Savory spice group adds a dose of sweetness

By Chris Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Beekeeping

McCormick & Company, best known for its savory spices and
seasonings, has acquired the leading Canadian honey brand, Billy
Bee Honey, for $75m as part of its ongoing quest to extend its
flavor profile.

Founded in 1958, Billy Bee Honey has a 60 per cent share of branded honey sales in the Canadian retail sector, and has recently developed a range of new products using honey, including mustard, sauces and salad dressings. Billy Bee also supplies an estimated 50% of the private label honey sold to Canadian retailers and about half of the honey used as an ingredient by food manufacturers in Canada. But Joyce Brooks, assistant treasurer at McCormick, told​ that the company did not see Billy Bee primarily as a source of ingredients. "We have a track record of buying strong brands that allow us to extend our flavor profile,"​ she said. "Billy Bee is a strong brand in Canada, and a nice complement to the savory flavor business we have there." ​ She said that McCormick had a number of sweet brands already in its portfolio, including Vahiné, the dessert flavors brand in France acquired as part of the Ducros company in 2000, as well as the Aeroplane Jelly brand in Australia. The heart of the company's acquisition strategy, she said, was to look for companies that took McCormick into new areas - be they geographic or product-based. "That is clear from our recent acquisitions,"​ Brooks said. "Two years ago, we bought Simply Asia Foods, which took us into the Thai seasonings market for the first time, and in 2003 we acquired Zatarain's, which allowed us to enter the market for New Orleans-style food in the US, with rices and dinner mixes." "Finally, in 2004 we bought C.M. van Sillevoldt in the Netherlands, which was a country where we had previously had little or no presence." ​ The Billy Bee deal, which should be completed in the next week, will give McCormick a strong presence in the Canadian market, and the company has already said it hopes to work with the firm to grow the business through further innovation - suggesting that more honey-based products are likely to roll off the production line in the years to come. Increasing the number of products will, clearly, require a secure supply of ingredients, but Brooks said that McCormick had no fears that honey supplies would dry up, as they are doing in parts of the US. "Billy Bee sources most of its honey directly in Canada, where there are no known cases of colony collapse disorder [where bees abandon their hives for no apparent reason] that have been seen in the US and that have affected honey supplies there." "This seems to be because of the difference in beekeeping practices between the two countries,"​ said Brooks. "In the US, bees are often moved from orchard to orchard, and are subjected to relatively high levels of pesticides. In Canada, bee colonies tend to remain static, and there are fewer pesticides used."

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