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Honey Marketing Survey'
M. T. Sanford2
Although somewhat out of date, much of the
information presented here is still valid. The most
recent data is available from The National Board at
Dr. Sabry Shehata, Associate Professor,
Agricultural Economics, California State University,
Fresno reported the results of his study into honey
consumer characteristics and attitudes at the January,
1985 meeting of the American Beekeeping Federation
in Tampa, Florida. The results should be of interest
to both large- and small-scale honey marketers.
The purpose of the study was to: (1) determine
consumer's awareness and preferences for honey
products, and (2) determine characteristics of the
consumers' demand for honey at U.S. markets.
Results show several interrelated factors influence
demand for honey: (1) disposable income, (2) price of
honey compared to competing sweeteners, (3)
customs and habits of the buyer, (4) size and racial
composition of the buying public, and (5) availability
of substitutes. Demand can realistically be expected
to increase because over the last ten years, U.S. per
capital honey consumption averaged about 21 ounces,
lower than Canadian (32 ounces), Austrian (50
ounces), Japanese (96 ounces) and West German (140
Methodology used was querying a random
sample of households in four major U.S.
representative cities (Dallas, TX; Washington, DC;
Sacramento, CA; Kansas City, MO-KS). The sample
size was 964; questionnaires were used as the
principle research tool. The survey was completed in
October, 1984. Specifically, frequency of use, per
capital consumption, seasonal use, honey
characteristics, and purchase location were examined.
Frequency of Use
Most persons surveyed used honey in 1983 as
follows: Dallas (60%), Washington (71%),
Sacramento (66%) and Kansas City (77%). Although
this appears high, according to Dr. Shehata, in all
places only 30% of consumers used honey once a
week or more frequently, according to Table 1.
Other findings are: (1) honey use increases with
household income and with education level, (2)
Mexican-Americans use less honey than other ethnic
groups; (3) singles consume more honey than
marrieds because they eat out more often. Main
reasons for not using honey appear to be: (1)
consumers have no use for it and/or haven't thought
about it; (2) consumers don't like the taste, and (3)
consumers avoid honey because of medical advice.
1. This document is ENY-117, one of a series of the Entomology and Nematology Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Originally published as Hints for the Hive No. 117, July 1987. Revised: March 1998. Please visit the FAIRS
Website at http://hammockifas.ufl.edu.
2. M. T. Sanford, professor/extension apiculturist, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida,
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research,
educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap,
or national origin. For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office.
Florida Cooperative Extension Service / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences/ University of Florida / Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean
Honey Marketing Survey
Table 1. Results of a study into honey consumer characteristics and attitudes.
CITY HIGH USER MEDIUM USER INFREQUENT USER NON USER
Once a week Once every two Once every two More than a
or more weeks to once months or rarely year ago
Dallas 27% 18% 15% 40%
Washington 27% 22% 21% 29%
Sacramento 27% 34% 37% 34%
Kansas City 33% 23% 21% 24%
U.S. Average 30% 21% 16% 33%
Table 2. Per capital consumption of honey.
CITY NUMBER PER CAPITAL STANDARD LOW HIGH
Dallas 317 30.0 oz. 4.6 20.8 38.9
Washington 199 18.6 oz. 3.0 12.7 24.6
Sacramento 229 21.5 oz. 3.8 13.9 28.8
Kansas City 212 22.5 oz. 3.8 14.9 30.0
Total 961 23.8 oz. 2.0 19.8 27.9
Per Capita Consumption
Estimated per capital consumption of honey in
sampled households was 23.8 ounces per year, with
a standard error of plus or minus two ounces
(expected range is from 19.8 to 28 ounces). Per
capital consumption for each city is shown in Table
Eighty-three percent of those consumers using
honey in 1983 reported no particular seasonal
preference. Those reporting a seasonal use,
however, indicated honey to be used mostly in
Dr. Shehata's data show the most popular type
of honey for the U.S. consumer is liquid honey. A
small percentage (6%) of persons purchased cream
honey in 1983. When the product is promoted, as in
Kansas City, consumption of creamed honey
appeared to increase, according to the study.
Consumers also prefer gold colored honey over
amber or yellow colored honey, which are
considered too strong or not strong enough
Honey Marketing Survey
respectively. Clover and orange were the most
recognized varietal honey types, followed by sage
Location of Purchase
Most honey is purchased in the supermarket
(74%), according to the study. About 10% of
consumers buy honey directly from beekeepers.
Rating Honey Attributes
Attitudes between buyers and nonbuyers of
honey are significant. Buyers responded more
positively to the following attributes:
Honey is easy to use.
Honey is healthy.
Honey is priced reasonably.
Honey is a good source of energy.
Honey improves food flavor.
Honey is good for children.
Honey is good for adults.
Honey tastes better than jelly/jam.
Honey tastes better than syrups.
Summary and Conclusions
Dr. Shehata concludes that there are two key
factors which will contribute to increasing demand
for honey and honey products: (1) expose
consumers to as many uses of honey and honey
products as possible, and (2) cater to preferences
regarding honey container size and different
varieties present in the marketplace.
He also suggests that older consumers (60 years
of age and over) may be singled out as lower honey
consumers, that single unit families are also lower
consumers than married couples or families with
two or more members using honey and finally, high
income groups eat more honey than those with
lower incomes. Therefore, the present honey
consumer, according to the study, is an average
sized family with medium to high income, whose
members' ages lie between 24-60 years. This
appears to be consistent throughout the U.S.
Two findings in Dr. Shehata's study might bear
more examination. The overwhelming preference of
gold colored honey and liquid honey by the
consumer should come as no surprise. They are by
far the most offered products available to the
consumer. The question invariably arises, however,
whether the marketplace determines this preference
by offering higher proportions of these products,
rather than this being a well researched consumer
preference. There may be far more room for
different honey products and varieties than
supposed, if only they were out there for the
consumer to purchase. The fact remains that often
they are not.
It also is not surprising that most honey is
purchased in supermarkets. Because there is so
much traffic in supermarkets, it is difficult to
convince many that more shelf space for honey and
honey products is required. In some areas,
marketers may actually have to purchase space in
stores. Perhaps the easier markets to crack,
therefore, are local stores that aren't part of national
chains. They are smaller, cater to a more limited
clientele and competition for shelf space is not as