The Just Bee Story
It all started back in 2015...
We launched Just Bee back in 2015 with two simple goals; to create exciting and healthy products using honey; and an ongoing mission to help Save the Bees.
Three generations of British beekeepers!
Left to right: Joe (Just Bee co-founder); Ron (Joe's Dad); Osbourne (Joe's Grandad)
Our idea to start Just Bee was inspired by Joe's (co-founder) family, who have a long history in beekeeping. Joe's dad is a beekeeper in Lancashire and his Grandad, Osbourne, was a beekeeper before him in Ireland. So as a third generation beekeeper, Joe and his family had a deep understanding of honey, beekeeping and the vital importance of bees and the threat of extinction that they are facing...
We spent over six months of evenings and weekends developing different concepts for Just Bee, from our initial weird and wonderful ideas, to a fully realised brand before launching our very first product; Just Bee flavoured water. Our flavoured water Just Bee drinks used a drop of honey as a natural sweetener instead of artificial sweeteners or refined sugars.
Knocking on doors of local delis, cafes, as well as artisan markets locally around the Manchester area we started selling our drinks door to door and doing deliveries from the boot of Joe's car!
We grew the brand slowly but steadily during our first year and in August 2015 we succeeded in getting our Just Bee drinks stocked in Fortnum & Mason, a very prestigious London based department store that were excited to sell the UK’s first honey infused spring water drinks brand. Our pitch to Fortnum & Mason was simply "you have beehives on your store roof, so you should sell our honey drinks" and to our amazement, they said yes!
The first two years saw steady growth in our new business and in 2017 we appeared on TV's Dragon's Den, to look for further help and investment to grow the Just Bee brand.
That was a fantastic experience and most of the Dragons really loved our drinks, brand and ethics. We were offered the full amount of financial investment we were looking for by dragon Peter Jones, but ultimately we wouldn't give up such a large percentage of the business, so we said “thanks, but no thanks!” and walked away.
We are often asked if we regret turning him down and in all honesty we don't. The whole Just Bee ethos has always been about much more than money, we had faith in our business and we saw it as his loss, not ours.
Although we didn’t end up working with any of the Dragons, appearing on the show gave us national publicity and it created new opportunities and interest from many supermarkets and large high street shops. Suddenly all the supermarket buyers weren't too busy to talk to us and were interested to hear about our drinks.
Over the next two years we saw some exciting growth for our Just Bee drinks, with them being sold in Selfridges’ food courts across the country as well as Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Co-op, WH Smith and even Boots as part of their popular meal deal!
For many businesses 2020 was a very difficult year. The national lock-down during spring because of the Covid-19 virus meant that our drinks business almost completely collapsed overnight. Our drinks were typically the type of products that people buy while 'on the go' or out and about. Not great when everybody in the country was being told to stay at home! Our sales dropped by 80% literally overnight.
Demand continued to dry up as people worked from home and commuted less, orders from some of our biggest partners were reduced to zero as their own business struggled. During the Summer of 2020 (usually our busiest time of year) sales continues to be only a tiny fraction of what we had been selling the year before.
Unfortunately the Just Bee drinks business became unsustainable in this climate and we had to take the difficult decision to stop selling the drinks that had been such a big part of the Just Bee story for the first 5 years.
Launching Just Bee Honey...
But, as Billy Ocean once sang, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going' and we weren't about to let the Just Bee brand that we had put so much hard work into finish there.
Since we first started Just Bee, people were always asking us “do you sell the honey as well as the drink?” We'd thought about it often and we had started developing our Vitamin Honey in 2019. Now it seemed the right time to turn a big set back into an opportunity!
We used the time during lockdown to launch our range of raw honey and the reaction and sales were immediately positive. Starting exclusively with online direct sales meant that we weren't relying on orders from big retailers and other businesses and people wouldn't have to leave their homes to purchase their honey.
Demand for our Raw Vitamin Honey grew throughout 2020 as people sought out products that would naturally boost their immune system and provide a healthier way to sweeten their diets. During 2020 online sales of honey became the main focus for Just Bee.
We added our certified New Zealand Manuka raw vitamin honey to the range and heading into winter and the dreaded cold and flu season, we added our delicious lemon and ginger vitamin honey, which is perfect for stirring into hot water for a natural cold and sore throat fighting drink.
While the products might have changed for Just Bee, the core ideals of our business didn't. Offering healthy honey products and helping to protect the bee population.
Our ongoing mission...
Today it is still our ongoing mission to help Save the Bees and to reverse the decline in the bee population in Britain.
As we always have done, we use a portion of the sales we make to buy bee-friendly wildflower seeds. These are sent out free of charge with every honey order, so all our customers can play an active role in our companies ethos and mission.
Even if you aren't a honey customer we will still send you a free packet of seeds for just a small postage charge. We also stand by our commitment to plant at least one bee-friendly seed for every pot of honey we sell. Together, with your help, we can achieve our goal of creating thousands of new bee-friendly wildflower patches across the UK and help stop the decline in bee numbers.
Our bees here in the UK and around the world are extremely important, not just for honey producers, but for also for the wider environment we live in.
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