Dwindling bee numbers could have major implications for the food chain and the environment, as honey bees play a crucial role in the pollination of crops, but a shortage of honey is the most obvious initial consequence for the food industry.
Colony collapse disorder is the rapid loss of adult bees from a colony or hive; only a few newly-emerged adult bees remain with the queen, but no dead bees are found in or around the hive. In the US, beekeepers have reported losses of up to a 90 percent.
The cause is unknown but experts have speculated that various factors could be involved, including starvation, viruses, mites, pesticide exposure and climate change.
“No matter what the reason, the fact is that a shortage of honey results in higher prices,” said Bell.
The company’s new range of honey replacers includes both natural and artificial honey flavors, which have been designed so that manufacturers can use less honey, thereby cutting costs, without compromising on taste. It offers specific flavor profiles, including ‘very strong, sweet’, ‘light amber type’ and ‘clover type’, as well as concentrated blends and varieties developed specifically for meat applications and sauces.
The company added: “Bell realizes there can be an issue of loss of bulk or other problems in a finished formula with the replacement of honey by a flavor,” and said that it can work with manufacturers to develop finished product solutions.
US bee plans
The US Department of Agriculture has a long-term action plan to address the problems affecting honeybees and has announced $4m in funding to the University of Georgia to study the causes of CCD and other problems affecting bee populations.
Meanwhile the food industry is also taking action. Last year, the Häagen-Dazs loves Honey Bees campaign was launched to raise research funds and awareness about the plight of the bees.
A Häagen-Dazs spokesperson told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “More than 40 percent of Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavors are dependent on honey bee pollination, but honey is not a major ingredient in all of our ice cream.
“Ingredients like almonds and berries are foods that are bee-dependent, and since Häagen-Dazs ice cream is dedicated to remaining an all-natural brand, if we find some of these items difficult to source we’ll eventually have to re-examine our flavor line.”