The creator of the “world’s first” plant-based honey replica has described the honey industry as one of the “biggest” examples of greenwashing that exists.
Darko Mandich recently appeared on an episode of the Plant Based News podcast with Robbie Lockie. The Serbian entrepreneur is known for founding a company called MeliBio. The company makes what’s thought to be the first ever vegan honey – named Mellody – with the same molecular composition as honey made from bees.
Mandich worked for a number of conventional food conglomerates in Eastern Europe before entering the plant-based space. He specialized in the honey industry, but became increasingly concerned about the huge environmental costs of exploiting bees to create the food. “The biggest impact that honey production has is the impact it has on our biodiversity,” he told Lockie. “Learning about that was something that was kind of an epiphany moment for me.”
The environmental impact of honey
Many people believe that honey production benefits the environment, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Honey comes from just one bee species, the apis mellifera (also known as the western honey bee). Artificially breeding these bees and introducing them to non-native lands reaps havoc on local ecosystems, meaning other bee species decline. Due to their efficiency at collecting pollen, the honey bees remove natural resources that wild species depend on.
“Learning about [the honey industry’s] impact was a difficult one for me,” Mandich said. “The honey industry narrative was: ‘The more honey you sell, the more bees will get to work. By employing the bees you’re giving them a life.’ That narrative is one of the biggest lies that exists today. Making honey using honey bees is one of the biggest greenwashing that exists today.”
Is plant-based honey the future?
Despite its huge ethical costs, honey is big business across the world. The global honey market is worth $10 billion, and it’s projected to grow to $15 billion in the next few years. As well as being sold as a standalone product, honey is often found as an ingredient in foods, drinks, and cosmetics all over the world.
As we battle an ever-worsening climate crisis, Mandich’s company could provide a more viable alternative to honey made from bees. Founded in 2020, MeliBio delivers what it calls “the future of honey,” which is said to be “sustainable, delicious, nutritious, and animal-free.” The product has the same molecular composition as honey, and the company uses plant science and fermentation to mimic the process by which bees create it, but without use of the animal.
The company is based in Oakland, California. It initially created its product for B2B customers and food service. In March 2022, the company secured $5.7 million in a funding round to commercialize its first line of plant-based honey.
‘We can learn so much’
The general public often tends to think of insects like bees as lacking in sentience and personalities, which means many don’t think twice about exploiting them for personal gain. But Mandich is passionate about shutting these stereotypes down.
“We see them from afar, we are kind of scared of them, we see how they operate,” he said. “They move in a certain direction, do the dance, and interact. But once you get to see a bee very close, you start to realize there are different species of bees, and how maybe the same species of two bumble bees also look somewhat differently. We can learn so much from the bees, we just need to start looking at them closely.”
Listen to Darko Mandich on the Plant Based News podcast below: