jars of helt honey

In the league table of global food production machinery, the work of bees may not immediately come to mind for some. However these hard-working insects help to get food to our tables, such as apples, pumpkin seeds and almonds.

According to the Natural Resources Defence Council: "Bees are one of a myriad of other animals, including birds, bats, beetles, and butterflies, called pollinators. Pollinators transfer pollen and seeds from one flower to another, fertilising the plant so it can grow and produce food. Cross-pollination helps at least 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of our wild plants to thrive."

Bees are now under a lot of pressure, with conditions such as Colony Collapse Disorder putting them at risk, along with other factors including the economic stability of commercial beekeeping and pollination operations. Of all the things that we associate bees with, the most famous could arguably be honey. So as the bees fight their own internal battles, how are companies producing ethical honey and bringing fresh, innovative products to the consumer?

An industrious insect

One brand putting the bee at the forefront of its products is HELT Honey, which is a Danish company that creates flavoured honey in varieties such as ginger, cinnamon, raspberry, hazelnut, cocoa, peppermint, cranberry, liquorice, sea-buckthorn, chilli and classic summer.

"Helt means hero in Danish."

Founder and managing director of HELT Honey, Anthony Lee, says: "Helt means hero in Danish, a particularly apt name for one of nature’s most remarkable offerings. It is a fabulously flavoursome creation, brimming with beneficial minerals, vitamins and amino acids that come courtesy of the planet’s most industrious insect, the humble bee."

Lee created HELT Honey when he moved to Denmark in 2008, but found himself with low job prospects as he didn’t speak the language. He had heard that bees were facing tough times and was keen to help their cause in some small way.

"Through a beginner’s course in beekeeping at a night school in Aarhus, I got in touch with a professional beekeeper that lived in the area, and he offered to take me on for the summer," he explains.

"I enjoyed the work and at the end of that summer I’d already decided I was going to start my own honey business. I felt that I might have a chance to make a life for myself in Denmark through honey. I knew whatever I created would be unique because my background was untraditional, I was not a farmer and I was viewing the honey business from a very different background and perspective."

Tough times

His different perspective allowed Lee to expand the limited monofloral honey range in Denmark by adding high-quality natural spices and fruits.

"It’s fair to say that bees have had rather a rough ride in recent years and it’s probably only now that we’re truly beginning to grasp the breathtaking finesse with which our friends have helped shape our planet" he says.

To create the different flavours, Lee first experimented with a teaspoon of cinnamon powder mixed into some honey, and, after receiving positive feedback on his early creations, he was spurred on to produce more varieties. Making a small amount of honey on his farm, and then buying honey from beekeepers around Denmark, Lee was able to showcase the potential of honey through the different flavours.

"I was viewing the honey business from a very different background and perspective."

"The honey is made in small batches of a few hundred jars and I’m still hand-stirring and tapping it all. Many of my varieties, such as cranberry, are not as sweet as regular honeys, and most of the varieties I produce include high antioxidant foods such as cinnamon, chilli or sea-buckthorn," Lee comments.

Nature’s sugar

The HELT Honey range is aligning itself to shifting consumer attitudes, as Lee believes that his range of flavoured honey offers a healthy alternative to traditional confectionery.

"HELT honey is a celebration of all things bee, which is why we set out, not simply to toast the magnificence of meticulously farmed honey but also to champion the lesser-known fact that honey provides the perfect platform, where other fantastical flavours can strut their stuff, be that juicy berries, wholesome spices or even raw cocoa beans," he says.

"At HELT, our discerning small-batch mindset means that we’re perfectly geared to dabble in all manner of improbable yet incredible flavour liaisons that define both the versatile and heroic nature of top-notch honey."