Katie Sanchez's Pioneering Business Venture, Bee Free Honee, Shut Down in 2019

An update on Bee Free Honee: Katie Sanchez's and Melissa Elms's company which garnered praise on 'Shark Tank' shut down in 2019. What happened?

Leila Kozma - Author

May 17 2021, Published 2:22 p.m. ET

Shark Tank brought many companies to fame during its 12-season run on ABC. Bee Free Honee, the brainchild of pastry chef-turned-businesswoman Katie Sanchez, was no exception. 

Bee Free Honee offered a tasty, nutritious, vegan alternative to other sweeteners. So, why did the company shut down? Here's your update. 

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Here's an update on what happened to Bee Free Honee.

Katie and her business partner, Melissa Elms, appeared in Season 7 of Shark Tank, presenting their cutting-edge idea alongside ambitious entrepreneurs like Martin Dell'Arciprete and Kristi Ison. Katie and Melissa went on the show to promote a delectable sweetener that's not only relatively easy to make but also champions an environmentally conscious ethos. So, what went wrong? 

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As Katie explained in an interview with the Minneapolis-based non-profit, Compassionate Action for Animals, she stumbled upon her secret recipe back in 1999 while developing a gelatine-free apple jelly. The experiment turned out to be a fail — but she kept the mixture anyway. It acquired a new texture overnight, making it more reminiscent of honey. 

In 2013, Katie teamed up with Melissa to make the sweetener broadly available. They quickly landed new contracts with online and brick-and-mortar retailers, and for a while, everything was going well. 

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So, why did Bee Free Honee shut down?

Bee Free Honee shut down for good in 2019 — which left many of their loyal fans feeling devastated. The company's rapid rise to success garnered a great deal of media attention, but the circumstances surrounding its sudden disappearance continue to baffle many. Neither Katie nor Melissa shared the reasons behind their decision to close the company. It's unknown why Bee Free Honee is no longer available. 

Source: Instagram
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As Katie told Compassionate Action for Animals, there was a great deal less interest in bee-friendly sweetener alternatives when they started — which likely posed challenges. 

"At the time, when I thought about the vegan pastries we were making for Whole Foods Market, we didn't have a lot of options for sweeteners. I had always wished we could use something like honey that was light and would let lemon or vanilla bean come through, and so I thought this could be a really cool gift for my fellow vegan bakers," Katie told the non-profit. 

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As Katie went on to explain, she had some awareness of the complications honey producers have to face — but she only learned about the sheer scale of the problem later. 

"When I started I didn't realize the depth of the honey controversy," Katie added. "My dad and his retired beekeeping buddies were all excited about it. I thought that this product can only do good. I was not in any way prepared for the level of disruption that was ready to ensue upon me." 

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As Katie emphasized, she strongly hopes that their work helped bring more attention to the negative impact the commercial honey industry has on bee colonies. As she said, she hopes they helped other companies forge success. 

"Today, I think people are a little more ready to hear the message. I'm hoping that we were at least able to break through and pave the way for the next person," she emphasized. 

Katie has continued her work as a businesswoman after Bee Free Honee shut down. According to her LinkedIn profile, Melissa is now a national sales director at Cynara Worldwide Sourcing Inc.

Catch new episodes of Shark Tank Fridays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. 

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