Category Archives: Labels and jars

Tamper tantrums

DIY tamper label

DIY tamper label

I’ve discussed labelling jars of honey previously. In addition to a legally acceptable label, any honey sold via a third party should probably have a tamper-proof seal. More correctly, these should be called tamper-evident seals as they don’t stop anyone tampering with the jar. These usually take the form of an adhesive strip that connects the lid to one side of the jar, although there are other styles. Some of the shops I sell through insist on tamper-evident seals, for understandable reasons.

DIY isn’t always best

I’ve made my own tamper-evident seals using my trusty Dymo LabelWriter 450 Duo. This simple thermal printer has two print heads. One prints individual labels and the other prints to tape. You can purchase thin, clear adhesive Dymo tape which makes quite good tamper-evident seals. It can be printed with a website address or other information in black ink.

However, I’ve standardised on square jars with black lids and the black text on the clear Dymo label was therefore unreadable in places. In addition, the tape is quite expensive (about £11 for 7 metres), increasing the ‘packaging’ costs of my honey. Finally, the strip that must be removed from the back of the tape was infuriatingly fiddly (hence tamper tantrums), so slowing the labelling process. Perhaps I need glasses?

C. Wynne Jones clear tamper-evident seal

C. Wynne Jones clear tamper-evident seal …

Clearly better

Instead of persevering with a DIY solution I now purchase rolls of 1000 clear tamper-evident labels from C. Wynne Jones for about £27. These are easy to apply as long as you develop a system to keep fingerprints off the underside of the label. They adhere well and are very unobtrusive.

Importantly, any attempt to remove the jar lid stretches the tamper-evident label destructively, making it very obvious that the jar has been, er, tampered with.

Clear(ly) tamper-evident seals

Clear(ly) tamper-evident seals

When the jar is finally opened, the first thing that happens is the tamper-evident seal is destroyed. This isn’t too worrying since they cost less than 3p.

Finally, if you want to support a good cause and use tamper-evident seals consider purchasing them from the charity Bees for Development. These are also available from Thorne’s who developed the scheme. With these, 10p from each jar sold goes to support their work promoting sustainable beekeeping to combat poverty and to build sustainable, resilient livelihoods.”


† At this price the Dymo tape costs quite a bit more than personalised tamper-evident labels from Thorne’s. These are are available in a wide range of colours and styles.

 

Pick a weight, any weight

Little and large

Little and large

I sell the majority of my honey in 8 or 12 oz (227 or 340 g) square glass jars. They are easier to fill than hex jars and look distinctive on the shelf. These, together with 16 oz (454 g) jars, are the ‘conventional’ weights in which honey is usually sold.

Honey tubs

However, the regulations allow the sale of honey in any weight. The polypropylene, airtight “Lock and Lock“-type containers have a silicone seal and are ideal for packaging and selling larger quantities of honey. The 1.4 litre container (above left) takes almost four pounds of honey when filled – perfect for those that like lots of honey on their porridge, or for storing the ‘seed’ for preparing the next batch of soft set honey.

Four pounds of honey is, conveniently, about the upper limit for making a gallon of mead; if you regularly sell honey to mead makers a tub like this is both easier to empty (with less waste) than jars and reusable.

These containers are sometimes available in Poundland. It’s worth shopping around as the increased packaging costs will otherwise have to be taken into account in the sale price.

 

Jar calculator

Assume you’ve got a 14kg bucket of honey ready to jar. You have an order for a dozen 454g (or perhaps 1lb now Brexit means Brexit) jars and a dozen 227g jars. How many additional jars can you prepare – in standard or custom sizes – from the remainder?

This Excel spreadsheet does the calculations for you. It couldn’t be easier to use (well, it could be, but life is too short).

Jars needed calculator

Jars needed calculator …

  1. Insert the total weight of honey (in grams) to the red coloured cell (B2 in Excel-speak)
  2. If you’re only using a single size jar you need to prepare the number indicated in the yellow cells
  3. Insert the numbers of jars needed of each size in the blue coloured cells
  4. The number of additional jars you have sufficient honey to bottle are shown in the grey cells

For example, using the figures from the opening paragraph (12 * 454g and 12 * 227g), you could choose to bottle the remaining honey in 12 * 454g, 17 * 340g, 25 * 227g or 51 * 113g jars. If you decide to also bottle a dozen 340g jars you can update the table in blue and the extra jars are automagically recalculated.

Custom weights

You can sell honey in any weights, not just the standard ones. If you use odd weights to bottle your honey this figure can be added to cell A15. Add the number required to cell B15. The extra jars of this custom weight are returned in cell D15. If you only want to sell your honey in a custom weight just set ‘Jars needed’ for all other weights to zero.

