Belgrade’s Happy Honey wants you to eat better honey
Darko Mandic didn’t know a thing about honey when he got a job at a large Eastern European honey-exporting company six years ago. He hadn’t even tried honey before. But that little detail didn’t stop him from diving head-first into the world of honey. Within three years, Mandic worked his way to the top of the company, becoming the youngest CEO in southeast Europe and learning everything there is to know about the sweet condiment along the way.
During this time, Mandic went on a personal health journey that involved cutting out processed sugars and replacing them with raw honey. He eventually lost 100 pounds. These days, the Serbian businessman is the co-founder and managing director of Happy Honey, which is on a mission to spread the gospel of raw honey around the world.
“Without bees, there would be no humans living on planet Earth,” Mandic says. That's a bold claim, but think about it this way: It’s estimated that one-third of all the food on earth is directly dependent on bees and pollination. The insects are involved in producing more than $19 billion worth of agricultural crops in the United States alone. In 2017, American honey producers “with five or more colonies” produced 148 million pounds of honey—a decrease of 9% compared to the year before. “Our consumers are asking us about the situation with colony collapse disorder on a daily basis, so we think the critical mass of our audience is united on this cause. As honey producers, we carefully follow the situation within the network of our beekeepers in Serbia,” Mandic says. Along with fighting the good fight against CCD, Mandic and the team at Happy Honey produce and sell raw honey.
“Raw ingredients are a must for the modern diet,” he says. “It’s extracted by beekeepers without processing (heating, filtering, and blending) and is more nutrient rich than the standard honey bought in stores.”
Raw honey has more proteins and enzymes, and, unlike mass-produced honey it isn’t heated up or strained. Described as “one of the most appreciated and valued natural products introduced to humankind since ancient times” in a recent study called Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research, raw honey has “antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, [and] anticancer” effects. It can be useful in treating diabetes, as well as respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous systems problems.
“We want to add our brick to the wall by offering ingredients in a different, more interesting form,” he says. This interesting form is a line of raw honey infused with natural flavors like organic cocoa, raspberry, plum, apricot and more. Along with touting its benefits, Mandic wants to spread awareness of using honey as a substitute for processed sweeteners. “We want people to rethink the ways [honey] is offered in the market,” he says.
Part of the rethinking involves offering people honey that tastes good. And as it turns out, Happy Honey’s homebase, Serbia, is the perfect place for this to happen.
“During the difficult post-communism transition in Serbia, many large industrial factories were closed and lots of land was not utilized,” Mandic says. “People started planting trees and plants, so now we have rural areas without any pollution; that is a perfect setting for beehives. Serbian honey is often said to be the second best in the world after Mānuka honey from New Zealand.”
The Serbian government has supported this new generation of talented young beekeepers by setting up a national beekeeping consortium that promotes Serbian honey at the International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations.
Mandic and his team believe in their mission in helping people lead healthier lives while simultaneously taking care of the earth and the 20,000 species (totalling somewhere in the trillions) of bees on the planet.