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Sweden/USAID FARMA II project supported BKV Group in developing honey packaging facilities and branding their Kozjak Herzegovina Honey. As of late, in addition to bio-food stores, their high-quality products are available also in supermarkets.

Many beekeepers complained about 2020 being a bad year for honey production. Yields were reportedly low and the offer of domestic honey was limited. In contrast to that, in late 2020, BKV Group from Bileća launched three new types of Kozjak Hercegovina Honey. A basic one, honey mixed with walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts, and honey for children mixed with cacao. This is how it happened.

Developing local brand

"We entered the honey business to try and ensure that the high-quality Hercegovina honey gets its proper place on the BiH market. When you enter a supermarket, most of the honey you can find is imported from Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, and China. That makes no sense given that we have many beekeepers in BiH," says Rade Kozjak, who heads the BKV Group.

Established in 2011, BKV Group functioned as an agricultural pharmacy that traded in beekeeping and other agricultural equipment, raw materials, and produced bee feed. Contacts with beekeepers made them opt to open a honey processing and packaging factory. They renovated and turned their premises into a factory while the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project provided funding for the honey and honeydew packaging machines, and also developed the Kozjak brand and labels for some 35 products they plan to introduce to the market, along with a professional website www.kozjakmed.ba.

Thanks to their established contacts, throughout 2018 and 2019, BKV Group started buying honey from 50 beekeepers from Bileća, Trebinje, Stolac, Čapljina, and other nearby towns offering them a competitive price of BAM 13 per kilo. They now have a brand and 10 tons of honey to put on the market.

Top-quality vs. forged and imported honey

“We test honey from all our beekeepers at the Veterinary Institute Dr. Vaso Butozan in Banja Luka. We test honey for ten different parameters to ensure that it is not forged, that there is no added sugar, and that it has not been altered in any way. In short, we do all the testing to ensure that we have a top-quality product,” says Rade and explains that Hercegovina honey is more expensive since bees in Hercegovina feed mostly on medicinal herbs, which have less nectar. "The overall quantities of honey we get in Hercegovina are lesser than in other parts of the country, but our honey is special. It is more aromatic and has a characteristic taste," he adds.

A great concern for Rade is that a lot of honey products in supermarkets are sold below the market price. According to him, customers should always carefully read the labels to be sure about what they are buying.

"People tend to believe that everything they see in supermarkets is of good quality.  But not all products are pure, and that is reflected in the low prices of many imported and diluted honey products. In a long run, we will need to do more to educate consumers. Meanwhile, we will focus on keeping our Hercegovina Honey a quality product.”

Getting to the market

In September 2020, BKV Group started selling its products in five bio shops in Sarajevo (Gabbiano), East Sarajevo (Green), Mostar (Tajm), Široki Brijeg (Mrvica), and Trebinje (Bio shop). However, their plan was always to cover a larger market.

Following several months of negotiations, as of January 2021, Kozjak Hercegovina Honey is also available in five Bingo supermarkets, three in Mostar and two in Trebinje.

“We are happy to have gained access to supermarkets as our honey has become more accessible to a larger number of people. This is kind of a test phase for Bingo. We think that the next step should be the distribution of our products in other parts of the country where Hercegovina honey is a rare commodity," says Rade. "We know that honey yields in 2020 were low, so we are happy to share the honey we have with the rest of the country and also to start exporting,” he concludes.