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At the age of 40, Colin Carter was diagnosed with epilepsy, requiring a medicine regime that zapped his energy levels. He found himself turning to coffee for the caffeine to get through the slumps. Soon, that daily cup developed into a passion for gourmet beans. A curiosity about single origin and fair trade agricultural products followed. From there, the Single Origin Food Company was born.
“Large corporations are either not interested in where the food they supply comes from, or in some cases purposefully conceal this information,” a statement on The Single Origin Food Company’s website reads. “Single origin is about a single trade route that benefits and empowers everyone. […] With so much focus on health nowadays directly related to our diet, we feel that the individuals responsible for growing our food – the farmers – should also be well treated and not exploited.”
That journey lead Carter and his team to develop Vegan Un-Honey, a sustainable, bee-free alternative to traditional honey, particularly honey produced amid what’s termed intensive bee farming. These industrial practices include transporting massive hives across the country to climates and eco-systems for which they’re not adapted, and setting them out pollinate large, single-crop farms where, once that crop’s flowering season ends, the bees are left without a source of sustenance. The bees may also be exposed to a variety of harmful pesticides and other chemicals as well as fungal infections and parasites.
And while honey production is a relatively small segment of intensive bee farming, some farming practices used at larger or less-reputable honey operations, like clipping the wings of queen bees, crushing hive-defender bees during the honey extraction, and feeding bees high-fructose corn syrup as a replacement for their naturally-made honey, are likely to raise concerns among the animal-welfare minded.
“After working themselves to death over six weeks, [a bee] produces only one teaspoon of honey,” SOFC notes. “No animals, regardless of size, deserve to be exploited for their labor and have their way of life disrupted.”
Vegan Un-Honey comes in three varieties – Blonde, Amber, and Copper – each featuring a different plant-based ingredient sourced from a single origin. The Blonde flavor is described as delicate and floral. It comes from a farm in Thailand and is made with unblended organic coconut nectar. Amber is warm and fruity, coming from a farm in Colombia that uses unblended organic cane nectar to create the taste. Copper is flavored with unblended organic date nectar from a farm in California; the makers describe it as chocolatey and caramel-like.
Since launching in early 2021, the product has developed quite a following. It’s available in more than 3,500 grocery stores in the U.S., including Whole Foods, Safeway, and Sprouts Famers Market. On Amazon the product has a 4.7 stars, and reviewers write that the taste and consistency of Un-Honey is indistinguishable from actual honey. Many mention appreciating that the nectar allows them to enjoy honey again, after giving it up as part of going vegan.
This month, Vegan Un-Honey got some big money backing, in the form of $1.1 million in venture funding. The company says it expects to use the money to speed up production and expand the product’s availability at more retailers.
“Our mission is to fix the food chain,” CEO Belal Elbana told VegNews. “Our Single Origin model of working collaboratively with our farming partners actively reduces greenhouse gas emissions, increases biodiversity, removes animal use from the food chain, and provides full product traceability to our customers to ensure we deliver the highest quality, best value food to market.”