot afford to lose these valuable pollinators. They are vital to our food system. We can do better in how we treat the bees with commercialized beekeeping and to alter our expectations as consumers on how we purchase.”
Vegan consumers often do not consume honey, as it is considered an animal product, similar to meat or dairy. That is one reason why Bee Free Honee has attracted vegan customers. Sanchez told Heavy that people who try the honey are surprised at its versatility and similar consistency to traditional honey.
— Bee Free Honee (@beefreehonee) February 12, 2016
So is it good honey? Sanchez and her co-founder, Melissa Elms, told Heavy the consistency is similar to the amber goop honey lovers love to spoon into their tea. It has a tarty apple flavor. Sanchez revealed she made the “honey” by accident while trying to make apple jelly. This gives hope, perhaps, for other chefs who decline to follow instructions.
If the product is good, and it sells, will the sharks invest? VegNews pointed out that at least two other vegan companies have gotten investments — HeidiHo, which sells vegan cheese, and Cinnaholic, a bakery. But the vegan element may be less important than the dynamic nature of the entrepreneurs and, of course, the numbers behind the business.
Past pitchers who come in with tales of the plight of the bee have done well.
One shark, Daymond John, was so moved by an earlier Shark Tank pitcher who ran a bee hive business, Bee Thinking, that he gave the entrepreneur advice on an episode of Beyond the Tank, despite never having invested in the enterprise. Last year, the teenage entrepreneur behind Henry’s Humdingers accepted $300,000 for 75 percent of the company, but The Bellingham Herald reported that the deal did not close, as Henry decided to keep it as a family business.
— Christina ✌ (@city_loveee) February 9, 2016
Sanchez told Heavy that her experience with Shark Tank was very positive. Although it may look intimidating on television, the entire Shark Tank team proved supportive and professional.
“It was intense and nerve-wracking, but we were also very confident and the folks on the production were incredible at keeping the atmosphere friendly, yet professional and calming. We understand why they have won several Emmys.”
Shark Tank airs Friday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC.
[Photo by Bee Free Honee/Instagram]