Rice’s Lucky Clover Honey: From door-to-door to national distribution
When L.R. Rice began his honey business in 1924, he filled the role of beekeeper and honey extractor, honey packager and honey seller. That last job was done the old-fashioned way: door to door.
Today, Rice’s Lucky Clover Honey works with many different beekeepers spread across the United States, and there are no more door-to-door salesmen. Rice’s Honey is now available at thousands of grocery stores all over the country, and the company is focused primarily on the packaging end of the business.
Headquartered in Greeley, Colo., Rice’s Lucky Clover Honey is now in its fifth generation of ownership. Brothers Mike and Scott Rice run the day-to-day operations with sister Julie (Rice) Lordemann and her husband, Michael Lordemann.
Rice’s Honey keeps it local, since Day 1
“I think the number one thing about Rice’s Honey is we are one of the few companies that are 100% USA honey – always,” said Scott Rice. “There’s a lot of imported honey in the United States, but we support the local beekeepers, both small and large, across the country and provide a pure 100% raw unfiltered honey. We think that is what separates us from the others.”
The company’s relationship with its beekeepers has been another important advantage that Rice’s Honey has over competitors, Scott Rice says.
“One thing that is very important is the relationship with the beekeepers. Some of the relationships are 60 or 70 years old, and because of that we kind of have first pick on the quality of honey that’s available,” said Scott Rice.
A time-tested process
When the honey arrives in barrels at Rice’s Honey, a special process is used to ensure that the honey stays as pure as possible.
“When we get a barrel of honey – which is how it’s transferred from the bee yards, in a 55-gallon drum – it’s in its purest form and we do not change that in any way. We’ll run it through a cheesecloth, which basically pulls the wax out and any debris – could be a flower leaf, things like that,” Scott Rice said. “Outside of that, it goes straight to the bottle.
“There are other ways to do it, high heat and high filtration, which becomes a processed honey and there’s really no DNA of that honey, there’s no nutrients, there’s no pollen counts and that also means no traceability. So we’re very proud of the way we get our honey from the barrel to the bottle.”
Added Mike Rice: “That was L.R. Rice, that’s the way he did it in 1924, and nothing has changed. That’s the way we do it today.”
Growing as a family and community
Over the past four years, Rice’s Honey’s staff gas grown to 20 employees.
“Our ability to hire people from the community to help our expanding operation is priority number one,” says Tony Landretti, Chief Commercial Officer.
Connecting with the Greeley community is another priority for Rice’s Honey, which supports a program called Zac’s Foundation that assists families in need with their medical bills.
“We also support a lot of educational programs throughout the city of Greeley, the different schools in the community,” Landretti said. “One example is we’re going to hire an intern this summer from one of the high schools to give her an opportunity to learn more about business and cross-functional opportunities within our company to help her as she finishes her senior year in high school. We also have a connection to the University of Colorado where, in the business school, we support their management program through allowing them to use us as a platform for research.”
Outside of Greeley and through supporting beekeepers, other communities benefit as well.
“It gives them an opportunity to support their local philanthropic initiatives in their community by knowing that they have a stream of income coming from Rice’s Honey year in year out,” Landretti said.
Here to stay in Greeley
As Rice’s Honey continues to grow, there are no plans to ever move the headquarters to a different location.
“I think when you grow up in a community and you establish a business in that community, to up and leave wouldn’t make a lot of sense,” Landretti said. “The other thing is, when you look geographically where we’re positioned in the United States as far as supplying our retail partners, we’re in a pretty decent place.
“The ability of getting honey here when we think of the upper Midwest being the largest producing area of honey. When you think of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, bringing that honey here to Colorado is fairly easy in terms of shipping. We’re well webbed with this community and don’t foresee us leaving the community any time soon. We’re very proud of the fact that we’re a homegrown business.”
A partnership for growth
Over the years, First National Bank has partnered with Rice’s Lucky Clover Honey to help grow the company as it has expanded its business.
“First National Bank, and Jeremy Ehardt in particular, have been absolutely great to work with,” Mike Rice said. “They have gone the extra mile in every aspect to make sure we have the financial tools we need to succeed.”