While the plight of honeybees has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, it is actually wild bees who are facing the biggest threats of extinction, in part because they have to compete with honeybees for their food. This eventually means that the more honey production increases, the more the pressure grows.
That’s why the founders of startup MeliBio have been looking to find a sustainable alternative to honey that tastes like the real thing but doesn’t involve the work of any honeybees in its production.
“There are 20,000 other bee species that are wild and native species,” says Darko Mandich, CEO of the Berkeley, California-based startup. “And those species are jeopardized with current honey production, which completely relies on commercial beekeeping. We decided to look into science to produce honey just like honeybees make it, but removing them from the supply chain so we can help wild bees to thrive.”
The startup uses synthetic biology to reproduce the compounds found in honey, including variations based on the flowers that bees normally visit, which help the final product taste like traditional honey.
In fact, in a blind taste test, tasters found it indistinguishable from normal honey, according to Mandich. So far, 14 companies have shown interest in partnering with MeliBio to use their honey as an ingredient.
As part of its venture, the startup also plans to focus on selling its vegan honey to other businesses — from food companies to those that use honey in body care products — with an initial product coming to market as soon as early as next year.