“Honey Brothers” prepare to tackle export markets
Ukraine is one of the main producers of honey in Europe. Around 1.5 per cent of Ukraine’s population, over 660,000 people, is engaged in various forms of beekeeping, according to the United Nations. A 2020 study suggested that Ukraine is the number one honey producer in Europe and 8th largest producer in the world, generally producing 65,000 to 75,000 tons per year.
But many people have neither the skills nor the connections to grow their backyard hives into commercially viable businesses. MEDA is helping beekeepers gain the know- ledge and connections they need.
With assistance from MEDA’s Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project (UHBDP), three brothers have turned a niche operation into a profitable venture that is eyeing international markets. UHBDP is a $14.1 million US project funded by Global Affairs Canada and donations from MEDA supporters.
In 2015, Dmytro Kushnir, Yuriy Yanyshyn and Yevhen Yanyshyn, working independently, began packing honey in jars.
The following summer, they began working seriously to develop a business. They quickly realized that just selling honey would not be enough. In Ukraine, honey is sold at markets, in unregulated trading, through acquaintances.
Small honey producers, such as the brothers-bee-keepers, simply hand over honey to purchasing agents or sell it in jars at the market without any label. Accordingly, it is almost impossible to trace and control its quality.
The Honey Brothers needed to increase sales and profit so they could invest in production facilities. To sell to retail chains, let alone export, they needed to produce larger volumes and to be able to confirm product origin and quality.
The small production automation will allow producers to offer larger volumes with full confirmation of origin and quality.
Through attending UHBDP training, Dmytro learned about a grant program for producers’ support. Receiving a grant allowed them to expand production facilities, automate the production process, and prepare for certification.
This funding helped to partially solve the problem of insufficient automation, to reduce the time for responses to customer requests and improved control over product quality.
“All honey of the ‘Honey Brothers’ trademark is made exclusively in our own apiaries; we do not buy or resell honey from other bee-keepers,” Dmytro says. “Our honey is a product that has its own face, roots and history. Our apiaries are located in unique areas possessing their own exceptional climatic, cultural and historical features.”
UHBDP assistance also helped the brothers to obtain quality professional information from Israeli specialists about psychology and business analysis.
Another training course helped them to frame the Honey Brothers online presence, to identify a target audience, create a unique selling proposition, analyse competitors and set goals.
Dmytro is now sharing the knowledge he has gained through webinars and conferences sponsored by MEDA’s UHBDP project.
Sales have been growing by 15 per cent a year, as the brothers find new markets through super-markets, corporate gifts, and their own website. The company now sells honey from apiaries in six different areas of Ukraine.
They currently produce between 15 and 20 tons of honey per year, production varying based on temperature conditions.
Dmytro is chairman of the Honey Brothers, looking after strategic planning, development, and partnerships. Kateryna, Dmytro’s wife, is responsible for product sales. Yuriy is a major beekeeper with 10 years of experience. Yevhen, the youngest brother, is a creative link in the team. He designs labels, flyers, and presentations.
Their brand philosophy pro- motes the areas where the honey is grown. Each type of honey, taken only from their own apiaries, emphasizes the magnificence and the unique diversity of Ukraine.
After completing registration of the name “Honey of Zakapattya” (a province in southwestern Ukraine), they hope to begin exporting over the coming year.
“Online trading missions are the future prospect,” Dmytro said. “Honey is one of the products
in which the Japanese market is very interested, but only in high-quality honey. During the mission, we gained n.ew contacts and got understanding of which direction to choose.”