Bangalore: Changing food habits has transformed the market for honey over the last few years. The industry has grown over five times in this period, challenging honey packers to strengthen their backward linkage to ensure product availability in the market.

So much so that honey packers in Karnataka have been sourcing honey from far off States such as Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand since production in Kodagu and Shimoga districts, the traditional honey producing regions, is insufficient to meet the growing demand. From about 500 tonnes of honey sold in 2005 in Karnataka, the market in 2012-2013 has reached about 3,000 tonnes, regional honey packers’ estimate.

“Honey, which was earlier used in very small quantities for medicinal purposes or in rituals, has now become a part of the monthly grocery list of many homes,” J.D. Shivashankar, Chief Executive Officer of Prakruthi, told The Hindu . “The steep rise is due to the realisation of health benefits by a large number of consumers and also due availability in stores that has increased volume sales,” he added. This increase has put pressure on the packers sourcing for good quality honey.

Packers here source sunflower honey from Bijapur, and Latur in Maharashtra, Dhaniya and Ajwain honey from Madhya Pradesh, Jamun honey from Rajasthan, Mustard and Eucalyptus from Punjab, Mustard honey from Haryana, Karanj and Lichi from Bihar and Jharkhand and also forest honey from Sunderbans in West Bengal, all depending on seasons.

While most of the packers offer multi-floral honey, a combination of honey; a few provide uni-floral honey depending on the season.

“The demand increased substantially since honey was being promoted as a health product. Today, it is not about sourcing honey, but how well it is processed and packaged to maintain quality,” said Chaya Nanjappa of Nectar Fresh, a Karnataka Village and Industries Board backed unit. One of the biggest processers and packagers of honey, Mysore-based Nectar Fresh is an ISO 22,000 certified company that offers both multi-floral and uni-floral honey.

“We collect different kinds of honey from our mobile units, depending on the season in the north and ensure quality product is received,” she said. There is a huge growth in the bulk supplies to hospitality, pharma and Ayurveda industries, she added.