Honey Prices: Unexpectedly Flat In 2009

Honey prices advanced in 2008, and last January it looked like we were in for more of the same in 2009. But it turns out that honey in December sold for about what it did in January. I now have my first full year of data on malt extract, and here the story is the same. With the exception of The Cellar’s liquid malt extract, which rose early, dry and liquid malt extract prices were unchanged last year. I started tracking malt extract, and other sweeteners, because they might be of interest to our home brewing friends and to provide some context. One hitch in my plan is that I moved during the year, and I no longer have convenient access to a Sam’s Club. Starting with 2010, I’ll be tracking Wal Mart’s prices instead. This means that for table sugar and maple syrup, I only have full year data from Costco. It looks like maple syrup dropped and table sugar rose, at the end of 2009, but with only one source I’m not sure we can make too much of that.

In the table below, I’ve included honey prices from March 2008, just before the surge, as well as January and December of 2009.

Source and Type Price March 2008 ($/lb) Price January 2009 ($/lb) Price December 2009 ($/lb) Change From March Change From January
Costco Clover 1.47 1.83 1.83 +24.5% 0%
Miller’s Honey Clover 1.55 1.73 1.73 +11.6% 0%
Miller’s Honey Wildflower 1.15 1.43 1.43 +24.3% 0%
Miller’s Honey Organic n/a 1.83 1.83 n/a 0%
Dutch Gold Clover 1.30 1.80 1.80 +38.5% 0%
Dutch Gold Wildflower 1.26 1.71 1.71 +35.7% 0%
Dutch Gold Organic n/a 1.80 1.80 n/a 0%

Where can you get the best deal on honey?

The packers offer slightly better prices on clover honey than Costco, but to get those prices you have to buy in 60 lb buckets and pay shipping. Costco lets you buy in smaller 6 lb jugs and avoid shipping charges by visiting their retail locations. The best price around is still Miller’s wildflower – a high quality honey at a great price. It’s also available as a pair of 3 lb jugs from Amazon, but at $3.71/lb this is a much more expensive option. It’s eligible for free shipping though, so if you don’t have access to an affordable local source like Costco, you don’t want to buy in 60 lb lots, and/or shipping for those heavy buckets would eat up any savings, then it might make sense for you.

Outlook for honey prices

In October, Kim Flottum forecast rising honey prices this winter:

So … in the short run, the price of honey this winter is probably going to go up some. Maybe a lot. And you may not be able to find local honey later this winter.

With a good idea of US honey production, the worst year ever, and reports that many other exporters are seeing poor crops, he expects a supply squeeze to boost prices. No sign of that, in the prices I track, as of January but it’s something to keep an eye on. Something else to keep an eye on is his assessment that Colony Collapse Disorder hit hard last year and reduced US producing colonies by over 13%. We haven’t seen much evidence that CCD has reduced the US colony count yet – did that change in 2009? The USDA will release their figures in February, and I’ll have more to say then.

For those who don’t know, Mr Flottum wrote the book on backyard beekeeping and edits Bee Culture Magazine. When he talks about beekeeping, the rest of us should listen.

Malt extract prices

Not much has happened in my first full year of tracking malt extract. You can still by liquid malt extract in bulk for $2.01/lb to $2.99/lb while bulk dry extract will set you back $2.52/lb to $4.66/lb. There isn’t anything special about the sources I track, except that I’ve bought from all of them: The Cellar Homebrew, Mountain Homebrew, The Grape and Granary, and Moor Beer.

Update 3/3/2010 – Honey Prices on the rise?

I noticed Costco charging more for honey on my most recent trip, $2.00/lb up about 9% since January. Maple syrup rose 6% and table sugar was unchanged. I didn’t get a chance to check Walmart. A quick check online showed no change at the packers, and malt extract prices remained flat.

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3 thoughts on “Honey Prices: Unexpectedly Flat In 2009

  1. SIRES

    I talked to Silverbow around the end of summer last year, and they told me that Costco had a surplus of their honey, and were planning to sell it at their normal markup. When it was gone, (and it is now, also confirmed the price went up at Silverlake/South Everett Costco) they raised the price to match the new higher price point from Silverbow.

  2. Erroll Post author

    Thanks Sires,

    As I understand it, Costco’s policy is that everything gets marked up 15%, and since they usually turn over their inventory quickly, they are a really good barometer of the honey market. But yeah, that stops working if they’re caught with excess inventory.


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