Emily Abbott, the founder of Hive & Keeper Ltd, strives to increase locally grown honey products while working to decrease the number of imported products.
An avid beekeeper, Abbott founded Hive & Keeper five years ago in an effort to support small-scale beekeepers across the United Kingdom. Hive & Keeper helps local beekeepers access markets to sell their products.
“Hive & Keeper Ltd was born as a result of my beekeeping hobby,” Abbott says. “I was inspired to start my company when I discovered the different flavors of honey, and how it is influenced by the flowers and the weather.”
Abbott explains that once she realized consumers were being denied the proper taste, color and texture raw British honey had to offer, she decided to create her own company as a result of her passion and hobby for beekeeping.
Abbott says that from Hive & Keeper’s perspective, “the ideal environment for honey production is a clean, well-managed apiary managed by a beekeeper who knows their bees, and prioritizes their health and well-being over honey production.”
She says that she visits all the beekeepers before buying honey from them, to see the areas where the bees forage. Prioritizing Britain’s regional honey, Abbott is also most proud of working with the National Trust.
“I supplied them with boxed collections of honey that I’ve curated to reflect the range of flavors from beekeepers in each National Trust properties catchment,” she says. “During Christmas, these collections were a top ten seller!”
Abbott says that just 7 percent of all honey sold in the United Kingdom is British and 40 percent is imported from China and “Hive & Keeper is on a mission to change this.”
“I hope that we can increase the proportion of British honey sold in the U.K. from 7 percent to 10 percent — which equates to nearly 4,000,000 jars of honey,” she says. “To achieve that, Hive & Keeper would be buying honey from an additional 7,000 British beekeepers, helping to keep them all in business and promoting their bees and honey.”
Many people “are horrified by the level of imports and keen to support the dwindling numbers of beekeepers and hives,” Abbott explains.
She says that the European Union Commission for Agriculture and Rural Affairs has published data predicting that in the U.K. we are about to see the steepest decline in beekeepers for years — predicting that there will be 6,000 fewer beekeepers next year.
“Consumers are more concerned about the provenance of their food and simplifying the global food chain,” she says. “Hive & Keeper does not blend honey sourced from unknown countries or beekeepers, and we label each jar with the honey’s flavor, the hive’s location, and the name of the beekeeper.”
According to Abbott, “the honey in the jar is exactly what it says it is and people love that.”
The U.K. however, has a relatively small number of beekeepers who produce honey on a large scale, she says. But Hive & Keeper supports these local beekeepers by giving them an outlet for their honey.
“The majority of Britain’s 43,000 beekeepers are small scale and have a difficult time getting their honey onto the shop shelf,” she said. “Additionally, many small, local shops these beekeepers sold to have been shutting down due to increased competition from national retailers and online stores.”
Since competition is tough, Hive & Keeper strives to support an increased production of local honey through helping local beekeepers increase production, Abbott explains.
“Increasing consumer demand will encourage greater production, and Hive & Keeper aims to be the platform to deliver honey to the marketplace to fulfill demand and fuel greater supply,” Abbott said.
Abbott emphasized that increasing the production of local beekeepers along with ensuring there are healthy environments for bees to forage in are her two priorities.
As a trustee of the London Beekeepers Association, Abbott works to campaign for pollinator-friendly planting. But since most of the bee and honey comes from the countryside, agricultural policies that promote pollinator health and diversity is just as important.
Actively working to promote local honey and beekeepers, Abbott wants to continue to work with British beekeepers and provide them with more stable financial security and “bring the fun variety of flavors and stories of our honey, landscape, bees, and beekeepers to the British consumer.”