The whole thing is utterly trivial of course, but it might be useful to someone who – like me – has lousy mental arithmetic, uses a range of jar sizes and can’t find a calculator. It’s no use whatsoever if you jar everything in 1 lb rounds … or if you don’t have access to Excel 😉


 All calculations are rounded down. This is why it doesn’t suggest you can prepare 30.84 jars (total honey weight 13,620g) from your starting 14kg bucket.

 

Faded glory

Honey has a long shelf life if prepared and stored properly. By long shelf life I don’t mean weeks or months. I mean years. And lots of them. Ceramic pots of honey have been found in Egyptian pyramids and are apparently still edible, though it’s notable that there’s never any direct quotation on what the flavour is like. Honey has also been discovered in Georgia that date back about 5,500 years, though again there’s no comment on the flavour. At the time of writing (autumn 2016) my honey carries a ‘best before’ date of December 2018 which I reckon is reasonably safe. From January next this will be December 2019.

Faded glory ...

Faded glory …

Whether those ancient honeys tasted good or bad, there can be relatively few foodstuffs that remain even identifiable over hundreds, let along thousands, of years. This longevity is due to a combination of the low water content and high acidity of honey, which makes it an extreme environment for the micro-organisms that usually spoil food. In addition to this, enzymes added during nectar processing by the bees increase the hydrogen peroxide content. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is also anti-microbial, and is one of there reasons that honey can be used for wound dressings. Notwithstanding all of this natural protection, honey deserves being properly looked after to ensure it can be enjoyed at its best.

Long term storage

Spring honey crop

Spring honey crop …

I store extracted honey in food-grade 30lb buckets with airtight lids in a cool environment (an unheated entrance hall with a flagstoned floor). I measure the water content using a refractometer when I extract and write this on the lid of the bucket, generally using the honey with the highest water content first (though this also depends upon demand for particular honey types). The apiary and date of extraction are also recorded.

I bottle in batches, one or two buckets at a time. This is a convenient amount in terms of sales, space in the warming cabinet and minimising problems with frosting. It’s also just about my limit for repetitive manual work and restricts the amount of heavy jarred honey that needs to be stored. Finally, labelling 60 or more jars is also a pretty tedious experience, though I do like the appearance of serried rows of identically labelled jars ready to go off to the shop.

Faded glory

Jarred honey needs to be stored somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight. I use the same cool entrance hallway I use for buckets of honey. The out of direct sunlight instruction is really to avoid subjecting the honey to fluctuating temperatures. Inevitably, one or two jars are kept on the shelf to attract sales or as gifts for visitors.

I recently noticed that the thermal printed labels (Dymo) I use fade quite badly when exposed to sunlight. The ½lb round at the top of this page has been on my office shelf since January, exposed to full sun (or as much full sun as we get in Fife). Next to it is a ¾lb square that has been recently labelled. The fading of the label on the left is very obvious. Therefore, if you use thermal printers to prepare simple DIY labels this is an additional reason to keep your jarred honey in dark, cool conditions … or give it away/sell it faster  😉


These jars are from C. Wynne Jones, as are the clear anti-tamper labels which are a big improvement on the fiddly thin Dymo transparent tape I was previously using.

 

Square is the new hex

I managed to source some rather nice small square jars for honey recently. They have a nominal 200ml capacity which, when filled properly with honey, is 8 oz (227 g). Perhaps I should qualify “filled properly” … these have a slightly longer ‘neck’ than normal jars, so you don’t need to fill them to just under the lid. I bought them with black lids to ensure they looked distinctive on the store shelves next to the more usual ‘gold tops’. They are very easy to fill, with the slope of the jar shoulder being sufficiently steep that relatively few bubbles get trapped. In contrast, I find that small hex jars are a bit of a pain to fill as the shoulder is almost at right angles, more or less guaranteeing that an unsightly bubble or two remains after jarring. Even half pound round jars have a rather sharp angle at the shoulder and have a tendency to trap bubbles. Of course, none of these bubbles affect the flavour, but it’s always a good idea to try to make a top quality product look like a top quality product.

200ml (8oz) square jar

200ml (8oz) square jar

It’s easy to apply labels to these small square jars and I’ve printed these on the smallest thermal printer address labels (89x28mm) for my Dymo LabelWriter. Tamper-detection labels were more difficult, with any of the normal ones looking unsightly … both being too large and contrasting unpleasantly with the black lids. In the end I used 6mm transparent thermal tape onto which I printed a website URL. This sticks very firmly to the lid and glass but is difficult to see unless you look carefully. When the jar is opened the tape stretches and distorts, making any tampering pretty obvious. Unfortunately, this thermal tape is rather difficult to remove from the backing paper, so labelling large numbers of jars can get tedious.

Thermal printed tamper label

Thermal printed tamper label

But as they say “the proof of the pudding” … the jars look good to me but what’s more important is how well they sell.


