The Scottish Bee Company, a family-owned brand that prides itself on producing uniquely flavourful honey ethically and sustainably, has renewed its pledge to increase the local bee population by 20 percent over the next three years, and to raise awareness of what the British public can do to help pollinators.
Co-founder, Iain Millar, renewed the pledge during a panel discussion at the 2021 Brodies Food and Drink Conference, which was focused on the importance of sustainability in the food industry, why pollinators are critical to daily life, and advice for businesses keen to pursue more sustainable goals.
“I’m often asked why we founded The Scottish Bee Company, and why we’re so passionate about bees and other pollinators. I respond with my own questions. Did you have a cup of coffee this morning, or grab an apple for a snack? If so, you can thank pollinating insects, which are responsible for roughly one third of the foods that we eat,” explains Iain.
“They are also behind most wildflowers that you have ever admired, with 80 percent of Europe’s wildflowers being insect pollinated. A continuing decline in pollinators would have an enormous impact on biodiversity, and ultimately our day to day life. That is what led to the founding of our business, and our commitment to bolstering pollinator populations.”
So far, The Scottish Bee Company has increased the bee population in Scotland by 23 million, working in collaboration with artisan bee farmers. They have also started Scotland’s first bee farming apprenticeship and a charity, RePollinate, which aims to build wildflower spaces for honey bees and other pollinators, and provide education and awareness programmes.
“Education and increasing awareness is a significant focus at the moment,” says Iain. “One of our missions is to shout as much as we can about the qualities of Scottish honey. More demand and production of honey means we can pour even more investment back into the work that we’re doing to support pollinators, whether that’s through breeding or helping beekeepers deal with the challenges and unpredictability of their own businesses.
“Scottish heather honey is up there with Manuka as far as its health attributes go, but it doesn’t have the same profile yet. We have done some initial work with researchers from Fera Science Limited, which revealed that heather honey contains significantly higher levels of the essential micronutrient, manganese, than other honeys. We will continue to invest in that scientific research, as the results will help us tell an important story around how Scottish honey can actually contribute to your wellbeing, along with tasting really good.
“The Manuka companies in New Zealand have done an excellent job over the past thirty years, which has been of huge value to their bees. Our dream is to see British bees enjoying the same benefits from an increase customer demand, and awareness of how to support honeybees in a sustainable way.”
Co-founders, Iain and Suzie Millar, launched The Scottish Bee Company in 2017 because they were saddened at the decline in bee numbers. Their aim was to increase hive numbers in Scotland by giving hives to artisan bee farmers and selling honey on their behalf.
Since then, their honey products have won multiple awards, including a platinum award at the London International Honey Awards, and their Scottish Heather Honey has become the first ever food product in the UK to be awarded the new British Standards Institution (BSI) Kitemark for Food Assurance. The Scottish Bee Company products are now stocked in retailers across the UK, including Selfridges.
Many of their plans had to be put on hold due to Covid-19. Now, with restrictions easing, the couple are renewing their efforts, with a focus on:
– Building spaces for all pollinators to thrive (honeybees and the many other species of pollinating insect), both by working with other companies/organisations and buying their own land.
– Educating the public on the environmental benefits of all types of pollinators. Increasing understanding of why they are important, and how we can all help protect them.
– Engaging the government to help develop strategies to protect the UK’s wildlife, and working with commercial bee-farming businesses and trade associations to increase the number of beekeepers.
– Supporting scientific research into the protection of the environment, the health properties of honey.
Customers can further support the cause by buying a jar of honey from The Scottish Bee Company – with 10p from every unit sold going towards RePollinate’s charitable activity. All fully packaged gift options come with a pack of wildflower seeds.
There are also several sponsorship options available, with pollinator-lovers able to sponsor a queen bee, a hive, or a brood box. A percentage of the cost goes to RePollinate to help the UK’s bee population, and the recipient also receives a gift box. Those sponsoring a hive are even recognised with a plaque with their name on it specially made and attached onto their hive, along with updates and photos throughout the year.
For more information on The Scottish Bee Company, visit scottishbeecompany.co.uk. For more details on their charitable work, visit repollinate.org.uk.