Honey, the latest addition to the list of wonder ingredients, is being used in health, beauty and sport for its numerous properties and as an alternative to refined sugar.  If you were to picture a Venn diagram of the latest health, beauty and sports trends, honey is firmly in the centre as a powerhouse of an ingredient offering numerous benefits. These benefits include its antioxidant and antibiotic properties, vitamins, minerals and energy – the list goes on.

As one of the world’s oldest beverages, drinking honey dates back to Ancient Greek athletes as well as being used in a medicinal capacity for over 2,000 years. While the former use of honey connotes hydration and fitness, the latter signifies a tradition of health and healing that producers are keen to tap into.

With this history alone, is it any surprise that honey has an extremely positive and healthy image? More recently it is typically associated with treating the common cold with many sachets and tablets of cold medicine emphasising honey content. However, the scope of this popular ingredient in modern retail is gradually expanding. From manuka honey face masks to honey blend hair care, it is becoming an increasingly prominent component in beauty and skincare.

While the use of honey as a beauty aid can be traced back to DIY recipes before the internet existed, ready-to-drink soft drinks and food products that incorporate honey are a newer concept.  Similar to many teas that include honey as a more natural sweetening element, Hellmann’s has launched a new ketchup that is solely sweetened by honey. With this product, they can now claim it is made with natural ingredients which makes it stand out in comparison to other sugar-heavy table sauces.

"Hellmann’s has launched a new ketchup that is solely sweetened by honey."

Honey water is being seen more and more, with Just Bee being one of the category’s pioneers. Made from an infusion of fruits and a ‘drop of honey’, their drinks contain no refined sugar, no artificial additions and are therefore 100% natural.

Making inroads in the US, another company, Blume Honey Water, claims to offer artisanal waters with 100% bee-friendly honey. The company identifies the need for bee-friendly honey production due to the recent alarming disappearance of the world’s bees as part of a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). It supports humane beekeepers and at a local level educates communities.

Italian-made BeeBad energy drink has launched a distinctive new product as it is sweetened entirely with honey and marketed as ‘the first completely natural energy drink’. It includes other ingredients such as royal jelly and ginseng, which, as well as honey, are both seen regularly in skincare too. This product is new to Italy, the US and the UK and, if the brand proves successful, the honey and sport connection that dates back to the Ancient Greeks could see a resurgence.

With the ever-increasing focus on health and wellness, ingredients with inherently healthy images such as coconut, matcha and now honey are already well-positioned in consumers’ minds. However, honey has even more appeal due to its natural sweetness. By using honey, producers such as Pip & Nut (honey and vanilla almond milk) and Bio-tiful Dairy (honey and mint smoothie) can emphasise that their products contain ‘no added refined sugar’ all over their packaging and marketing. With sugar being particularly demonised in the press, consumers are more aware than ever to look at added sugar content in products. Consequently, honey as a natural sweetener may prove to be the next go-to ingredient for the health-conscious consumer with a sweet tooth.