Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Honeybee Trend Report

Hold onto your hive covers, the honeybee and her products are going to rule the mainstream consumer…
Finally here it is….the honeybee trend report 2008!

A visit to the NY International gift fair and the Extracts cosmetic trade show in New York introduced me to quite a few companies from exotic places like Japan, Africa, India, China and Italy manufacturing and marketing honeybee related products here in the US. Hold on to your hive cover, the honeybee is here to stay and her wonderful image and products from the hive are going to rule the mainstream consumer! It became clear to me when working in Asia and Europe that the honeybee had a rich history in the visual arts and have always had a special place in the natural cosmetics and skin care industries. Honeybees adorned the interior murals within the walls of the Vatican and Napoleon adopted the honeybee as his icon for all his Empire style design and architecture. The Chinese are known for their Tiger balms made with beeswax and their honey loquat cough syrups. Now, far-away manufacturers are realizing the enormous appeal that the honeybee holds and the US consumers quest for fancy wares, health and beauty products. I found novel and intriguing merchandise out there in trade show land featuring products from the beehive and many companies have actually branded or displayed the honeybee icon on their labels and even a photo of an old fashioned bee skep. As I browsed over the many different bee themed goodies, I did mention to a few of the sales people that I was actually a beekeeper. A few didn’t know what that meant and others were absolutely intrigued. I came to the conclusion that none of these manufacturers are actually keeping bees and I think it would be a great sales approach if the consumers were educated on the benefits of the honeybee, what exactly are products from the hive and how each ingredient is beneficial to humans. Lets go to the showroom floor for a peek……

One of the most interesting new products that caught my attention was from a company in Japan called ProHerb. Although all of their labels are completely written with Japanese characters, there were charming illustrations with honeybees on a honeycomb and whimsical drawings of herbs in what we on the eastern side of the world may consider lovely, but chaotic design sensibilities. Honeybees were displayed on large posters throughout the booth. As a designer myself, I must confess that I tend to chose products by the attractive packaging and design but in the end, I truly judge it by the actual quality of the product….honest! The main ingredient featured in ProHerb’s product line was miraculous propolis, appearing in all sorts of skin lotions and potions that can give just about anyone that natural honeybee glow!

My next visit was to the African Dawn Trading Co‘s booth where I was treated to handsome samples of Redbush and honey soap. Redbush is an herb found in South Africa and has gained popularity as an herbal drink, now it has been combined with honey and essential oils to create a tantalizing combination of natural soap to help us ….yes, relax. African Dawn did not feature any indication of honey or the honeybee on any of their labels; one would have to read the ingredients to know there was honey in their sweet smelling soap. Nevertheless, I was assured that honey from Southern Africa was inside each bar of each of these handmade goodies.

The Italians have been making honey, pollen and beeswax skincare for ages and a distributor named European soaps is bringing all the loveliness of Italy and the honeybee right here to our doorstep. The many skin care collections they distribute contain honey, beeswax and propolis. One line called Midani Erbe had a honeybee pattern across all their containers and although the labels are written in Italian one would know by the well-designed honeybee logo and the word propoli that these creams were made with illustrious honeybee propolis. Their hand-milled soaps are made with real beeswax and feature scents like lettuce, chamomile and carrot with a bee skep patterned wrapper. Another product, Honey dust by Kama Sutra looked like an after shower powder packed in a typical powder dispenser. This product is well scented with honey for your powdering pleasure but there was no indication of a honeybee on this label.

Out of India I spotted a manufacturer of cosmetics that included honey, beeswax and unusual essential oils. One product was called Protectors; it was to be used externally as a sun block to shield the skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Beeswax has been touted as a natural sunscreen with a SPF factor of 15. This company used honey in almost every one of their hand creams and lotions. Here, honeybee labels did not draw me to this product but the genuine use of honey, beeswax combined with essential oils is the type of quality I would look for in a product.

Honeybee drinking cups, anyone? I admit my own weakness for an attractive honeybee pattern gracing an exquisite line of porcelain mini trays, cups and boxes. Manufactured in China by a company named HomArt, these well-designed gahtcha-dels, as my Italian family would refer to needless knick-knacks, stopped me in my tracks. Ravished in sophisticated color and a textile style pattern, these items would impress any beekeeper with a serious decorating flare. This was another well-designed product using the honeybee icon and gets my design approval.

The bee all and end all were the fantastic beeswax candles manufactured by Honeycomb lights in SC. These hand rolled gems were configured into amazing little beehive skeps. Each candle was presented like a fragrant treasure upon a tray made of glass, carefully wrapped and bejeweled with those mini plastic honeybee tacks beekeepers constantly search for. They appeared good enough to eat. A wide variety of sizes and shapes were available for that special beekeeper in our life. This booth also sold umbrellas and embroidered pillows adorned with a honeybee icon. I could not help to notice the bee skeps hanging from the display walls and the hive theme displayed throughout the booth. The pleasant aroma of the beeswax candles brought me right to my own bee yard. This booth was hard to walk away from but it was time to move on and explore the rest of the show.

Honeybee hand towels, garden pots, beeswax night creams and much more seemed to bee all the buzz for this seasons newly featured product trends. How can the average consumer possibly resist just one more beeswax mud mask or queen bee shower curtain, let alone a beekeeper? Only to add to the entire buzz about bees I couldn’t help but notice sprinkled among the showroom landscape, copies of the recent book “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd. This popular book about how a runaway and her guardian end up on a bee farm ran by 3 sisters, contributed to the celebrated honeybee theme. The truth is honeybee design and products are catching on and we can bee sure to see more people buying everyday products with honeybee magnetism on them. I predict that the interest in actually keeping bees in the next few years is also going to become just as fashionable…..just you wait and see.

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