US start-up MeliBio secures $5.7M to disrupt market with bee-free honey

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland

Image courtesy of MeliBio

San-Francisco-based alternative honey company MeliBio has raised $5.7M in a recent Seed funding round, which it will use to develop its fermented product.

Investors contributing to the round include Astanor Ventures, existing investors Big Idea Ventures and 18.ventures, new investors Siddhi Capital, Veg Capital, FoodHack, Collaborative Fund, Midnight Venture Partners, Skyview Capital, and XRC Labs, and angel investors, Vevolution and Glasswall Syndicate.

The company was co-founded in 2020 in Berkley, California, by Darko Mandich, previously an executive in the honey industry, and Aaron Schaller, formerly a scientist and amateur chef.

Christina Ulardic, Partner at Astanor Ventures said: “We are excited about MeliBio’s approach in building a next generation food technology that connects plant science and precision fermentation.

“Darko and Aaron are passionate about taking pressure off the commercial honey bee supply chain and consequently improving pollinator diversity. We are quite impressed by their first product.”

The start-up’s total funding amount has now reached around $7.2M.

Andrew D. Ive, Managing General Partner at Big Idea Ventures said: “We were glad to be the first investors into MeliBio in 2020. We have seen the MeliBio founders deliver on their big idea of sustainable honey, transitioning from concept to full-scale production and underscoring our confidence in this great team. Their success is built on strong IP in precision fermentation and a relentless dedication to growing sustainable honey, while positively impacting pollinator diversity. We are very excited to reinvest and build our partnership in this incredible team as they accelerate the distribution of MeliBio Honey across the United States and globally.”

The product aims to mimic the taste, texture and quality of traditional honey, without being tied to harvesting seasons, and without hurting honey bees or their habitat.

MeliBio’s product was first revealed in October 2021 to experts in the honey industry during a taste test, where it was praised for having an identical flavour to traditional honey. The product went on to be listed as one of TIME’s Best Inventions for that year, and has since been piloted in four restaurants in New York City, and a consumer packaged goods company in Washington DC.

The company predicts they will be able to use the raised funds to grow their client base and scale up production from April 2022 onwards.

Darko Mandich, CEO & co-founder of MeliBio, said: “We know that science can produce delicious and nutritious honey, which is molecularly identical to traditional honey, at no cost to our precious bees. At MeliBio, we are here to introduce certainty in the supply chain and help companies simplify their honey sourcing, while making their honey-based formulations sustainable and delicious. Together with our clients, we can make the future of honey better, for both humans and for bees.”

According to The Vegan Society, when beekeepers collect honey from the hives, they often replace it with a type of sugary syrup substite, which doesn’t containt the same micro-nutrients, and is less healthy for bees to consume. The mass breeding of bees is also said to have resulted in an increasing decrease in the number of native bees. Imports of honey are also known to increase carbon footprint through long-haul transportation from Turkey and China.

The international honey industry is currently valued at around $10bn, but is experiencing multiple problems, including quality issues, price volatility, yield decline and complex supply chains, making an animal-free alternative a welcome innovation.

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