In fact, the beekeeper is not me, but my cousin, and I got into all this honey thing accidentally. For 10 years I worked in the French embassy in Kiev and then I started my own business.
First, our consulting import-export company helped the French companies to enter the Ukrainian market, and then vice versa — the Ukrainians entered the French market.
And often we came across the fact that in Ukraine there were many good products, but manufacturers often do not know how to present them.
Ukrainian honey has become one of the most demanded products by French customers. We received many requests from exporting companies, until 2014 when we began to produce honey ourselves.
The brand “Honey Brothers” is me and my two cousins. We have been close since childhood. The middle of us, Yuri, is a bee-keeper with almost 10-years experience, he lives in Pervomaysky, the Mykolaiv region. On the basis of his apiary, our company arose.
In 2016, our younger cousin Evgeny said: “Guys, you are engaged in honey, you have knowledge and experience, let’s make an interesting family business, a small start-up.”
Until now, our first apiary was working, like most Ukrainian apiaries – just collecting honey. Some of it were eating relatives and friends, and the rest we gave to the procurers and wholesalers.
And to make it more interesting for us to work, we created our own brand. At that time, Yuri was serving in the ATO zone near Mariupol.
He was not at war for a long time, but, as is known, such people usually change their worldview and values, when turning back. And he immersed himself in the idea of creating a family brand.
The first harvest, which we packed in jars, was only 100-200 kg. We have designed the label by ourselves, got to the feedback from friends and relatives. Their feedback was very positive, so we continued. Since the summer of 2016, the real work has been going.
The Honey of The Land
Today honey in Ukraine is sold chaotically — in the bazaar, on the sidewalks, just unofficially from one family to another. It’s fine. But for urban residents to understand the quality of honey, which they spontaneously buy, whether in the supermarket or in the bazaar, it is difficult.
Many manufacturers use this ignorance to sell anything under the guise of honey. Therefore, the first goal that we set for ourselves was the honey of uncompromising quality.
That is, we at least do not feed bees with sugar, do not use antibiotics and do not brew and do not mix different kinds of honey.
Our production is not extensive, we do not pursue large volumes, but we aspire to quality. The volume is also important, but it is growing gradually. And we do not want to rush it.
We developed our own business philosophy, without reflecting on it for too long. The brand was based on the story of three cousins, and in the rest, my connections with France played a role.
I know this country and its inhabitants well, their mentality, gastronomic culture. There is such a thing called “local product”. That is, it is made in a certain region and reflects the character and traditions of its inhabitants. For example, cheese Roquefort or calvados, cognac, champagne.
Initially, these world-famous brands were nothing but local goods. We took this idea as a basis.
In Ukraine, it is common to divide honey simply by the plants from whose flowers it is harvested: acacia, linden, sunflower, rapeseed, buckwheat, different grasses. That’s all.
But when I took just a jar of honey from the Mykolaiv region and Podolia, where I came from, they turned out to be absolutely different products. Honey from a single plant – for example, sunflower, is far from homogeneous too.
Collect from the terroir
We keep apiaries in three regions – Mykolaiv, Cherkasy, and Podolia (mostly Khmelnytsky region). The last two we started to develop in 2017. Their owners are members of our brand.
These are young beekeepers who share our philosophy about the quality. However, at first, we did not look for producers, but for the terrain. Or, as the French say, terroir.
We have an amazing terroir in the Mykolaiv region, where there is a lot of wild endemic vegetation. The next our discovery was Cold Yar in the Cherkasy region. Many people know the same name vodka. But in fact, it is a unique place, the birthplace of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, Maxim Zaliznyak.
In fact, I just took a map of Ukraine and found a village in the Cold Yar, I called the village council and asked for contacts of some beekeepers. One of them, Sergey, became interested, we shook our hands and began to work.
The same I did in Podolia, where on the border of Khmelnytsky and Ternopil regions there is a reserve “Medobory” and national nature park “Buzky Gard”. On this small mountain range is also very specific nature, there is a river with rapids.
Local bee-keeper Sergei also gladly joined us.
Total in the Mykolayiv region and the Cherkasу region we have 50 bee colonies, and 10 — in Khmelnytsky region.
Read the continuation here
Dmitry Kushnir, the founder of the brand “Honey brothers”
Based on the materials of the webinar “Beekeeping. The foundation of the honey brand “Medovі braty“, organized by UHBDP