Enterprising Astrid creates a novel honey product packed with punch

A novel spiced honey that English teacher Astrid Murray in Belfast developed during the coronavirus lockdown is now proving popular with pizza lovers here and in Britain.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 5:00 pm
Astrid Murray founded Murray’s Hot Honey in Belfast with husband Ross
Astrid Murray founded Murray’s Hot Honey in Belfast with husband Ross

A novel spiced honey that English teacher Astrid Murray in Belfast developed during the coronavirus lockdown is now proving popular with pizza lovers here and in Britain.

Murray’s Hot Honey, the new product that Astrid created with husband Ross, a building contractor, during the lockdown is now featuring on the shelves of delis and speciality food stores in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.

Astrid describes their handcrafted golden liquid as “a hot, smooth and richly flavoured blend of traditional honey and chillies”.

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“We use Scotch bonnet chillies for a bit of a punch,” she continues. “Scotch bonnet, or Caribbean red peppers, are a great deal hotter than jalapeno peppers and are sourced from the West Africa and the Caribbean. The peppers are used to flavour many different dishes and cuisines worldwide and are often used in hot sauces and condiments.”

The couple started thinking about creating their own spicy honey for cooking when they were unable to source any from delis and other stores here. “The lockdown gave us time from our day jobs, both of which had been disrupted by the pandemic, to explore opportunities to spend more time at home. I worked on the honey during periods, for instance, when I wasn’t teaching students English over Zoom or by email,” Astrid continues.

They turned to spiced honey because they both loved it especially for adding a bit of extra ‘kick’ on pizzas when they lived in Scotland. Astrid’s parents lived in Armagh for a lengthy period before moving to Scotland, where Astrid grew up near Glasgow, and began her career in teaching English. Career opportunities brought Astrid and husband Ross to Armagh around nine years ago. They subsequently moved to east Belfast.

“We both love our food and grew to miss terribly our spiced honey for pouring on pizzas in particular as well as a natural ingredient in a range of other foods including bakery, with cheese and for pouring ice cream for added spice. It can also be used in many meals,” she adds.

Honey blends had been readily available when the enterprising couple lived in Scotland. “While we could have ordered the honey online for delivery from producers there and in England we saw a gap in the market in Northern Ireland for an artisan business specialising in hot honey blends,” she continues.

Astrid began experimenting with the honey at home between classes and marking homework from her students. “I sourced wildflower honey and began blending it with chillies I’d sliced until we found a taste we both loved…and could produce as easily as possible,” she says.

They were encouraged by positive feedback from family and friends they had invited to taste the honey. “It’s just pure, natural wildflower honey blended with chillies and that’s all that’s in it,” adds Astrid. “The traditional benefits of honey especially in terms of health are not affected.”

While the fiery chillies are readily available, the biggest challenge the start-up entrepreneurs are facing is finding a sufficient supply of consistently high quality honey from beekeepers here. “We’ve contacted a number of beekeepers but haven’t been able to find a supplier of the volume of honey we need. So, we’ve been sourcing from outside Northern Ireland. We’d love, of course, to be able to use Northern Ireland honey in our product,” she adds.

Their production operation has gained hygiene accreditations for food production. The enterprising couple then had to decide on how best to package their honey.

They opted to develop three sizes of recyclable plastic bottles for easy pouring – 250ml, a 30ml ‘taster’ and a one litre catering pack. The honey, which is being sold in growing quantities to local delis and over the company’s website, has also attracted orders from specialist stores in Scotland and England through the couple’s longstanding contacts.

“We are busy marketing the honey when we have time and have already lined up some really good customers,” Astrid continues. “We are especially keen to talk to pizza producers here and in Britain about using our unique honey. We’re still finding our way as a small artisan producer and have a lot to learn about business. It’s a steep learning curve for us that’s been assisted by many delis which have been keen to talk to us and to add the honey to their shelves. We both enjoy seeing it in the stores and are keen to talk to many more specialist retailers. We also know we’ve a challenge ahead in increasing knowledge of the very real taste benefits of hot honey among shoppers here.”

They are continuing to develop the small business alongside their day jobs following the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

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