Caffeine attracts not only humans, but also bees. Though coffee plants do not require the help of insects to pollinate, bees do have a preference towards flowers which contain caffeine, and so are drawn to the coffee plant. This can directly benefit coffee plantations by keeping the plants healthy, with a stable yield. The by-product of this process, coffee honey, is now being embraced by coffee growers as an innovative, eco-friendly way to increase revenue.

Coffee honey has a unique, warm and floral taste with the zestiness of orange. Some consumers may be disappointed, since coffee honey has no aroma of coffee, but is a good companion for a variety of hot drinks, including tea and coffee.

The demand for honey in China

Honey is an established ingredient used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) remedies. It is also seen as a neutral food with natural, medicinal properties. Seniors tend to eat honey in the belief that it helps to extend longevity, but it also benefits the body more generally, regulating the enteric nervous system and maintaining good digestive health.

According to Mintel research, Chinese consumers’ perceptions of honey as a sweetener are generally positive and it receives higher recognition in terms of its naturalness and associated health benefits than other sweeteners.

As people’s desire to maintain a healthy diet increases, coffee honey can be promoted by communicating its unique origin and naturalness to consumers. Moreover, coffee honey taps into increasing awareness of sustainability, being an eco-friendly product, and such features can further enhance its natural positioning.

China’s interest in coffee culture is growing

China has traditionally been a tea-drinking culture, but more consumers are now showing an interest in drinking coffee as well. Coffee’s penetration rate increased for the breakfast occasion alone; Mintel research reveals that four in five Chinese consumers drink coffee during breakfast.

Moreover, home ownership of coffee machines increased by 13% between 2014 and 2016 in China, with more families than ever interested in purchasing coffee machines for at-home use. Coffee honey could be positioned as an ideal sweetener for coffee at home, and could be marketed alongside coffee beans or at-home coffee machines.

Coffee honey could equally do well in collaboration with coffee houses to capture away-from-home coffee drinkers’ interest. Coffee honey producers might consider promoting this product in collaboration with coffee houses, and emphasising the fact that coffee honey is an eco-friendly, sustainable by-product of coffee production.

Loris Li is a Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel and is based in the Shanghai office. Prior to joining Mintel, she worked in the wine and spirits industry for over six years, both in the US and in China.

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