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Selling Hive Products

A bonus for beekeepers

Many people, including beekeepers, usually think the only product of the hive is honey, but there are many more things that can be produced with a little knowledge and effort. Many beekeepers sell a little surplus honey to offset costs, even if it is only to friends or at the door. There are a number of items that can contain honey or beeswax, often fairly small quantities, that can make the best use of the harvest from the hive and give added value.

Honey of course will always find a ready market, but for those who wish to it can be put in a wide range of products such as biscuits and cakes. Any of these that are put on a stall at a fete or similar event don't stay there very long.

If you wish to sell items you will need a fairly high degree of commitment. If you have an outlet they will need regular supplies, not an initial gush for a few weeks until you get tired or bored, but if you are selling from home it may not be quite so critical, although you will still need to be reliable.

You would be well advised to find out what regulations you need to comply with. I won't detail them here, because it could easily date this page. There is a lot of information on the web and that may be the first place to look, but stick to the official websites. At the time of writing, the regulations are different for honey than if you were putting that honey into something like a cake.

There are different degrees of selling for the ordinary beekeeper, varying from making and selling a few items for a local event to the operation becoming a small business. In all cases you need to make sure you aren't making a loss. I suggest the first thing is to work out the cost of your raw materials. You are unlikely to be paying any of the overheads of a full time business, but in my opinion it is grossly unfair to undercut those who are trying to make a living. For that reason I would look at what is being charged for comparable products, then pitch your price perhaps a shade below, but not much. Even though you may not be relying on the income, there is little point in working for less than the minimum wage. In general, buyers expect to pay more for hand made goods.

It would make sense to start small with a small range of standard products that are easy to make and sell. Many items that include hive products in them will result in repeat business, whether it is cakes, biscuits, candles, polish or soap. It may take some time to build up trade, but that will give you the opportunity to test the viability of your operation. If you make something with little profit you may find it easier to discontinue it and substitute a similar product at a higher price, rather than increase the price drastically. There is little point in paying people to take something away you have spent several hours making.

There are few beekeepers who make good use of their hive products, so you shouldn't have much competition. You can make what you like and know you are likely to be on your own. The worst thing you can do is to muscle in on another beekeeper, so avoid this if you can. There is plenty of room for everyone and no need to cause problems.

If your main competitors are commercial outfits you will need to remember they can buy supplies much cheaper than you and may have marketing and sales staff who know how to present their products to the best advantage. They have probably done a lot of market research and know what people buy. You will only be guessing, or assume others will buy what appeals to you.

You should be aware of the current move to buy locally sourced products and the dislike amongst many for unnecessary packaging. This could work in your favour.

Roger Patterson.