Defiance, Iowa - With roots dating back almost a century, family-owned Smitty Bee Honey has always recognized and honored their rich company history. The southwest Iowa company is celebrating their 25th Anniversary as a honey packer this year.
The business has come a long way since LaVern “Smitty” Schmitz’s father-in-law purchased a simple beekeeper’s starter kit in the 1920s. LaVern’s son, Doug Schmitz, started marketing the company’s products as Smitty Bee Honey in 1989. Soon after, Doug began packaging honey for retail distribution while also producing honey. In 1991, the company purchased a small building on Main Avenue in Defiance, Iowa, and started marketing honey to fruit markets, apple orchards and small grocery stores. In 1994, Smitty Bee Honey was working with a local food manufacturer who was looking to source honey as an ingredient. As demand for honey as an ingredient continued to rise, the focus of the company shifted.
Throughout the 1990s, bees began dying off at alarming rates around the world due to what is now known as colony collapse disorder. The beekeeping industry in Southwest Iowa also suffered due to farming practices and adverse weather changes which caused honey yields to deteriorate further. Each year, sales exceeded production and Smitty Bee focused more attention on packaging honey. By 1995, the company was purchasing a majority of their honey from other producers in the Midwest and sales continued to grow rapidly. In 2004, Doug decided to focus solely on packaging honey and Doug’s son, Tony Schmitz, joined the company as General Manager. Smitty Bee has since developed into one of the nation’s leading bulk honey suppliers with a strong reputation in the ingredient, food service and retail industries.
The company has a long track record of providing quality products and has invested heavily in product innovation, unique packaging, facilities and quality control. Smitty Bee plans to continue elevating their commitment to quality, ethical sourcing and investment in new technologies. Smitty Bee’s dedication to quality honey not only applies to their safe food handling procedures, but also carries through to their facilities. To accommodate growing customer demands, facilities were recently expanded by adding 20,000 sq. ft. The new space houses a retail production room, additional warehouse space, new offices and an employee center.
Smitty Bee is planning an employee and business relations event as part of their 25th Anniversary celebration to highlight the past, present and future of the company. The festivities are tentatively scheduled to take place at their Defiance, Iowa, location in late summer.