No bees were involved in the making of this honey

Students from Berkley University worked to recreate the sweetener on a molecular-level


Lamya Tawfik

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Published: Wed 14 Dec 2022, 9:40 PM

Last updated: Thu 15 Dec 2022, 4:06 PM

It looks like honey, tastes like honey but it isn’t “honey” at least not the one we’re used to. We're talking about the world’s first plant-based vegan honey.

“Honey is a healthy product that comes from nature, but the industrial process of honey harms the bees. The reason is that we only prefer one species of bees – the honey-making ones at the expense of 20,000 other species of bees,” said Žiga Vraničar, chief strategy officer, Narayan foods.

Speaking to Khaleej Times at the Organic & Natural Products Expo, Žiga said that they developed this honey in partnership with MeliBio, a start-up from Silicon Valley. “Students from Berkley University worked really hard to recreate honey on a molecular-level,” he said, adding that this is not made from syrups or concentrates, but instead ‘is the real thing’.

“It’s real honey without the bees, with the same taste, texture and health benefits. It’s vegan-friendly too,” he said.

The problem with pushing away other bees species through hive-positioning to make way for honey-making bees is that it can affect the pollination of plants because every bee species has a specific range of plants that they can pollinate. This in turn affects diversity, Žiga revealed.

“There’s also the problem of pesticides in honey and the problem of different yields. So that’s why we developed this sustainable honey,” he said.

Though the actual process of recreating this honey is being patented, Žiga said that the process is similar to the one found in nature. Both the ingredients and the nutritional value and health benefits are the same, he said, adding that clinical trials are currently being held to prove it.

MeliBio was founded two years ago and the formula was created last year. In 2021 they were selected to be present at the Salon International de l'Agroalimentaire (SIAL) and were voted by Time magazine as the best invention of the year.

The reaction to the honey has been positive with retailers wanting it on their shelves and the food industry requesting it as a vegan, chemical-free sweetener. The honey that is currently produced tastes like multi-floral honey, but Žiga said that in the future they will work on developing other flavours too.

Narayan has entered an industrial and commercial scaling partnership with Melibio and will aim to bring the honey to European retail shelves by the beginning of 2023 at a retail price of only 3.99 euros for a 240gm jar.

“It is sustainable which means that it is good for the planet, but also for GCC countries as it helps with regular and constant delivery of honey. If the production is set up here, we are also talking about self-sufficiency because you don’t need to import it or depend on yield. You can have it all-year round,” he said.

When asked if he thinks people will switch entirely to vegan ‘honey’, Žiga said that just like other vegan alternatives, people will continue to buy the non-vegan ones most probably. “But as this consciousness grows more people will choose sustainable products over non-sustainable ones,” he added.


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