Raw and pure: Balqees Honey sees growing interest for medicinal and exotic honey in Middle East
Balqees Honey initially specialised in raw Yemeni honey, but now imports from around the world. Their honey products are available in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and recently launched into Egypt.
In an interview with FoodNavigator-Asia, founder, Riath Hamed said consumers were increasingly aware of honey’s health benefits, especially on immune health.
“Honey has anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial properties which can help boost the immunity. Some raw honeys are also great aphrodisiac.”
According to him, popular healing honey include Jarrah Honey from Australia and Manuka from New Zealand.
The company is working with cooperatives and hopes to introduce new medicinal varieties from Patagonia and Chile soon.
Raw and pure
Balqees Honey mostly sells honey that are not processed, adulterated or filtered.
“We distinguish ourselves from normal commercial honey, because we try and preserve all aspects of the vitamins and minerals which is what gives you healing honey.”
According to Hamed, honey is one of the most adulterated products in the world, similar to olive oil.
“We work with beekeepers from all around the world, where we have strict conditions of how they harvest the honey, making sure they don't use antibiotics, and that the areas of the hives are in mountainous or unpolluted regions.”
Consumers also want to be informed of the product and demand transparency especially in terms of provenance. To meet these needs, Balqees Honey has a blog on its website introducing the beekeepers, the region where the honey was cultivated and other conditions.
Hamed also observed that consumers in Middle East were open to honey from various parts of the world, and those with unique flavour profiles.
Balqees Honey flagship product is its raw Yemeni honey, which remains its most popular item to date, “The taste of Yemeni honey is so unique with its floral notes compared to honey from elsewhere.
“At Balqees, we source honey with unique flavour profile which breaks the convention of normal honey tastes that you would get from a supermarket.”
Hamed was conscious that certain flavour profiles especially those of medicinal honey may not appeal to children, so he actively sought honey with caramel, toffee, flora notes which he hopes would better suit their needs.
The company is planning to introduce new honey variety such as lychee, and from different geographical regions including Madagascar, Patagonia, Chile, Argentina, Kyrgyzstan, and the Himalayas.
Honey bar concept and sales
Balqees Honey started its business in 2013 in Dubai mall with its luxury honey boutiques.
It was the first in Middle East to operate these boutiques, based on the honey bar concept.
Located in shopping malls, the boutique is fitted with honey varieties from across the world. Customers can test the product before deciding their purchase.
Besides the boutique, its products are also retailing in 122 point of sales (supermarkets) across UAE.
Amid the pandemic last year, sales managed to grow 10% year-on-year, despite its honey boutiques having to shut down.
This came after the firm focused on its online sales, which helped offset the drop in on-trade sales. Before the pandemic, e-commerce sales were negligible, but now make up 10% of the business,
“E-commerce wasn't a big thing in our business, but the pandemic really opened our eyes to focus more on online strategy and help with steady growth of the business,” Hamed said.
The company is planning to relaunch in Qatar Duty Free Zones this year. It was previously in Doha but pulled out due to political tension between the Emirates and Qatar. More market expansion are expected in the next eight months.
Balqees Honey’s shipments were affected with the recent Suez Canal blockage incident, especially Manuka honey from New Zealand, so the company turned to air freighting instead.
The firm also sells Korean red ginseng supplements, and pantry items such as olive oil, dates and chutneys.