Meet Mellody, the Vegan Honey Company Aiming to Keep Busy Bees From Burning Out

This post was originally published on Well + Good

You will shortly be re-directed to the publisher's website

Tired of working overtime? So are the bees. To put things into perspective, the average honey bee colony contains a whopping 20,000 bees, who produce about 55.2 pounds of honey per year. Intensifying things, a worker bee’s average lifespan is decreasing, with new research suggesting that it’s about 17.7 days on average. With steady declines in bee populations over the last few years and shortening bee lifespans, it may be time to turn to promising bee-free alternatives.

Imagine spending your entire lifetime doing the grueling work of your nine to five. Honey suddenly doesn’t sound so sweet anymore, does it? But don’t worry, there’s a hot new alt-honey in town that’s ready to give our beloved hard-working bees the much-needed PTO they deserve. Meet Mellody, the vegan honey company aiming to keep busy worker bees from burning out. The best part? You won’t even be able to spot any differences; it’s really that good.

4 reasons to seek alternatives to bee-made honey

1. The commercial honey industry puts native bee populations at risk

According to Darko Mandich, the CEO and co-founder of MeliBio, the parent company of Mellody, the current state of the commercial honey industry is a little…sticky. The industry “uses invasive species of honeybees, like Apis mellifera, that are trapped in boxes and deployed in ecosystems where they don’t belong,” Mandich says. This can have a lasting effect on the well-being of bees native to a particular region. “This has caused pollinator gentrification that has led to the decline of 20,000 wild and native species,” Mandich says.

According to Penn State University’s Center for Pollinator Research website, studies show that in the U.S. alone, beekeepers have lost about 30 percent of their colonies every year since 2006, with total annual losses reaching as high as 40 percent. On top of that, many populations of wild bees are drastically declining, leaving many species threatened or endangered.

2. Environmental factors are harming bee populations, too

Commercial beekeepers aren’t the only ones to blame for declining bee populations. Bees are also at risk due to other environmental factors such as climate change, pesticide use, habitat loss, and disease. This is especially concerning, considering bees are key pollinators responsible for the survival of nearly a third of the food we eat. For context, that’s about one in every three bites of food. Without bees, we wouldn’t have most fruits, vegetables, or, worst of all, chocolate and coffee.  That’s all to say, human-driven climate change plays a critical role in harming already-dwindling bee populations.

3. Bees are exploited

It’s also considering why honey isn’t considered vegan by most folks. For starters, the process of making honey is extremely labor-intensive for all parties involved, especially the worker bees. They spend grueling hours foraging for food, transporting the nectar, feeding the larvae to help the colony thrive, all while producing honey. Remember, they basically dedicate their entire lives to the craft.

And not to bee the bearer of bad news, but many bees are killed — sadly, squished to death — when honey is harvested.  A perspective from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA):”Profiting from honey requires the manipulation and exploitation of the insects’ desire to live and protect their hive. Like other factory-farmed animals, honeybees are victims of unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation.”

4. Some honey sold in the U.S. might not even be pure honey, anyway

The cherry on top of it all? Some of the honey sold in the U.S. isn’t even real anyway, says Mandich. “The U.S. imports about 70 percent of its honey supply—which means that much of the honey we purchase and consume comes from far away and travels through long supply chains, creating lots of opportunities for unscrupulous actors to dilute, tamper with, or outright fabricate a viscous amber substance that gets bottled and sold as ‘honey,’” Nicole Civita, a food systems educator, attorney, consultant, and the co-author of Feeding Each Other: Shaping Change in Food Systems Through Relationship, previously shared with Well+Good.

So, where do we go from here? Vegan honey, says Mandich.

mellody vegan honey bottles
Photo: MeliBio/Mellody

The low-down on Mellody, the vegan honey taking charge

Mellody is a pioneer in the world of plant-based honey—that’s honey made sans bees. Currently, the company offers two products: Golden Clover, a clover-like, plant-based honey with floral notes, and  Spicy Habanero, a sweet and spicy hot honey with a kick of habanero spice. Both are made featuring a combination of sugars and acids (primarily, fructose, glucose, and water) to achieve the bee-made honey consistency, flavor, and appearance.

How can consuming vegan honey help the bees?

Although Mellody is just getting started— t launched in spring 2023 along with the support of its flagship customer, Eleven Madison Park, a three-Michelin-star restaurant that went fully vegan in 2021—the intention is to make a dent in the commercial honey industry to help save the bees. “Bees are essential to the existence of our planet and we came up with a way to produce plant-based honey that’s better for bee biodiversity and better for consumers,” Mandich says.

Mellody is currently available in approximately 100 restaurants and stores across the U.S., as well as online at mellodyfoods.com. “We are excited to grow into thousands of points of sales by the end of 2024,” Mandich says.

I tried Mellody’s plant-based honey, and it’s so worth the hype

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on both of Mellody’s products: Golden Clover and Spicy Habanero that come in a cute 12-ounce bottle with an easy-pour top. And I’m so glad I did. As a food writer, I’m blessed with the opportunity to try so many different foods on the market, and having recently attended Natural Products Expo West for the first time, a leading trade show in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry,  Mellody stood out among its many competitors.

From the perfectly sticky viscosity to the sun-kissed golden hue, to the slow-motion drip right out of the bottle, this product is a 10 out of 10. Mellody really nailed its bee-made honey imitation: If I conducted a blindfolded taste test, I seriously wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart.

On the day-to-day, I’ve found myself gravitating toward the Golden Clover; it’s the most like OG honey, sweet in all the right ways, and incredibly versatile. Mandich recommends drizzling it over sweet and savory foods, as well as mixing it into mocktails or cocktails. Or, his go-to way to enjoy it: soaked into baklava. Swoon. I’ve kept things simple, drizzling it over berries or avo toast. The best part? It works in a 1-to-1 ratio to bee-made honey; no fussing with conversions necessary.

All that said, the Spicy Habanero is a real game changer. It’s SPICY; so beware, a little goes a long way. But if you like a sweet and spicy kick, this is sure to be your new condiment BFF. Like Mandich, my favorite way to enjoy it is drizzled over a slice of vegan pepperoni pizza. But when I’m feeling a little extra adventurous, a splash on top of a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream is sheer perfection. IYKYK.

My only recommendation: Keep in mind that Mellody crystallizes, just like bee-made honey, so don’t be alarmed if you see a few granules collecting at the bottom, which I observed right from the get-go. According to Mellody’s website, all you have to do is place the bottle in a container of hot, but not boiling, water for approximately 10 minutes. Repeat the process as needed and don’t put it in the microwave. It’ll be smooth like, umm, honey in no time. And, my last piece of advice, run, don’t walk, fam. This vegan honey product has me buzzing.