This was written some time ago. The jars have sold well 🙂


NOTE – in response to the Q from Bridget below and after a bit of searching I discovered that I ordered these from eBay (seller glass_jars_from_jarsdirect). At the time of writing they’re £38 for 100 delivered. One or two of the regular honey jar suppliers also sell a 12oz (~280ml) square jar but the cost is higher still.

Simple honey labels – DIY

Honey hunter ...

Honey hunter …

What sort of honey labels do you use? Of course, if you keep it all for yourself or just give it to friends and family that question could be Do you label your honey? However, if you sell it via a third party or direct there are regulations that govern the labelling of honey for sale to consumers. I’m not going to attempt to decipher these rules or provide guidance on what is legal and what is not – it’s a minefield and involves Packaged Goods Regulations, Weights and Measures Act, Food Labelling Regulations and, last but by no means least, the Honey Regulations. It differs whether you’re selling direct or via a third party and the rules probably differ in England and Scotland. Phew! You are advised to talk to your local Trading Standards people who will advise you.

Commercial label

Commercial label

The beekeeping suppliers offer a wide range of pre-printed and customisable labels. Before moving to Scotland I used colour, high gloss, ‘easy-peel’ removable labels. Although they looked attractive I was never sure they actually contributed significantly to sales. The investment in labels discouraged me from from changing from 1lb ’rounds’ to 12oz hex jars (where the profit margins are higher 😉 … How many farm shops, garden centres and similar places now sell 1lb jars?) and I had no flexibility in making smaller batches for particular honey types. Having now moved and got a few buckets of Scottish honey from the summer I needed to make some new labels. Since the majority of my sales initially are going to be direct and local I wanted a simple label that didn’t obscure too much of the jar, was easy to read, straightforward to customise and – ideally – inexpensive and easy to produce at home. I’ve also always liked the rather stylish designs like the Honey Hunter labels at the top of the page (though these probably aren’t legal for 3rd party sales in the UK) and thought DIY label-printing might be an inexpensive way to try and achieve something similar.

Dymo labelling software

Dymo labelling software …

I’ve got a Dymo LabelWriter 450 Duo. These printers use thermal printing technology so have no toner cartridges or ink. Dymo also provide an application (Mac and PC) for label design and printing (right). It’s relatively intuitive to use but has a few quirks. However, it allows embedding of pictures, barcodes, auto-incrementing numbers and supports the majority of fonts available on your system, though not all font sizes are possible for some reason. Standard format images (PNG, GIF, JPG) can be embedded, resized and rotated. There are useful formatting tools like left/right/top/bottom align, reordering front/back of overlapping objects and the ability to create templates and save label designs. There’s also the ability to create curved text though I’ve not used this. Irritatingly there’s no way to print to the very edge of the label – none of the images or text can be placed closer than about 1.5mm from the label edge and this distance is slightly greater on the left hand side of the label. Nevertheless, the Dymo Label™ software makes designing and printing labels, one at a time or dozens sequentially numbered, a doddle.

Simple honey labels

Simple honey labels …

It was straightforward to design and print labels for 8oz, 12oz and 1lb jars in small numbers, each carrying a different batch number, best before date, honey type etc. The printing is very sharp, smudge-free (even immediately after printing) and water-resistant, though the label probably isn’t. The original Dymo labels can be easily and cleanly removed from jars without leaving a residue. I used these labels in the run-up to Christmas and – although functional and perhaps a little utilitarian – received no adverse comments. Since I have apiaries in several locations I can easily run off customised labels for individual places, without significant investment or breaking the plethora of regulations that govern honey labelling. If you sell honey to guest houses or garden centres (for example) it is easy to prepare personalised labels in small quantities very economically.

Printer and label costs

Although the list price of these printers is a bit steep, the usual online  stockists often offer ~50% reductions. At the time of writing Amazon are selling the LabelWriter 450 printer and 3 assorted label rolls for about £50. Replacement Dymo thermal paper rolls are usually a bit over a tenner for 500+ labels of suitable sizes, but you can purchase compatible generic thermal paper rolls for significantly less. For example, Dymo #99012 (36mm x 89mm) are £12.75 for 2 x 260 whereas well reviewed, compatible, generic equivalents are £7.98 for 5 x 260 … or about 0.6p/printed label. However, don’t bother with the generic ‘clear’ compatible labels. Firstly, they aren’t anything like clear (!) and they also smear very badly. Remember that thermal printers use different printing technology and don’t use toner like inkjet or laser printers so there are no additional running costs 🙂

But they’re not in colour … ?

Thermal printers only print black on the label background colour, which is almost always white. For just a splash of colour you could use fluorescent marker pens, for example to highlight the banding on a ‘cartoon’ of a bee. For more extensive colour it’s relatively easy to produce labels on a suitable laser printer … the subject of a future post. For comparison, suitable Avery labels cost 3-4p per label (excluding the outlay on hardware and toner) but you need to print a minimum of a dozen (one sheet) at a time.

