Research and Insights
Beekeeping has become all the buzz as people have looked for new ways to meaningfully contribute to the world around them and improve their well-being. Cities like Phoenix, New York and Boston reported an increase in registered beehives in 2020 from the year before, and everyone from entrepreneurs to hobbyists have swarmed to beekeeping, including British soccer star David Beckham, Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, and America’s Queen Bee herself: singer Beyonce.
Alemany specializes in monofloral honeys collected from beekeepers across Germany.
Many people say they’re interested because of the wellness benefits of honey, the importance of bees to the environment, and the relatively small space required for beekeeping as a hobby (a hive is about the size of a small filing cabinet). It can also make for a sweet business venture, as entrepreneurs well know. PayPal spoke with three beekeepers and honey producers from around the world—Brad’s Bees and Honey from the U.S., Flow Hive from Australia, and Alemany from Spain— to understand why people have been itching to get in on the activity and how the rising interest in beekeeping as a hobby has helped their businesses.
Often fueled by a fascination with the artful nesting process of the four-winged insects and a desire to remain interconnected with nature, beekeepers see past the stingers and appreciate the magic of bees, including their contributions to the environment and our health and well-being.
“On an environmental scale, every time you choose honey over sugar, you’re supporting habitats, forests, and flowers,” said Cedar Anderson, co-inventor of the Flow Hive, a revolutionary beehive that allows for easy and gentle extraction of honey without opening the hive. “Flowers need to flower in order to bear fruit, trees need to flower in order to reproduce, and the bees make that happen,” said Cedar.
Cedar and friends taste test honey extracted from a Flow Hive.
Put more bluntly: “Society needs bees and consuming bee products is a way to help them,” said Ferran Alemany, general manager of Torrons i Mel Alemany, a fifth-generation, family-run business based in Spain that specializes in single-flower types of honey and turron, a southern European nougat confection.
Beyond bees’ beneficence to the Earth through pollination, their honey boasts a host of health benefits that range from antibacterial properties to allergy relief capabilities. While beekeepers like Cedar have long known this, now they’re welcoming an influx of newcomers looking to help save the environment and reap honey’s benefits, too, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many toward greater self-care and a heightened interest in starting hobbies from home.
Pursuing a hobby like beekeeping can throw many novices for a loop, but according to the professionals, the keys to success are simply to observe, prepare, and most importantly, not fear failure – or bee stings.
Raw honey is one of the most popular products Brad’s Bees and Honey sells.
“Be observant. Take notes. Treat for mites. And don’t be scared to fail because experiences are a huge plus in beekeeping. We have to learn from our failures and use that information to succeed,” said Brad Pounder, the founder and head beekeeper of Brad’s Bees and Honey, a full-service beekeeping operation selling honey and beekeeping products online and at over 20 locations across Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.
Beekeeping’s widening appeal during the pandemic was immediately visible to these business owners. “I think one good thing that's come out of an incredibly challenging time is this returning to the garden, returning to the backyard. It's this human yearning, and that's so obvious,” said Cedar of Flow Hive.
Cedar was driven by a desire to make beekeeping easier for the beekeeper and gentler on the bees. He spent a decade with his father inventing the Flow system—believing there had to be a less messy and laborious way to harvest honey—then brought the product to market through one of the biggest crowdfunding success stories in the world.
The advent of technology like the Flow Hive certainly helps the hobby grow and attract new people.
Brad shows his two-year-old daughter, Elsie,the ropes of beekeeping.
“We have seen all kinds of different customers,” said Tabitha Welsh, Brad Pounder’s wife and co-owner of their Brad’s Bees and Honey business. “[This draws] a very diverse group of people from young to old, to families, to professionals, and even schools. It’s something many types of people are interested in.”
It’s clear that the humble honeybee awakes strong emotions. “Those who interact with bees are amazed by their world,” said Ferran of Spain-based Alemany.
And despite some pandemic-related supply chain disruptions affecting the availability of beekeeping equipment, the amount of people swarming to the world of bees and honey continues to soar, keeping businesses in the industry not just afloat but flourishing.
More business means more orders and the need for simpler and safe ways to process them, and some business owners say that PayPal has served as a critical channel for that. For example, nearly 45% of online orders placed with Brad’s Bees and Honey in the past year were paid through PayPal, providing an efficient way to convert consumer interest into sales and small-business wins.
PayPal “just makes things easier for both parties,” said Tabitha. “It’s something that our customers have asked for, so we always make sure that it’s available for them” to ensure nothing hinders a purchase.
Flow Hives and Alemany have had a similar benefit. “We owe a lot of our success to being able to reach a global community and having an appropriate payment gateway is definitely an important part of that. That's where PayPal fits in,” said Cedar.
Alemany’s Mel de Romaní honey won a Great Taste award in 2019.
For Alemany’s Ferran, being “innovative in the world of honey and maintaining the tradition of nougat” are key to the company’s success. PayPal helps them keep that innovative edge by facilitating purchases of honey and turron through Alemany’s online shop.
Simplifying the customer experience for all these businesses has helped their buyers come back and become more interested in what Brad calls “a unique connection and interaction with nature that you just can’t find anywhere else.” And as everyday people continue to grow closer to the hobby that has changed the lives of Brad, Ferran and Cedar, the future of the environment, society’s health, and the economy gets that much greener.
“There's a whole lot of different thinking in terms of how we should be in this world. Everyone agrees that we need to save the bees,” said Cedar.
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