Minimum label requirements
|6 oz||170 g|
|12 oz||340 g|
|1 lb||450 g|
|2 lb||900 g|
|5 lb||2250 g|
Under US law, your honey must be labeled if you plan to sell it. If you are a small business (less than 100,000 units and less than 100 employees), the rules are fairly simple, especially as they apply to pure honey.
- The label must show the common name for the product on the front of the package - in this case, "Honey".
- The label must show the net weight in both pounds/ounces and in metric. (See the conversion table at right for some common sizes.) Net weight must show in the bottom third of the front label. Metric is generally shown in parentheses.
- The label must show contact information - who you are and how to reach you. For a small beekeeper, that generally means your name plus address, phone number or email address.
- If you include anything other than pure honey - if you infuse it, flavor it or modify it in any way, the label must include a full list of ingredients. The ingredients list can be on the back. Note that there are special rules for "spices, flavorings and incidental additives".
- And, of course, everything must be legible. Don't let your font size get so small that it can't be easily read.
- Note: One quart is approximately 3 lbs. That approximation, however, is not close enough to use for labeling. If you bottle in pints or quarts, you must make your own weight measurements and label accordingly. US labeling law does not allow honey to be sold by volume anymore.
- Raw honey - The MCBA definition for raw honey is "pure honey settled or coarse filtered only and never heated beyond the ambient temperature (95F)." If your extraction and bottling process meets this description, you can label it as raw. Raw honey general commands a premium price.
- Varietal labeling - If you are sure that the majority of this crop of honey came from one floral source (such as sourwood, buckwheat, clover, etc.), you can label it as such. Varietals often command a premium price so collecting and labeling separately is strongly recommended. If you don't know the varietal or if your bees collected from a mix of flowers, it is generally labeled as "wildflower" honey.
- Locality - Local honey sells for a premium. Clearly labeling where you and your bees are from helps customers find you.
- Crystallization - All honey will eventually crystallize. Many consumers wrongly believe that this means their honey has "gone bad". A short recommendation for safe uncrystallization can be helpful to consumers if it fits on your label.
- Botulism warning - All high-sugar products create an increased botulism risk for infants because their digestive systems are not yet developed enough to generate the high acid levels needed to kill the botulism spores all around us. Honey should not be given to children under 1 year of age. The warning, however, is not required on the label.
- Nutritional labeling - Required for large producers, optional for small producers. Generally put on the back or side. The National Honey Board has developed several streamlined nutritional labels for honey that are a bit smaller than the typical label you see on the side of the cereal box.
- Healthy labeling - If you use certain descriptors such as "healthy", "packed with energy" or "low in fat" on your label, you must include a nutritional label even though you would otherwise be exempt.
- Organic - Only USDA-accredited entities can label their product as "organic". See http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop for more on how to become certified.
- Natural, All Natural, Pure - Other than implying that your honey only has the single ingredient honey, these descriptions have no legal meaning. Add them or not as you see fit.
- USDA Grading Standards - not required for small beekeepers
- Allergens - Since honey does not contain any of the eight major food allergens (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soybeans), no special labeling is required.
- Universal Product Code - UPCs (or barcodes) are required by many large retailers. There is, however, no requirement for a UPC if you are selling yourself or through smaller shops. Talk to your retailer for details.
Supplemental labeling for the Medina County Fair
At the Fair, we do a lot of education about the many flavors of honey. We run honey sampling much like wine-tasting. In order to help the customers match their favorite sample to your honey for sale, MCBA will provide a packet of small colored dots or stars. Put one on the top of each jar and on the sampler where it will be easily visible to both the customer and to the volunteers working the booth.
Other factors to consider
Color is good. Pictures of bees, flowers, hives or other things with a natural association with honey can help sales.
Good honey is it's own best advertising. Clear jars let the clean, golden color shine through. Try not to put so many labels on the jar that the customer can't see the honey.
Recipes help customers get new ideas how to use your honey. If the recipe does not fit on the label itself, consider including a card either tied to the product or tucked into the bag when you sell it.
Be personal. Most customers want a connection with their local beekeeper. Tell them something about yourself and your operation.
Glass vs. Plastic - This is almost a religious war. Glass is clearer and generally shows off the honey better. And it's easier to uncrystallize honey in glass. Plastic, however, is less likely to shatter when my kid knocks the jar off the counter. Plastic squeeze bottles (whether top or bottom lidded) can also be easier to use.