Manufacturing in Newtown, mid Wales, with a 55-strong workforce, the business is forecasting a £15 million turnover for 2021. Sales through major retailers such as Holland & Barrett and Tesco, as well as selling online, are served by a buzzing, global supply chain that stretches from the UK to Uruguay and New Zealand.
Taste, competitive pricing and easy use are the factors that have nailed it for 10-year-old Hilltop says owner Davies, who was the first to market in the UK with an organic, fair trade honey and is a strong supporter of beekeeper co-operatives in developing countries.
Aromatic, blossom-infused varieties such as lavender and eucalyptus in squeezy, recyclable packs are particular favourites with customers that include many millennials.
“Honey is not appreciated in the same ways as wine, but that is what it is like in the depth and complexities its flavour profiles and its connection to its local soils and plant life,” says Davies, 32, who a decade ago was having to rethink his working life as a bricklayer after a severe back injury.
A new beekeeping hobby after setting up hives in his parents’ garden helped his recovery. Friends gave his honey the thumbs up and he studied, taking some free, business admin courses.
“I wasn’t academic at school and didn’t think I had a cat in hell’s chance back then,” Davies remembers.
“But I presented my business plan to my bank. The manager warned me I would have to sell an awful lot of honey, and gave me a £5,000 overdraft. I started knocking on doors and persuaded my local veg shop to take a few jars on a sale-or-return basis.”
Swift expansion followed, gathering pace in the last five years, and diverse global sourcing, creating products with a broad flavour palette, has been a central plank of Davies’ business strategy.
Hilltop’s honey ranges are sold to food service and food manufacturing as well as retailers, and produced in premises 10 times the original size. This summer the company plans a further move, reviving a factory space that once housed Laura Ashley.
“I come from a farming family in this area,” says Davies, “creating jobs here and supporting the local community is very important to me.”
This year the company will press ahead with new product development. Syrups flavoured with the likes of maple and agave are coming on stream along with natural beauty products such as beeswax-based balms.