250 jars

12ox hex jar

12ox hex jar

I usually sell honey in 1lb ’rounds’, the classic honey jar with a gold screw lid. These jars are easy to fill, with no nooks and crannies for bubbles to get stuck. However, many beekeepers are now selling in 12oz hex jars. These look a little fancier and are usually sold at a premium price. They’re also a bit harder to fill neatly as bubbles can easily get trapped at the shoulder. Since I have several hundred 1lb rounds and a similar number of printed labels it’ll be a year or so before I have to make a decision to stick with the rounds, or switch to the smaller jar.

Soft set and clear honey

Soft set and clear honey

My small-scale bottling typically involves preparing a 30lb bucket of honey in my warming cabinet, bottling about 28lb (using my bucket tipper) for sale with the bubbly dregs going into unlabelled jars for home consumption, cooking, marmalade or making mead. I rarely get orders for more than 25lb of honey at a time (but will happily accept them). However, I recently received an order for 250 4oz hex jars of local honey to go into “goody bags” for guests celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the University of Warwick as I have bees in the university apiary and on the surrounding farmland.

As I discovered … 4oz hex jars, if filled to above the shoulder, actually take about 5oz of honey. I additionally discovered that the irritating, bubble-trapping, shoulders on 12oz hex jars are just as irritating but a lot smaller on 4oz hex’s. Bottling this lot took quite a long time …

250 4oz hex jars

250 4oz hex jars …

However, the finished products, with tie-on labels designed by the university, looked great …

 

4 oz hex jars aren’t

I discovered yesterday that 4 oz hex jars take considerably more than 4 oz of honey if they are to be filled properly. I’ve had an order for 250 and this is the first time I’ve used jars this small. By my calculations 4 oz of honey is 113.5 g. The closest I could get was about 115 g on my scales, which left the honey surface a few millimetres short of the shoulder of the jar. Very unsightly. If you follow the advice for filling standard 1 lb rounds, ensuring there isn’t a gap below the lid and the surface of the honey, then you actually need to add about 140 g of honey to fill these small jars.

4 oz hex jar

4 oz hex jar …

These jars were supplied by Compak who indicate they have a volume of 116 ml. Perhaps my honey is particularly dense? The jars are attractive and make nice gifts. Just make sure you prepare sufficient honey to fill them properly. My initial calculations of needing 62.5 lb of honey (i.e. two slightly overfilled 30 lb buckets) for the 250 jar order is out by about 15 lb.

Honey bucket tipper

Honey bucket tipper

Honey bucket tipper …

If you bottle honey from large buckets or tanks you usually have to tip the container to avoid the slightly scummy surface layer which can spoil the appearance of several jars if you’re not careful. As the level drops you need to tip the bucket at an increasingly acute angle. Of course, you also need to tip the bucket to get the dregs out as well. This can all get a little precarious. There are a number of solutions available commercially. Thorne’s sell a honey tipper which has a strong spring which is depressed by the weight of the full bucket. As the level drops the spring extends, so tipping the bucket forewords. Although clever, it’s not an inexpensive solution. An alternative is the FillyBoy which offers a simple manual solution but doesn’t appear to have a UK distributer. The underlying principle of both approaches is the same – two pieces of wood, hinged along one side with the ‘upper’ piece fitted with some way of stopping the bucket sliding forward. This is easy to build at home.

The pictures are self-explanatory. I used offcuts of ply and softwood. The bucket ‘stops’ need to be suitably spaced for the bucket size you use. You also need to use a bit of trial and error to space the ‘stops’ on the baseboard to make sure the bucket is tipped at suitable angle. I placed the stop closest to the hinge so that the bucket was tipped at an angle of about 30o. Don’t be tempted to try and tip it much more than this or it might not be stable if your buckets are tall. Although not shown in the pictures I’ve now added a simple handle to the ‘back’ edge of the upper board (see the FillyBoy images for inspiration) that makes moving the wedge, and so increasing the angle, an easy task.

It’s also worth giving the entire thing 2-3 coats of clear varnish to make it ‘wipe clean’ – not that honey ever gets spilled during bottling …

Honey tipper - top view

Honey tipper – top view

Honey tipper - opened up

Honey tipper – opened up

Honey tipper - side view

Honey tipper – side view

Poundland

£1 only

£1 only … unsurprisingly

Good value 1.4 litre airtight sealable storage tubs are sold by Poundland that take just over 4lb of honey. I think these will be ideal for storing batches of soft set honey in preparation for seeding the next bucket. This saves either leaving it in the bucket or bottling it. You usually need 3-4lb of creamed honey of the desired consistency to act as the seed for a full bucket, so the volume of these tubs is about right. They might also be suitable for bulk sales.

It’ll be no surprise to know that these tubs cost £1 …