It's been one sweet deal after another for Nude Bee Honey Co., a two-person operation in Toronto that buys honey from small local beekeepers and puts it on the shelves of the most discerning gourmet and health food stores in Ontario.
Since it sold its first batch last summer to Sanagan's Meat Locker in Toronto's Kensington Market, Nude Bee Honey – priced at about $9 to $11 a 330-gram jar – has rapidly expanded its sales network to more than 30 retailers in Ontario, including shops in Ottawa, Burlington, Hamilton and London.
"The honey we're selling is direct from the beekeepers, allowing people to discover what pure honey really tastes like and how the source of the honey can affect its flavour," says Nude Bee co-owner Edward Okun, 27, who started the business in September, 2009, with his old summer camp buddy Jared Cantor, 26.
The pair sold more than 6,000 jars of honey in their first year, and they want to expand beyond Ontario. But Canadian food regulations require honey shipped across provincial and national borders to be packaged either by beekeepers or at a certified facility. Mr. Okun and Mr. Cantor say having their own packaging facility – which will require a capital investment of about $60,000 – will allow them to increase production and expand their market.
"We've been in talks with distributors in Europe, the U.S. and South America," says Mr. Cantor. "As soon as we can, we will be filling these orders."
From the judges
Stuart MacDonald, e-business marketing consultant, Toronto: "Nude Bee has taken something that is a bit of a commodity and succeeded in carving out a more premium niche. But they need to be cognizant of trying to grow too fast. Perhaps they can buy capacity at an existing packaging facility instead?
"Given that they're located in the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, that gives them a huge market. Yes, there's opportunity in other provinces, but there's a lot more they can be doing in southern Ontario.
"They have a strong website that allows people to purchase online. They should also be looking at distribution deals with other sites, such as Ethical Ocean, who share their brand values."
Mark Healy, partner, Satov Consultants, Toronto: "Increasing production seems to make a lot of sense. I think the packaging facility is a great idea.
"They should do a more thorough market segmentation study, which they can probably do themselves. They may uncover a segment or two and figure out how to reach these segments. Their advertising has to be very targeted, given their budget.
"They should also look at markets that buy honey for alternative uses, like bakeries and restaurants."