LAS VEGAS — Even though 74% of US consumers are trying to cut back on sugar consumption, they love one sweetener above the rest — honey — by a considerable margin. This all-natural product is more than just a sweetener. Honey is pure, full of nutrients and an ingredient that supports pollinators essential to our ecosystem, as well as the small family farms who keep them.

Keith Seiz, ingredient marketing representative from the National Honey Board, explained how bakers can tap into the benefits of using honey in baked goods during his presentation at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE).


Benefits of honey

The first benefit of using honey in baked goods production is the great reputation it has among consumers. According to Intel research, honey consumption has hit record levels as consumers rank it as the most “appealing” and “natural” sweetener over alternatives such as maple syrup and raw cane sugar.

Honey is complex, with thousands of varietals that differ based on the region and types of flowers that bees pollinate. This creates unique flavors that contain varying levels of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, acids, bacteria and yeast. Despite this complexity, consumers know that honey is very simply made, by bees and not machines. It’s free from extreme heat and additives that could destroy its delicate balance of compounds.

The nature of honey lends itself to sustainability, as well, an important angle that bakers can use to market their products. During his presentation, Seiz emphasized that honey supports the wellbeing of honeybees, which are critical to supporting our ecosystem. Of the world’s 115 most important food crops, 87 require pollination to produce fruits, nuts and seeds. Without honeybees, US citizens wouldn’t have about 80% of the food they eat.

The National Honey Board is composed of small beekeeping operations like this one in Hood River, OR. Photo courtesy of the National Honey Board.


As more brands lean into a marketing approach based on authentic storytelling, Seiz said this “save the bees” angle resonates deeply with consumers. Shoppers are also more likely to choose products that are marketed on a connection to local food systems and small family farms.

“Bees need room to forage, so there’s a need to keep wide open, natural spaces,” Seiz said. “There is no ‘big honey industry.’ Making products with honey means funding beekeepers — small family farmers — and helping them keep better means for their bees.”

“Honey is made in the most efficient manufacturing facility ever: the beehive.” — Keith Seiz | ingredient marketing representative | National Honey Board


Formulation considerations for using honey in baked goods

Substitution is not an exact science when it comes to incorporating honey into cookies, croissants, breads and beyond. Honey is more than just sugar. Not only is this ingredient up to 1.5-times sweeter than white sugar, but its unique properties can impact products by increasing moisture, extending shelf life and enhancing texture.

Seiz suggested bakers experiment with incorporating honey into their products, but a general rule of thumb is to reduce overall sweetener usage by up to 25% when using honey.

Honey also contributes natural color. Similar to all sugar compounds, honey caramelizes with heat and contributes a desirable golden color to products. With a slightly acidic makeup, which contributes to its natural inhibition of mold growth, this low pH also acts as a catalyst for caramelization.


For bakers concerned with honey’s impact on the final color of their products, Seiz recommended checking these products early and often. It’s also possible to lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit to adjust for a product’s color.

Honey goes a long way, but it’s also more expensive than refined sweeteners. Seiz noted that, luckily, honey plays well with other sweeteners.

“As part of an overall sweetening system, honey offers two advantages: accenting flavor and flavor depth. But consumers do read labels. It’s important to understand how the first sweetener listed impacts purchasing decisions,” he said.

As consumers embrace more purpose-driven, natural products, consumer interest in honey is likely to skyrocket because it’s simply a product of nature.

“Honey is made in the most efficient manufacturing facility ever,” Seiz said. “The beehive.”