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Nature Nate’s Honey of McKinney — the largest honey brand in the U.S. —has been sold

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McKinney-based Nature Nate’s Honey Co., the largest honey brand in the U.S., stated Tuesday that it’s been sold to 1 of the largest honey packers in North America, Sweet Harvest Foods.

Nature Nate’s founder Nathan Sheets will proceed as CEO and turns into the largest minority shareholder.

In 1996, Sheets and his spouse, Patty, purchased a beehive to be their new “together” passion as a newly married couple. A 12 months later, they bought North Dallas Honey — a preferred native brand with a hard-to-miss neon orange label — from Fred Richardson, who had based the enterprise in 1972.

Nature Nate’s and Sweet Harvest are actually majority owned by Blue Road Capital, a personal fairness agency that’s been shopping for U.S. agricultural-focused companies. Blue Road Capital purchased Minnesota-based Sweet Harvest final 12 months, and it additionally owns California nut grower Diamond Foods and Florida arugula provider B&W Quality Growers.

Blue Road declined to reveal the sale worth however says on its web site that its fairness funding per transaction is $75 million or better.

The merger provides Nature Nate’s the assets it must introduce new merchandise and develop to different nations, which it’s already began, Sheets stated. The brand is already sold in 900 Woolworth places in Australia.

“As a small company, it’s easy to grow, but as it gets bigger, it’s a challenge without financial partners,” Sheets stated. “This is the appropriate time to achieve our vision of being the most trusted honey brand in the world.”

Over the previous 24 years, Sheets has led the enterprise to a ten% share of the branded retail honey market, which was about $800 million in 2021. That share is greater than double the subsequent branded honey, based on Sheets, who says the firm has 76 full-time staff and is the largest purchaser of honey from U.S. beekeepers.

Nature Nate’s market share of organic-branded honey is larger at 45%.

The firm’s prime retailers are Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target, Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Market and Amazon. H-E-B will start stocking the brand this month, and most main regional grocers promote the brand.

More than 40% of the honey sold in shops is a personal label, or retailer brand, however that’s been on the decline as shoppers need assurances about the origin of honey. Americans determined in latest years that it’s a wholesome sweetener. Two-thirds of honey consumed in the U.S. is imported, and as demand grew, so did shady techniques, Sheets stated.

“Honey is an industry wrought with confusion and deception,” he stated, noting that adulterated honey was the topic of the Netflix sequence Rotten about the world meals provide. “Lawyers, Guns & Honey” was the first episode of the sequence launched in 2018.

Nathan Sheets, founder of Nature Nate’s Honey Co. based mostly in McKinney.

Scaling the U.S. market

Nature Nate’s is home honey aside from its natural honey, which comes from South America, Sheets stated.

To turn into the largest U.S.-branded honey, Nature Nate’s needed to scale different established manufacturers, a pair with 100-year-old roots in the market corresponding to Iowa-based Sue Bee and Waxahachie-based Burleson’s Honey. Nature Nate’s grew to become the largest honey brand in 2016 and the largest natural honey brand in 2017. There had been some troublesome years, Sheets stated, together with 2019, when Costco determined after eight years to inventory Kirkland-branded honey as an alternative.

Walmart was an enormous issue in the firm’s progress, Sheets stated, and inspired the title change from North Dallas Honey to Nature Nate’s as the bottled honey was sold throughout the U.S.

Sheets added massive lettering to the label in 2011 that claims “100% Pure Raw & Unfiltered Honey.” The uncooked and unfiltered class for the trade had been flat till then.

The mission is to develop the honey class, stated Sweet Harvest CEO Ken Stickevers, who has had govt expertise at main shopper merchandise manufacturers McCormick, Bellisio Foods and Campbell Soup earlier than becoming a member of Sweet Harvest in March 2019.

“With Ken’s experience, we can maximize our strengths,” Sheets stated. Sweet Harvest was already a packer for Nature Nate’s.

The U.S. is behind the relaxation of the world in honey consumption. Household penetration is about 42% in the U.S. In different nations the place honey is used extra broadly as a sweetener in baking and drinks, it’s in the excessive 80s and low 90s, Sheets stated.

Hobby honey

North Dallas Honey was a sideline for a few years whereas Patty was a schoolteacher at Mockingbird Elementary School in Dallas and Sheets labored in promoting after which spent a dozen years working for Plano nonprofit e3 Partners organizing Christian mission journeys round the world.

Sheets made the honey enterprise his full-time work in 2010 when Walmart began promoting North Dallas Honey in its Dallas-Fort Worth shops. It had been in native Kroger shops for a number of years, and each retailers took it nationally with the title change.

Changing a brand title of a longtime product is dangerous, however North Dallas Honey wasn’t going to fly in different markets, he stated.

And Sheets stated he owes a giant thank-you to a Tom Thumb retailer purchaser who persuaded him to not change the neon orange label.

“I was a young guy out of college with a marketing degree, and I thought I could do better than the neon orange label and New Times Roman font.”

Sheets took what he known as a “new beautiful four-color label” to indicate the purchaser, who advised him, “Son, you can do anything you want but change that label.”

More than 20 years later, Sheets stated, “I’m so glad I didn’t. That color has become synonymous with honey.”

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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