Welsh honey company is buzzing over £15million turnover predicted this year

Manufacturing in Newtown, mid Wales, with a 55-strong workforce, the business is forecasting a £15 million turnover for 2021. Sales through major retailers such Holland & Barrett and Tesco, as well as online, are served by a buzzing global supply chain that stretches from the UK to Uruguay and New Zealand. Taste, competitive pricing and easy use are the factors that have nailed it for 10-year-old Hilltop says owner Davies, who was the first to market in the UK with an organic, fair trade honey and is a strong supporter of beekeeper co-operatives in developing countries.

Aromatic, blossom-infused varieties such as lavender and eucalyptus in squeezy, recyclable packs are particular favourites with customers that include many millennials.

"Honey is not appreciated in the same ways as wine, but that is what it is like in the depth and complexities of its flavour profiles and its connection to its local soils and plant life," says Davies, 32, who a decade ago was rethinking his working life as a bricklayer after a back injury.

He got into beekeeping after setting up hives in his parents' garden, which helped his recovery. Friends gave his honey the thumbs up and he took some free business courses.

"I wasn't academic at school and didn't think I had a cat in hell's chance," Davies remembers. "But I presented my business plan to my bank. The manager warned me I would have to sell an awful lot of honey, and gave me a £5,000 overdraft. Then I knocked on a lot of doors."

Steady growth followed and diverse sourcing creating products with a broad flavour palette has been a central plank of Davies's business strategy.

The honey, sold to food service and manufacturing as well as retailers, is processed in Newtown, where the company's premises are 10 times its original size. This year it plans to revive a factory space that once housed Laura Ashley.

"I'm a local from a farming family," says Davies. "Creating jobs here is important to me."

The company is forging ahead on new product development. Syrups flavoured with the likes of agave and maple are planned, along with natural beauty products such as beeswax-based balms.

Yet only two per cent of Hilltop's honey comes from UK producers. Davies would dearly like to improve on that and wants more encouragement for bees. "Look at all the green fields," he says, "we just don't have enough wildflowers for them to thrive."

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