From the bee to the wine glass

From the bee to the wine glass

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

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IT may seem a stretch that bees can make wine, but honey sure can.

Mandeville-based entrepre-neur Grace Foster-Reid started selling three flavours of her Buzz Honey Wine in Kingston and Mandeville supermarkets this month.

Her product has also ended up on the shelves of stores in the Norman Manley Inter-national and the Sangster International airports

The alcholic beverages were produced by fermenting a solution of honey and water, which were flavoured by fruits such as sorrel, star fruit and otaheite apple.

It takes in excess of a year for the fermentation process to be completed, according to Foster-Reid, but if the mixture isn't put under the right conditions, it could turn into vinegar.

And while honey wine is not a new concept — it is regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks — Foster-Reid, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained engineer, stumbled upon it while working in the factory where she has been making confectionary.

"It was an accident," she said. "It took a series of tests, in the laboratory before I perfected the drink."

In addition to "getting some friends a little drunk" and conducting market research, the entrepreneur, who turned to her family's bee-keeping business when she lost her job at one of the closed bauxite companies, spent the past three years tweaking the product.

Last year, her company named EcoFarms started making and selling a confectionary called Honey Stix. Foster-Reid said that the sweets, which have 10 different flavours, have been doing well in the local market.

She currently employs seven workers in her business, and has five suppliers. The fruits she uses to make her products come from local farmers.

The sorrel is from St Elizabeth, the star fruits are sourced in Clarendon, and the apples are from Foster-Reid's farm.

Honey comes directly from her seven acres of bee farms spread across six locations in St Elizabeth and Mandeville. The bees are positioned in different areas to get a variety of favours, which derived from the trees nearby. Foster-Reid's farms produce logwood, bitter, mango, and coffee blossom honeys.

Though no longer in the bauxite industry, Foster-Reid still applies her engineering skills to her business.

She designs the equipment used to make the wine and make them locally.

"I wouldn't have come up with the idea without those skills," she said. It took some time and money. Overall, Foster-Reid said she invested over $10 million.

The wines are bottled at Foster-Reid's factory, and the labels were designed by her. To make her product stand out, when delivered to customers, they are placed in hampers that are made with bamboo.

She plans to have the products sold overseas by 2013.

"We have interest in the Lesser Antilles, Canada, the UK, North America, and Europe," Foster-Reid said.

Already, the wine has created quite a buzz overseas. "Those who have tasted it are in love with it," she said.

There's no stopping here. More products could come from the many tests that Foster-Reid is known to make. New flavours are in the making, but "I can't disclose them just yet", she said.

In addition to supplying Carby's Craft Cottage and Fontana Pharmacy, Foster-Reid said customers will soon be able to order her products, directly from the company's website,

"By December, that should be in order," she said.

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