Gourmet candy bar company owner, Ed Payne, has had many careers over the years, from being a former Air Force fighter pilot (F-4 Phantom) and Vietnam veteran (144 combat missions) to stock broker, to founding a textile company and being inducted into NASA’s Space Technology Hall of Fame, to now Honey Bunchies.
He says his love for honey and his wife, inspired him to create Honey Bunchies.
What prompted you to start formulating a candy bar?
I’ve been lucky over my lifetime to do what I wanted to do, and fortunately, my wife has always been very supportive. I was semi-retired, bored, and remembered that my wife made some kind of honey-candy for me about 35-40 years ago. She couldn’t remember how she made it, so I started researching honey candy on the Internet. I didn’t find anything close to what I was looking for, so I just started experimenting from scratch in my kitchen. I figured it couldn’t be rocket science, but little did I know. I wasn’t trying to start a candy business, but one thing led to another, and voila—then came a three-month development story involving about a dozen former high school buddies around the country who were following my progress as a part of our daily Great Debate email conversations. Then the real development started since I couldn’t find anyone who would or could make my candy for me, and I talked to many companies. It was clear that I was going to have to develop all the processes myself, and that took the balance of three years after researching a lot of patents and manufacturing process videos on the Internet.
Let’s talk about honey. Why did you decide to include this as the main ingredient? Was this the plan all along—to call them Honey Bunchies and to do this?
Yes. I’ve always called my wife of 43 years, Honey Bunchie, or Honey or Bunchie, so there seemed to be a natural connection.
Did you experiment with different honey flavor varieties or did you have a plan with just one?
Yes, I’ve experimented with many different recipes and all are very yummy. I’ll launch additional varieties in the future when the time is right, but I believe in the left foot, right foot (and repeat) method of making progress.
Honey Bunchies are handmade. Can you talk about this process and how many you distribute a year?
It took me a total of three years to research, invent, make and have made the materials and equipment I need to make my very sticky honey-candy. It’s not easy, and since there’s no other candy like this in the marketplace, everything else is confidential; however, I don’t expand unless I know I can meet the anticipated demand.
After three years of development, the first sales started in January 2013, so we’re not a year old yet. Like many other entrepreneurs, we go door-to-door offering samples of our candy to prospective retailers, and that allows us to better saturate the Denver metro-area marketplace. We also use one small distributor in the area and are talking to a second small distributor at the moment. We’ll continue our door-to-door efforts to add additional retailers in the Denver area in the next couple of weeks. My daughter’s drawings of our family when she was 4 years old was the inspiration for all the bee images used on the wrapper and display cases. All I did was add wings and antennae to the basic body-shapes.
We noticed that the label says 42% honey. We’ve never seen that on a label before—the exact percentage. Why did you feel it was important to include that?
Because it was and is a lot of honey, and my focus was to use as much honey as possible, which is what I remember my wife had done so long ago. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason why people buy something and then return to buy it again and again, but after more than 100 sample demos at a number of Whole Foods stores in the Denver area and passing out more than 33,000 samples in the last few months, it’s clear to me that taste is the No. 1 thing that people are interested in. Our Honey Bunchies have a new, one-of-a-kind taste that generates a ‘wow!’ approximately 90-95% of the time people taste it for the first time. It’s not only delicious, but it’s all-natural and gluten-free.
So far your distribution spreads throughout Colorado. Do you have plans for expanding?
Yes, we literally just launched our web site last week (HoneyBunchie.com), and it was intentional not to do so until now. Having been an entrepreneur for many years and not being a fan of having to learn the same lessons more than once, I wanted to focus all my early growth-attention solely in the Denver area until I was comfortable that the many variables of starting a candy company were worked out. I’m a big fan of face-to-face business, if at all possible. I am still focused on the Denver metro area since I know there are a lot more retailers who’d like to carry my Honey Bunchies, but just don’t know about us yet. Once ‘all’ (a relative term) the candidate-retailers in the Denver metro-area are contacted, this can serve as a boilerplate approach for expanding into other large metro-areas. We welcome retailer contact from around the country now that we’re ready to offer our candy outside the Denver area.
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