Redefining honey: a new process for the pretreatment of raw honey that does not affect quality or nutrients
DICYT - The Catalan company has been working for over 8 years to develop breakthrough technology that let’s honey producers offer a higher quality product to consumers.
Today, most of us do not know which steps the honey follows from the beehive to our tables. Have we ever asked ourselves whether the honey we bought at the supermarket has been processed somehow before being bottled for consumption? Unfortunately, in most cases, the answer is yes.
In fact, 90% of the honey consumed in Spain, especially honey sold by major brands, has been heated up to 80ºC before being bottled for distribution and sales. Pasteurization is done primarily to disolve sugar crystals. The treatment keeps honey clear and most importantly, liquid, over the next 10-12 months.
Consumers favor aesthetically appealing liquid honey and tend not to buy jars of crystallized honey in retail grocery stores.
The extreme heat applied to the honey lasts only a few minutes but has devastating effects on quality and diminishes the health benefits, although most of consumers are not aware of this fact.
Natural honey, in its raw state, is a functional food. One of the most revered foods in history, it has been used for thousands of years for its healing properties. Naturally high in anti-inflammatory, antibiotic properties, it helps regulate digestion and can even help to regulate cholesterol.
Those properties come from the vitamins, enzymes and other components present in honey’s natural composition. These substances are extremely sensitive to heat. If heated to a temperature higher than 50ºC, these compounds degrade and thus diminish the beneficial properties of the food.
Sonicat-Systems was founded with the goal of developing a novel process to pre-treat raw honey while ensuring maximum quality and freshness to consumers.
This young company, led by two female entrepreneurs, has designed and created a functional prototype that has been tested over few months at facilities in a major beekeeping association in Valencia.
Testing has demonstrated that processing has almost no effect on enzymatic content and honey maintains its liquid state for months. In light of the business potential and the significant interest raised in the sector, these two engineers applied for R&D funding from the European Commission to design and build industrial machinery that can process up to 300 tons of honey a year.
LIQUAM’s® project was chosen from a pool of thousands of other companies to receive 2 million euros in funding in 2019 and 2020 to optimize and scale up the current prototype. In this incredibly competitive competition, only 5% of applicants come away funded. Additionally, the team plans to validate the equipment’s perfomance in diverse honey packaging facilities of potential customers from different European countries, who are anxious to set up preliminary testing. Sonicat-Systems hopes to hit the market by 2021, with commercialization beginning in Spain and Southern Europe.
LIQUAM®, the name of our industrial equipment, uses ultrasound technology to break down sugar crystals and delay the onset of crystallization for months. These acoustic waves become pressure waves that mechanically blast apart the crystals, but not by thermal means, which is what other technologies on the market use. With LIQUAM®, temperatures never exceed 50ºC, so the honey maintains all of the natural properties found in the raw product.
LIQUAM® is a patented system that promises to completely revolutionize the honey sector once it reaches the market. What’s more, the energy consumption of the reactor is 40% lower than the systems currently available. LIQUAM® promises to revitalize the Spanish honey sector, adding value at the beginning of the chain.
Today, many companies support our project, including Naturval Apicola, Hernando Hurtado, Granabe, Mielso, HoneyMell, Apidava, Apisrom, Apicola Costache, Stayia Farm, Untamed Honey, Miele Evangelisti, among others.
|Processing raw honey without degrading quality|
LIQUID HONEY FOR MONTHS. Multiple tests conducted together with a leading beekeeping association support the results.
THE MARKET. Spain is the second largest honey producer in Europe, with more than 29,000 tons of honey produced per year. In response to consumers’ demand for quality, the Spanish Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food created new labelling regulations for honey that mandate that packaging indicates the country of origin and whether it was processed with heat treatment.