Honey heats up at Summer Fancy Food

by Monica Watrous
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Henry Miller started Henry's Humdingers when he was only 12 years old.

NEW YORK — Honey infused with fiery peppers and spices was a hot trend at the Summer Fancy Food Show, held June 26-28 in New York. A number of exhibitors at the event are pairing the sweetener with such ingredients as ghost pepper, jalapeños and habanero.

An example is Henry’s Humdingers, a family-owned company based in Burlington, Wash., and founded by Henry Miller when he was 12 years old. Packaged in glass jars and plastic squeeze bottles, flavors include savory cayenne and garlic, mild pepper and ginger, chipotle chili and cinnamon, and habanero lime. The company also offers two sweet varieties: almond lemon and vanilla nutmeg.

“The idea came from the fact that a lot of recipes that include honey also had spices, so I thought, why not try cutting out the middleman?” said Mr. Miller, today a 19-year-old student at Washington State University, in an interview with Food Business News. “It ended up working, and I ran with it.”

Mike’s Hot Honey debuted in 2011 with its chili pepper-infused honey.

Henry’s Humdingers is sold on QVC and in specialty food stores across the country. A portion of the brand’s proceeds are donated to honey bee research. The company also landed a deal to become a supplier for the Kroger Co.’s exclusive Private Selections line.

Since the brand appeared on the television show “Shark Tank” a couple of years ago, Mr. Miller said he has seen emerging competition in the spicy honey market.

“I’m actually happy more companies are starting to do it now because it’s expanding the brand,” he said. “It’s no longer, ‘What is that?’ Like when I was 12 and people were asking me and they had no idea. Now when people see other ones, it adds to the fact that it’s a real brand and really needs to be taken seriously.”

Cloister Honey offers small-batch whipped honey infused with ghost pepper.

Also featured at the Summer Fancy Food was Mike’s Hot Honey Inc., Brooklyn, N.J., which debuted in 2011 with its chili pepper-infused honey, made with wildflower honey harvested from apiaries in New York and New Jersey. Founder Michael Kurtz first discovered spicy honey years before while living in Brazil and began making it in small batches for family and friends and as a signature topping at Brooklyn pizzeria Paulie Gee’s. Soon, customers began requesting to-go containers of the signature spicy honey, and the business was born.

The spicy honey trend is supported by a growing interest in sweet-heat flavor combinations as well as a rise in honey consumption. The average American consumes 0.9 lbs of honey a year compared to 0.5 lbs in 1990, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The National Honey Board attributed the increased popularity to the sweetener’s versatility in usage as well as use in a variety of specialty food items, including pastries, ice creams, cheese and craft beverages.

Bee Free Honee produces a honey alternative from apples, lemon juice and cane sugar.

Other brands at the show included SolBee Co., Santa Fe, which offers honey infused with ingredients such as jalapeño and hatch red chili; Bushwick Kitchen, Brooklyn, which featured Bees Knees Spicy Honey infused with a mix of chili peppers; and Cloister Honey L.L.C., a Charlotte, N.C.-based family-owned beekeeping business, which offers small-batch whipped honey infused with ghost pepper.

And then there’s Bee Free Honee, Minneapolis, which produces a honey alternative from apples, lemon juice and cane sugar in four varieties, including ancho chile.

These brands touted the versatility of pepper-infused honey, which may be used in baking recipes, as a glaze on grilled meat or vegetables, drizzled on pizza, stirred into a craft beverage, or paired with a cheese plate. 
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