Removing the Sting

A business consultant from Lahav, a Bank Hapoalim branch manager and two apiary owners explain how to cope with the financial crisis – and even emerge from it stronger.

Bank Hapoalim (photo credit: AVIV GOTTLIEB)
Bank Hapoalim
(photo credit: AVIV GOTTLIEB)
The “obligating advantage” enjoyed by honey producers who rely primarily on private sales. How to differentiate your apiary in a way that translates into a higher price bracket. And why its status as a product with a long shelf-life prevented a more significant impact. A business consultant from Lahav, a Bank Hapoalim branch manager and two apiary owners explain how to cope with the financial crisis – and even emerge from it stronger.

Shaul Yarkoni
Israelis Wait Until the Last Minute
“I set up the apiary in 1968, after the Six Day War, and I have been raising bees and working orchards ever since. I’m a farmer. I took the name Beit HaDvash (“The House of Honey”) from a book I read. Today, I have 230 beehives producing six types of honey: citrus, wildflower, mesquite, hyssop flowers from the Judean Hills and eucalyptus in two flavors: spring and fall. I grow, pack and market the honey myself—to shops that I work with as well as private customers who visit our farm shop. COVID-19 has not impacted my business so far and I have not suffered as a consequence. Partly this is because the agricultural sector—in which I am included—is considered a vital sector (meaning it is allowed to keep operating during lockdowns), and also because I am located far from the city, and any time someone needed honey, they were allowed to drive to us, as we sell food products.
“During the lockdowns, the large buyers and stores admittedly didn’t purchase new stocks, but a lot of private customers came to our shop on the farm, which meant that I didn’t experience a nosedive in terms of sales. The advantage of honey is that it can be stored for years without going off. At the same time, I kept looking after the beehives throughout the whole period, relying on friends or occasional workers for support.
“I did not experience a reduction in sales this year for Rosh HaShana, but there was some concern. Israelis being Israelis, they always order today what they need in time for yesterday. Everything is last minute—private customers and stores as one. For small and medium growers such as myself, who rely on selling the produce ourselves, there is a high bar which I see as an advantage—they have no alternative to selling the highest quality of honey. With me, for example, I filter the honey so that it retains the delicious and healthy substances such as pollen and propolis. It is also important for me to note that throughout this period, my accountant has suggested that I apply for grants from the state, and I have refused. I don’t need them.”
The writer is the owner of “Yarkoni Beit HaDvash Apiary”, in Beit Oved. Tel: 053-8541195
The writer is the owner of “Yarkoni Beit HaDvash Apiary”, in Beit Oved. Tel: 053-8541195
Idan Bashan
The Slowdown Is Being Felt on Private Sales
“Our farm is in the moshav of Nir Banim, and it has been operating since 1955. Until 20 years ago, we had a range of different agricultural products—from trees, flowers and crops. 20 years ago, after casting about for a while, our father Yoav decided to focus on beekeeping. Today, depending on the season, we have anywhere between 350 and 450 hives, and we produce five flavors of honey—eucalyptus, wildflower, citrus, avocado and plum. We sell 70% of our produce wholesale in barrels to large apiaries, and the remaining 30% goes in jars to individual customers who visit our farm or put in group orders.
“When the coronavirus began and all through the lockdowns, we carried on working as normal because agriculture was considered a vital sector. We went out onto the land and continued to tend to the hives. During that time there were almost no sales, and our produce sat in the barrels and the jars. Luckily for us, honey has an incredibly long shelf-life, so it didn’t go off. The Egyptians were even known for embalming the dead in honey, owing to its antibacterial properties.
“A significant part of our annual honey sales take place towards the holidays such as Passover and especially Rosh HaShana, which is when we really felt the downturn in the market. Our sales to the large apiaries remained steady, but there has been a drop in sales to private customers among small and medium apiaries—including ours—because it means having to physically reach us. So there was less footfall and fewer orders compared to last Rosh HaShana. People are travelling less and are more hesitant, they think twice before buying things and are generally seeking cheaper solutions and less “boutique” items. I imagine the impact of the High Holiday period will be felt in future turnover, cash flow and the end-of-year balance.”
The writer works at “Meshek Bashan” in Nir Banim. Tel: 052-5702719.

Omer Hermoni
Tell Customers What Makes Your Product Stand Out
Demand in Israel is seasonal. The peak time is around Rosh HaShana and the high holidays generally, with sales of honey in this period accounting for approximately 40% of annual sales. This demand is rooted in the tradition of eating apples dipped in honey, and is unrelated to the taste or quality of one type of honey or another. Consumers during this season treat honey as a basic food product, with three factors affecting their purchasing decisions: availability, size of packaging and cost—with consumers being particularly sensitive to price over the High Holidays, as many of them purchase honey only once a year. Over the rest of the year, there is a great importance attached to differentiating your products, as most consumers are ambivalent regarding its uniqueness. Emphasizing the types of flowers from which the honey is produced, its health properties, unique packaging, unique products (honeycomb, royal jelly), the narrative of the apiary and the like will translate into a higher price bracket.”
The writer is a business consultant

Gabriel Manschauff
Sell Yourselves to New Markets
“Business owners in Israel operate in an uncertain landscape even in regular times, and the COVID-19 period has heightened the need to prepare for the unexpected. When a business has a unique and distinctive product, it will be able to overcome even challenging situations such as the one we find ourselves in now by making the most of flexible and creative management. In the current climate, business owners are being forced to reinvent themselves and to assess how to reduce their costs on the one hand while reaching new audiences and increasing sales on the other. For sales of a product such as honey, it is possible to open or expand digital sales channels and delivery networks. This is also an opportunity to think about how to improve marketing through collaborations. This could mean creating packages that include honey alongside other products. I would invite any businesses that require funding in order to make it through the current period and bridge any cash flow problems that have arisen to get in touch with our business banking division. They will know how to tailor the right solutions for the present moment.”
The writer is the manager of the Ness Ziona branch of Bank Hapoalim

Poalim – with you in every decision
As the economy continues to grapple with the outbreak of COVID-19, Ma’ariv and Bank Hapoalim are running a special feature, sharing and following stories of businesses in different regions and sectors and offering insight and support in coping with the current crisis and uncertainty. Every week, we will share practical tools, as well as offering insight and guidance into opportunities for financial and business development and growth in this challenging environment. The information contained herein is accurate as of the day of publication, and should not be understood as an alternative to professional consulting services that take into account the specific circumstances of the individual and are tailored to meet their needs. Subject to the terms and conditions of the bank, inability to keep up with payments may incur charges on interest in arrears or repossession proceedings.