Perhaps one of the first tasks that challenge bee farmers and beekeeping businesses is the very necessary job of labelling products for sale. There is much to consider. You have design considerations, the types and range of jars, the size of the label, and what details to include. It tends to be at this point that we realise there’s more to this labelling stuff than you realised.
One very important piece that can’t be avoided are the legal requirements and labelling rules for honey jars, there’s a very clearly defined list of rules and expectations that we must work into our labelling designs so having a good understanding of these early on will benefit the process and avoiding you having to retrospectively fix the design to squeeze in missing details.
What must be included on a honey jar label?
So what MUST you include on your honey jar label? This is the list and failing to comply with these rules can result in various problems for our beekeepers, here’s the list before we get specific:
- Name and address of the Product/Packer/Seller
- An Accurate Description of the Product
- Country of Origin
- Best Before End date
- Batch/Lot Number
- Batch Number
- Metric Weight
Your name and address or that of the responsible person
Traceability of an edible product is a necessary requirement in so far that you can be easily located. Full details can take up label real estate so luckily the use of a house/building number alongside a postcode is acceptable. The details must be that of the producer, packer, or seller, or the last entity to touch or manage the product. As bee farmers, it’s common to be all three!
Whilst considering this do think about the inclusion of other key contact details. A website address is optional but it’s the perfect opportunity to advertise yourself further and provide an additional means of contact. Such details can help you build consumer trust and confidence in your brand. By making it easy for them to contact you, you’re sending a message that you’re committed to providing quality products and outstanding customer service.
An Accurate Description of the Product
Honey is created from the nectar of plants or secretions from plants or other plant-sucking insects and is gathered by bees, any variation on this means it is not honey and cannot be labelled as such. This also includes the process of manipulating the product to include additives or other ingredients.
There are a number of descriptions that can be used to help clarify details, the most familiar being location or particular sources such as from a particular county or mono-floral crop:
The most familiar and most popular for a lot of beekeepers is location. People love local honey so seeing the honey labelled based on the locale can help drive interest and sales. Examples include ‘Lincolnshire Honey’, ‘Cambridgeshire Honey’, and variations around counties or even cities work quite well. For beekeepers selling throughout the country then examples such as ‘Welsh Honey’ or ‘British Honey’ are perfect.
Cut comb or jars containing cut comb can be labelled to describe this fact. Particularly popular and will easily go for more money. Be sure to consider the sale value carefully, not only are we selling the honey but also the valuable wax comb.
Honeydew is the secretion of a sugary liquid from plants or other insects that bees are quick to find and unwilling to pass up. If you’re confident that your bees have collected it from this source then again you can advertise this fact on the label, usually determined by combing details from the locale, the colour and the flavour.
As the naming suggests, your honey has been gathered from a single source, one particular crop or flower. This is particularly difficult to do in the UK due to seasonal variation and is often why you’ll see the same types crop up through the year, Oilseed Rape, Ivy and Heather in particular but there will be confident sources from blossom and lavender farms for example. Take care not to mislead the consumer.
For honey that is often blended from leftover crops and is quick to crystallise may end up as a cheaper alternative known as baker’s honey. We typically end up with this if we have concerns around quality and taste where it can instead be used as a sweetening ingredient in cooking and baking.
The Country of Origin
The honey jar label must include detail about the country of origin in which the honey was produced and harvested. For a lot of larger companies such as Rowse they’ll ship in honey from all over the globe and mix it prior to packing and distribution. This makes it slightly more complicated for such businesses when compared to the smaller British bee farming businesses like us, in almost all cases we can simply state that these are ‘Products of Great Britain’ and move on.
For the bigger companies, they’ll often fall back to the familiar statements that most beekeepers feel some level of resentment for:
Blend of EU honey
Blend of non-EU honey
Blend of EU and non-EU honey
The Best Before Date and Storage Instructions
Many beekeepers are quick to point out that honey has an extraordinarily long shelf life and consumers are seemingly aware of this fact. That said a best before of “indefinite” will only cause concern, even in the biggest of honey advocates.
The general recommendation and overall consensus is anywhere between 2 and 5 years with the majority of producers opting for 2/3 years. Make sure this detail is clearly identifiable in the format ‘Best Before [Month] [Year]’, some opt to include a day but this is unnecessary.
Storage is an important addition to this information and helps the consumer maintain the quality of the product, storing in the fridge would be quite disastrous so be clear that a cupboard at room temperature is the way to go. Clear details ensure that you can maintain the stated shelf life and its quality.
Clearly Define the Weight
The label must include a clear metric weight and there are rules which dictate the height of the lettering, these rules are as follows:
|Not exceeding 50g
|Exceeding 50g but not exceeding 200g
|Exceeding 200g but not exceeding 1kg
Be clear, be accurate. Falsely stating the weight and providing under the quoted figure will quickly land you in trouble, believe me, people are checking! Over the weight that you’re stating isn’t a problem but over time this may eat into your profits, small amounts over 1000’s of honey jars is effectively giving away your honey.
An Identification Number Such as a Batch/Lot Number
Lot or batch numbers on honey jars are a method to identify the source of a product, for most beekeeping producers in the UK this can help identify an apiary location or perhaps just a specific week. Based on this information we can quickly identify and recall stock in case of any issues.
A good practice but completely optional is to state on the jar that honey is ‘Unsuitable for children under 12 months old’, this is a precaution against possible infant botulism. Our recommendation would be to always include this statement, any risk, however small, simply isn’t worth it.
Finishing Up on Honey Jar Labels
You will undoubtedly have more questions about honey jar labelling rules in the UK so what can you do now? Firstly check out the FAQ below, we’ll go over a little ground and introduce some of the more common queries to help sum up this post.
Always do what you can to stay up to date with the latest legislation for which the definitive source can be found here for us in the UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/food-standards-labelling-durability-and-composition.
From this point on, start getting creative and produce labels that stand out and help define you and your brand, if you’re not the creative type then there are options which we’ll start digging into in later blog posts, in the meantime, if you have any questions then be sure to drop us a line email@example.com or join us on Facebook
FAQ - Labelling Honey Jars in the UK
You must have Honey in the title but you can describe the product further and include the location or type such as ‘Lincolnshire Honey’ or ‘Ivy Honey’.
Traceability is very important so an address that can easily identify you is all that’s needed. House name or number alongside a postcode is enough but the more detail you can share to help your customers, the better.
This often gets raised at our association meetings and the basic answer is yes but areas and events may differ. Be careful not to mislead with pictures and imagery.
Lot numbers are important for traceability and we identify the location of the apiary and the date of processing. We don’t include these on the label design and instead use a labelling gun to mark the base of the jar.
Whilst the shelf life of honey is extensive the general advice is to put a Best Before of 2 to 5 years ahead at the point of processing. Use a label gun for the base of the jar and save space on your label design.
To protect young children against infant botulism you’re advised to include a warning on the label. ‘Unsuitable for children under 12 months old’ will do the trick.