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Canadian honey leaves its mark in space, and on Earth

Three people holding a food sample


Not many Canadian food companies can boast that their products have been eaten in space. One that can do just that is Prince Edward Island’s Island Abbey Foods, which sent its Honey Drops to the International Space Station with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in 2013.

Honey and lemon product accompanying a cup of tea
Innovative natural products such as honey and lemon drops for a perfect cup of tea!

Island Abbey Foods has made its mark on Earth as well. It sells its Honibe (pronounced “honey bee”) gummies, lollipops, lozenges, sweeteners, granulated honey and other honey-based products not only in Canada, but also in the United Kingdom, western Europe and the United Arab Emirates. It also makes private-label items for suppliers around the world, such as U.S.-based Zarbee’s Naturals, Johnson & Johnson and New Zealand’s Comvita.

The honey lozenges are Island Abbey Foods’ top-selling product. They are made with 100% solid honey and contain no added sugar or artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

“Our positioning in the cough and cold and multivitamin market is that we are a natural alternative,” says Nundini Krishnan, marketing manager. “Having a natural-focused product is good not only in Canada but in places like Europe where we’re seeing a lot of this trend.”

Island Abbey Foods has its origins in a sticky accident. While hiking north of Whistler, B.C., in 2006, John Rowe discovered that a glass jar of honey had shattered in his backpack. The goo triggered his quest to make solid, no-mess honey: the result was the world’s first 100% pure, non-sticky honey product.

Island Abbey Foods now employs about 100 people, making it one of Prince Edward Island’s largest and most prominent privately-owned businesses. The federal government’s Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency helped fund construction of its plant in Charlottetown, with ten times the capacity of the original plant.

Four kids each holding a box of honey lozenges
Island Abbey Foods produces all natural honey products for cough and cold that are part of the Canadian Snacks for Space Program.

Honey Drops, which Island Abbey Foods promotes as an alternative to a sugar cube, won the 2010 Global SIAL D’Or, a food innovation contest organized by the Salon International de l’Alimentation (the world’s largest food and beverage exhibition, held in Paris, France, every two years). Rowe has also appeared on Dragons’ Den on CBC television. The presence of Honey Drops on the International Space Station was the result of the company winning a contest organized by the Canadian Space Agency.

Sales have grown each year for the past decade, and the company expects a further boost from the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which took effect in September 2017. “Europe has removed some barriers, and that helps us,” says Krishnan. “We really want to focus on growing our brand there.”

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