MeliBio, a California-based startup, recently announced the world’s first true honey produced without bees. The company employs unique technology to replace bees in a process that produces honey that is identical to the genuine thing while causing no harm to bees or the environment. The startup, which was founded in 2020, has raised $1.5 million in pre-seed funding from investors in the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and has grown production of its vegan honey to service numerous clients as an ingredient producer.
CEO and Co-Founder of MeliBio, Darko Mandich, said in a statement that “MeliBio is founded with the mission to make food in a way to save our planet Earth by ending our use of bees in honey production, and thereby helping to restore bee biodiversity amongst native and wild bees worldwide…Scientific advancements have created a very exciting position where humans can finally make one of their favorite foods without the use of animals.”
MeliBio showcased its animal-free honey (which is used in a variety of baklava) at a Berkeley, CA event attended by over 100 climate and food technology experts. The startup has ramped up production of its unique bee-free honey to the point where it can begin working with foodservice and B2B customers for deliveries at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022.
MeliBio’s bee-free honey has tremendous impacts at scale, since companies that previously relied on honey—for example, KIND snacks, General Mills’ Honey Nut Cheerios, or even beauty and cosmetics brands—can explore transitioning to an identical alternative that does not harm bees or the environment.
Mandich stated: “Honey is an ingredient found in every product category, from food to beverage and personal care products for which MeliBio is now providing a plant-based option…By bringing delicious, nutritious, and real honey made without bees to the market, we are shaping our present and future in a way that is better for bees and for humans.”
Why is honey not vegan?
Honey is not vegan as bees are exploited, particularly in the industrial sector. Bees work hard to collect nectar from flowering plants and convert it to honey, which is the insects’ principal supply of carbohydrates. Honey gives bees the energy they need to fly, maintain their colonies, and go about their everyday lives.
Bees are exploited for their pollination powers in commercial honey production, and they are relocated to regions where they can only eat mono-nutrients from single crops, are exposed to chemicals, and can no longer hibernate. To prevent the queen bee from leaving the hive and colonizing another, she is frequently artificially inseminated and her wings are clipped. Honey is then withdrawn from bees, who are instead fed a nutritionally deficient sugar water, and bees frequently develop wing disorders as a result of selective breeding.
Bees are important for sustaining biodiversity and ecological balance, even if honey is not an essential food source for people. The worldwide honey industry is expected to be worth $9 billion by 2020, and the dysfunctional system is putting bees and the world’s ecosystems in jeopardy. Fortunately, in addition to MeliBio’s novel approach, a number of other vegan honey brands are working to help bees.
While many vegans substitute agave syrup for honey, there are currently products on the market that are closer to honey derived from dates, apples, and other plants. The Single Origin Food Co (Sofco) received $1.1 million in seed funding earlier this year to help grow and distribute its hallmark product, Vegan Un-Honey. It’s a new superfood alternative to regular honey made with solely natural plant-based components and supplemented with organic flower pollen that doesn’t harm honey bees.
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