NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Health and wellness start-up Beekeeper’s Naturals, Inc. is seeing increased demand since the COVID-19 outbreak as it finalized a deal with Whole Foods Market to sell its honey-based products at 422 U.S. locations.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer Carly Stein told WCBS 880’s Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that she started to see an uptick in digital sales in March at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We saw online sales up over 600 percent year-over-year,” Stein said.
Beekeeper’s Naturals recently debuted a cough syrup, which sold so quickly that it had to limit purchasing to one bottle per customer until it could build inventory.
“There was just huge demand for natural medicine, immune driven products, particularly our propolis spray,” she said of the number one product on Amazon.
Propolis is a mixture of pollen and beeswax collected by honeybees. It has several healing qualities, including anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial plus it has been prescribed as a natural treatment for the common cold, canker sores and acne. Stein discovered it when she contracted tonsillitis while studying in Italy.
She is allergic to most antibiotics and began researching propolis when she returned to the University of Victoria in Canada in 2013 and became a beekeeper’s apprentice as she fought off sore throats and colds with the wonder bee mixture.
After working as an analyst at Goldman Sachs for two years, she left and pursued her passion by founding Beekeeper’s Naturals as a budding beekeeper herself, curating natural products. The company has an array of non-GMO, gluten free remedies and edible honey products intended to re-invent the medicine cabinet and people’s reliance on manufactured drugs.
“Every single one of our products has one ingredient from the hive whether that’s immune support in propolis or our raw honey,” Stein said, adding, “We work with all kinds of natural herbs and plant-based formulas.”
The surge in online demand, she believes, helped secure the deal with Whole Foods, which she had been negotiating for months.
“I think we’re making a global shift from reactive health purchasing to proactive health purchasing,” Stein said.
U.S. sales of cold and flu medicines accelerated 112 percent in the four-week period ending March 28, according to Nielsen research.
Over the last four years in entrepreneurship, she honed her sales pitch and made connections with other entrepreneurs who had experience working with brokerage companies that represent business owners in the retail application process.
While Beekeeper’s Naturals is in demand, Stein felt it was important to complete a detailed audit at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure her company’s balance sheet and her staff remain healthy.
“I found a lot of ways to create operational efficiencies,” she said of ensuring Beekeeper’s Naturals’ financial stability in step one in her process of nationwide retail expansion and a shift away from a mostly direct-to-consumer model.
In offering advice to close a deal of this magnitude amid the global pandemic, Stein emphasized value proposition, genuine marketing and product development that she found is crucial in inking a substantial deal, rather than a market test, with a major retailer such as Whole Foods.
“Adapt your pitch to modern times and be able to really have a conversation about how you’re supporting who your customer base is during this wild time in the world,” she said.