Queen’s Choice Award Winners Share Inside Scoop on Honey

QCA 1080 winners

The Queen’s Choice Award recognizes the best new innovative food and beverage products made with honey. We spoke to a few winners about the choice to use honey as a sweetener, flavor and functional ingredient in their award-winning products.

Grains Almighty Gut Balance, Arnold Premium Breads, Oroweat and Brownberry
Jane Tambascio, director of R&D, and Genevieve Jordan, associate R&D technologist, chose to use light amber honey in Gut Balance bread as it is a clean label way to sweeten the bread.

“Honey adds a unique sweetness that enhances the product and gives a well-rounded flavor to the bread. Honey has a unique flavor profile and is a nicer way to deliver sweetness.”

Simply Honey Nut Bread, Base Culture
Lauren Bellet, brand manager, said that Base Culture is a clean label bread company that strives to use pure, unrefined ingredients that are as close to nature as possible.

“We opt for honey due to its natural state and the taste, of course! We hear from consumers all the time that this bread has a perfect ‘level’ of sweetness. From the first bite, you taste an undeniable delicious honey nut flavor, and the honey carries through the entire eating experience. It’s just sweet enough where it still has versatility to serve as a breakfast or sandwich bread, so we found the sweet spot, you might say!”

Simply Honey Upcycled Oat Protein Cereal, Seven Sundays
Hannah Barnstable, founder, said that when food is grown in harmony with nature, everything tastes better, down to the very last drop of honey. With honey in particular, you can taste the wild regional landscape where the pollinators play. Some varieties are earthy, while others are bright, light, dark, rich, floral, mild, and buttery.

“With only six ingredients in our Simply Honey Oat Protein Cereal, we count on wildflower honey to not only sweeten our Os, but to coat them in REAL flavor — fruity, floral notes with a buttery vanilla finish. We're not food scientists or magicians. We rely on unapologetically real ingredients straight from Mother Nature to bring the flavor. No ‘natural’ or artificial flavors here! We're always excited when real food gets the recognition it deserves. Here's to the worker bees! The roots stay in the ground, and the bees keep flying around.”

Honey Gummies, Rbel Bee
Joline Rivera, founder, was training for a triathlon, and the harder she trained, the worse she felt. She gained weight, inflammation filled her body and she felt sick. A functional medicine specialist found she had insulin resistance, on the verge of type 2 diabetes. Instead of prescribing pills, he wrote a list of functional foods she could eat. She dropped 20 pounds of body fat, completed her triathlon and is no longer at risk for diabetes. She still wanted her sweets, and that’s when she turned to the bees. Rbel Bee Honey Gummies use a Colorado alfalfa/wildflower honey with a traditional honey flavor profile — a true honey lover’s honey.

“Honey is our FIRST ingredient. I think it’s the most powerful natural sweetener in the world. I honestly believe bees know better than humans and they create exactly what we need. In my opinion, there is nothing better than honey. Honey provides that sweet energy hit that everyone wants and also adds nutritional value to our product. When you launch a sweets brand, there’s nothing better than that. I’ve spent my life working with chefs, and I learned from them that the benefit of working with whole food ingredients that are unadulterated is that you can actually get good flavor and not have to cover it up. We don’t use artificial flavors (or colors), so you’re not eating a manufactured ‘flavor,’ you’re eating vanilla, saffron, mushrooms, beet powder and honey. Taste is No. 1 for us.”

“This recognition from the National Honey Board means everything to me, a startup founder who threw every bit of my time and energy into bringing a honey-sweetened fruit chew to market. Maintaining honey's benefits during production was essential, and finding the right approach was a painstaking and difficult process. This award proves it was an idea worth fighting for, and our customers agree.”

Hibiscus Ginger Ale, Sparkling Mint Lemonade, Sparkling Jalapeno Limeade, Fresh Fizz Sodas
Yoni Schwartz, president, wanted to create a true, clean label soda using only real food ingredients. Flavors are developed with spices and fresh herbs, and when deciding on a sweetener, honey made sense.

“Clover honey was the perfect natural, clean sweetening option. Using honey is almost like a cheat code in terms of what it adds to the flavor profile. Instead of a one-note sweetness, we have all these floral, sophisticated flavor notes coming from the honey. It creates a harmonious blend with the other flavors from juices, spices and herbs, and produces a much more complex final product. Working with honey is worth it for what it adds to the product, how it allows us to be true to our clean label promise, and for how it sets us apart from many of our competitors. The fact that the product has gotten some recognition and appreciation means the world to us.