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They're Sweet on Honey Bunchies

Friday, February 7, 2014
filed under: Utilization/Trade: Confection-Non-oil

Four years ago, Ed Payne had a craving for a honey candy his wife had once made. It had been 35 years since she made the candy, and she claimed she had lost the recipe. She thought that would be the end of it. She expected her husband would get over his craving and move on.

She was wrong. Ed was on a mission to recreate the candy he had loved more than three decades ago. But even he didn't know his sweet tooth would soon have him launching a new business. Jody Kerzman talked with the Longmont, Colo., resident about this business venture.

Explain the idea behind Honey Bunchies.

It was an accident — I really didn't intend to start a business. I just wanted some honey candy! My wife couldn't find her recipe from 35 years ago. I searched online for something similar because I really had a hankering for it. I couldn't find anything like what I remembered. I did find that there is very little honey candy out there, other than hard candy — and that is not what I wanted.

I thought that cooking is not rocket science (little did I know), so I started experimenting with various recipes in my kitchen. One thing led to another, and after about three months of experimenting I had something that I thought was pretty close to what my wife had once made. I shared this news, which I thought was really not that exciting, with a group of high school buddies via email. They live all over the United States, and they all wanted to sample the candy I had made.

I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I perfected the candy a bit more then figured out how to wrap it and then sent them all a sample. They all loved it, and I realized I might be onto something. I wasn't looking to start a business — I had already done that and was enjoying being semi-retired. But I realized I had something unique; and, having been an entrepreneur before, I knew I had to pursue this. I took samples around — I never left home without samples. The reaction was the same everywhere I went: everyone loved Honey Bunchies. They are a soft, yummy honey candy with peanuts and pecans and coated in slightly salted sunflower kernels, making them a sweet and salty treat.

Is there a story behind the name “Honey Bunchies?”

I've been married for more than 40 years, and I have always called my wife Honey Bunchie, Honey or Bunchie. So I guess I named the candy after the love of my life.

Tell me about the history of your company.

We are a young company. We are also a small company; right now we have four employees. We have had as many as five employees, but we have stayed small on purpose — I didn't want the manufacturing to get ahead of the demand. All Honey Bunchies candy bars are handmade in a commercial kitchen in Longmont, Colo. This has morphed into a family business, which is pretty neat. My son is an attorney and was also in the army. He did a tour in Afghanistan and realized he didn’t want to be an attorney. He wanted to help me with this business, so I put him in charge of cooking and everything that goes on in the kitchen. I take care of sales and everything that goes on outside of the kitchen. I enjoy going door to door, getting people to try Honey Bunchies, and convincing more stores to sell them. My daughter has helped with the door-to-door sales, too. And my wife, the woman Honey Bunchies is named after, handles all of our customer service.

Honey Bunchies are rolled in sunflower kernels. Where do the sunflower kernels come from?

All my sunflower kernels come from SunOpta in Minnesota. I’ve tried other companies, but I've found that SunOpta provides the best product time after time. Plus, their customer service is great.

How many pounds of sunflower kernels do you use a year?

We use thousands of pounds of sunflower kernels a year. Granted, we've only got one year under our belt, but we expect to use even more this year. Our demand for sunflower kernels will increase as we increase production and as demand for our candy increases. We are going to experiment with some other recipes and will hopefully come out with some different varieties of Honey Bunchies, all of which will be covered with sunflower kernels. That will be the constant with all of our products, so our demand for sunflower kernels will only increase from here. I love sunflower kernels, so coating the candy with sunflower kernels is likely to continue for other varieties of Honey Bunchies.

What has been consumers’ perception of sunflower kernels?

We have given out thousands of samples of Honey Bunchies this past year, and we have done over 100 in-store demonstrations at Whole Foods stores. (I personally have done 58 of those demonstrations.) One thing we hear every time someone tries our candy is, “Wow!” We've had feedback from thousands of people, and I’d say 90-95% of the time they say it's delicious and they've never tasted anything like it. It kind of reminds them of a Payday candy bar, but [they] say the sunflower kernels taste a lot better than peanuts you find on other candy bars.

What market segments do you supply?

We are primarily in the Denver metro area. It’s been a great place to start out this first year because I can deliver samples myself and educate people about Honey Bunchies. This first year has been a lot of learning: learning about the candy industry, retailers, distributors and more. We will continue our door-to-door methods. There are still hundreds of potential customers and retailers in the Denver area.

We have a pretty diversified list of retailers, and only a couple of them are actual grocery stores. We are at Whole Foods, which is huge, but we are also in lots of “mom and pop” shops, including bookstores, coffee shops, hardware stores and athletic clubs. We are working with a company to get into convenience stores, but that hasn’t been my focus because it’s more difficult. It is easier and more rewarding for me to deal locally and face to face.

What are the trends in the markets that you supply?

Everyone loves candy, and that's never going to change. Many people actually prefer a Honey Bunchies instead of an energy bar, but the bottom line is people will always love candy. The good news for the health-conscious candy lover is, Honey Bunchies candy bars are a more nutritious alternative. Our candy is all natural and gluten-free, while still delicious.

Are you doing any advertising, public relations or social media campaigns to promote Honey Bunchies?

Advertising is a nice luxury to have, [but] we don’t have that luxury yet. We are a small company, and we rely on word of mouth and in-store demonstrations to spread the word about Honey Bunchies. As I said, we have done over 100 in-store demonstrations in the past year, and that has been the best advertising for us.

We did just launch a website. It’s nothing fancy, because our focus has not been on Internet sales. But a few stores at the Denver International Airport carry Honey Bunchies, and we were getting requests from people all over the country who had tried Honey Bunchies while traveling through Denver and wanted to buy more. They can now do that online. My wife is working on contacting everyone who has contacted us about ordering online.

I’d encourage you to keep checking our website. We are going to start experimenting with many different recipes soon. We will narrow that down to two or three new products, and we hope to be offering those new products to consumers in the near future. We’ll make that official on our website —

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