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Local honey producers look to sweeten the holiday mood amid sugar shortage

You’ve likely noticed a lack of sugar products on the shelves heading into the holiday season, and it’s something local honey farmers say shouldn’t take the sweetness out of your holiday baking.

Due to an eight-week-long strike at Rogers Sugar Incorporated’s Vancouver refinery, western Canadians may start to feel the effects of supply chain issues heading into the holidays.

Honey producers from around Grande Prairie say they are looking at the opportunity as a chance to spread the message of replacing white sugar with honey in holiday treats for a “healthier, more natural” option.

“More people are definitely looking at honey, I’ve had quite a few requests come in for purchases,” Hahny Bee Honey Owner Jolaina Hahn says. “Honey is a more natural sweetener, it goes into your system more slowly so it’s better for you, it’s still a sugar, but it’s better [for you].”

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Hahn, who has been a vocal advocate for switching to honey throughout the Rogers Sugar strike says making the switch is easier than you might think, as most recipes require less honey than sugar as a replacement.

“I’ve had people say that it’s more expensive than sugar but you actually need to use quite a bit less,” she says. “I wouldn’t say everything converts perfectly, it’s definitely trial and error, that’s why I post so many recipes because I know they work.”

Beelicious Inc. Co-Owner and operator Andrew McNeil adds that it is important to be mindful of purchasing more sugar than one might need heading into the holiday season.

“We’re a honey-producing family and we might go through 10 kg of sugar in an entire year to feed the bees as a supplement when they aren’t getting nectar in the fall and the winter, so my advice to everybody is just to stay calm.”

“Honey is a good substitute for sugar, or rather sugar is a poor substitute for honey I guess you could say,” he adds. “People can use honey as a substitute for sugar so it can definitely open up another avenue.”

McNeil says he believes in replacing sugar with honey wherever possible, regardless of a shortage, as the sweet stuff is a more “natural” and holistic option.

“Honey is on the top of the list for sweeteners that are healthy and natural,” he says. “I would advise to replace sugar with honey wherever you can just because it’s a more natural substance, if you’re going to get sugar you might as well get it from the bees.”

Additionally, McNeil says buying locally is important to ensure consumers are getting the 100 percent natural product while supporting the local economy.

“If you can’t get our honey, or if you don’t like our honey for whatever reason, still buy local, from a local producer that’s not a nationalized one.”

Both producers say the trend has been moving towards natural sweetener options as folks begin to explore honey as a sweetener rather than a condiment.

“I think people are starting to use honey in more novel ways instead of just putting it in their tea or on their toast, they’re actually using it to bake their muffins and make their cakes,” McNeil says.

Hahn adds that some recipes lend themselves better to honey than others, but she says a good rule of thumb is to use around 3/4 the amount of honey that a recipe requiring sugar calls for.

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