4 minute read

Practical beekeeping – Honey packaging and labelling

Honey packaging and labelling for retail

Janet Lowore & Nicola Bradbear

Offering a well packaged product to customers is an essential part of honey retailing. Even if your honey is of high quality - and by this we mean that it has required moisture content, cleanliness, colour and flavour - it will not sell well if it is poorly packaged. Most liquid honey is retailed in glass or plastic jars, while honeycomb is sold usually in plastic trays. Liquid honey is sometimes sold also in plastic bags, sachets and straws.

Glass or plastic jars

Glass jars are considered to be the most desirable and attractive packaging for honey. However glass jars are not always available, they are heavy and break easily. Plastic is a good alternative providing that high quality, foodgrade plastic jars, with well-fitting lids are used. The advantages of plastic jars are that they come in different shapes, and squeezy plastic bottles are popular with customers. They are also lighter weight - important if you are transporting your product over a distance. Poor quality plastic jars often leak and give customers a bad impression. Jars should be filled to within 0.5 cm of the lip. If they are under-filled the customer will feel that they are being cheated, while if the jars are over-filled the honey may spill out. All jars should be filled to a consistent level.

The squeezy bottle is a successful way to package honey, and is convenient for the consumer

Tamper evident seals

Tamper-proof devices are important to show that the container has not been opened since it was packed. Plastic lids often have a tearable plastic strip which has to be broken to open the jar. A honey packer who does not have tamper proof lids can stick a tamper proof seal from the lid to the side of the jar. This will tear when the lid is removed. Heat shrinking plastic security seals also work well.

Tamper evident seal!
Plastic wrap security seal

The label

The label is the most important part of the package. It needs to be informative, attractive and to meet legal labelling requirements. Designing an effective label needs skill, creative ability and care. Here are a few pointers:

• The word honey must be clearly visible on the label. The name of a plant or blossom may be used if it is the primary floral source for the honey.

• Ensure that all legally required information is shown clearly. This usually includes the net weight - that is without the jar - the geographic origin of the product, and the name and address of the packer.

• Keep other information to a minimum so that the label is not cluttered with tiny writing that customers cannot read.

• Make sure the spelling is correct, that the label is applied straight and uniformly across the jar, and always the same distance from the distance from the base.

• Use the label to tell a story or explain why your product is special or unique.

• Provide important additional information, for example, it is common for honey packers to tell customers that crystallisation is a natural process and can be reversed by gentle heating.

Other labelling information

Honey is a single ingredient product and it is not necessary to list the chemical composition for example types of sugars or vitamins.

We all know that honey has a long shelf-life. Nevertheless, stating a ‘best before date’ is often a requirement and anything up to two years from the date of bottling is considered reasonable.

FAQs

What is a Lot Number?

A lot refers to the batch of jars packaged under similar conditions - perhaps all on the same day. It enables problems to be traced. The lot number is a simple short code comprising letters and/ or numbers and is unique to the particular lot or batch. The packer records details (date, equipment used, origin of honey) of each lot number against this code in their record book. Lot numbers are not always a legal requirement: it depends on the scale and type of business.

What is food grade plastic?

Food grade plastic is the type that can come into direct contact with food without contaminating it or affecting the colour, odour, or taste. Examples include Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and Polypropylene (PP).

Plastic boxes with clear lids are the best way to package and present honey comb

Can I call my honey organic?

Honey can be labelled as organic only if the beekeeper harvesting the honey has been inspected against a set of criteria by an accredited organic certification body. The certification process is expensive and worthwhile only if your customers are willing to pay more for certified organic honey.

Packaging in difficult environments

For beekeepers in remote, rural areas it can be difficult to obtain high quality packaging materials. It is common in these instances to see honey for sale in recycled plastic bottles or soda bottles. While this type of packaging is unsuitable for high-end supermarkets, it can be appropriate if your customers are more interested in your honey than in presentation: then simple packaging is suitable. Clean plastic bags are cheap and hygienic and suitable if nothing else is available. It is important always to ensure that whatever container is used, it is perfectly clean and presents no hazard to the product or to the customer.

Author details Bees for Development, 1 Agincourt Street, Monmouth, NP25 3DZ, UK