An Attitude of Gratitude
Sioux Honey family member looks back on a rewarding career
That’s how Bruce Nyhammer describes his long career at the Sioux Honey Co-op.
“Sioux Honey is a people business. That’s why I’ve spent so much of my career here,” says Bruce, who is retiring this year as Western Marketing Director after being a member of the Sioux Honey team for the past 19 years.
“Looking back, I actually have never worked for a so-called corporation, a large corporation, or a public corporation,” Bruce continues. “I’ve worked for either a privately held business or a co-op, and Sioux Honey is a co-op. It’s a little different, I think, and I’ve always enjoyed working with people more in an entrepreneurial type of a situation. And with Sioux Honey, you wear a lot of hats, and you work with a lot of people. You’re helping people do things in a lot of different ways, and it can be really exciting doing that. I’ve enjoyed that.”
Working for a co-op is especially gratifying, Bruce says.
“The people you’re working for are the people that own the company. At Sioux Honey, there’s over 200+ beekeepers, and that’s really who you’re working for.”
“And, of course, the association is the marketing side, and working together with other associates has been very rewarding. I think that we’re all working together toward the same goal. The beekeepers are obviously so important to our company. They are our company; they’re supplying our honey. And we’re selling the best honey there is … there isn’t any better honey that’s found in the U.S.”
Helping others is a theme that flows through everything he and the Sioux City, Iowa-based co-op does, Bruce says. It’s a trait he learned from his father and his uncle as a child.
Bruce’s parents owned a general store and, before school, beginning when he was 8, Bruce would help get the store ready for the day. It began with sweeping the floors, and the responsibilities grew from there.
“I really learned a lot from my dad. He was my first mentor,” Bruce says. “He taught me a lot about the grocery industry and about things in general. And through the years, I’ve had different mentors. My uncle was a significant mentor, too. My Mother also had a big influence on my life and has always been my biggest supporter.”
At Sioux Honey, Bruce says he benefitted from several longtime employees who helped him learn the honey business.
“The first person I worked for was Jim Powell (a former vice president of sales and marketing at Sioux Honey). And he helped me along,” says Bruce. “As well as Dave Allibone (past president), and Mark Mammen (president emeritus). And then, more recently, Alex Blumenthal (current president and CEO) was also influential.”
“The other person who has had a big impact on my career at Sioux Honey is my wife, Diana. She has totally supported me on everything I do at Sioux Honey, whether it is early-morning calls, the travel I have done almost every week (before COVID), or weekend business.”
Bruce says he always tried to go that extra mile when working with grocery store associates and food brokers. The extra effort, he said, has ultimately benefited Sioux Honey.
“All the food brokers I have worked with over the years have been a big part of the success I have had, as well as the success of selling Sioux Honey products.”
“And even customers – helping them helps us,” Bruce continued. “I like helping others do well, and so does everyone at Sioux Honey. I always feel if they’re doing well, we’re doing well.
“If I can help our brokers sell our product, then they’re going to do better, and Sioux Honey is going to do better. And even our customers. If I could tell them about the honey industry and how important Sioux Honey is to the industry, that always helped gain more distribution for Sioux Honey.
“So I really like to work with other people, and that’s always been the best way. One person can’t do it all, but helping others expand on what they’re doing has always helped Sioux Honey.”
Evolution of Sioux Honey
A lot has changed in the honey business since Bruce began working at the co-op. Honey was bottled in glass containers when he started, rather than the industry standard plastic that the majority of honey is packaged in now.
“When honey was sold in the glass jar, we used to put lights behind the product in stores and the lights would shine through the glass jar, and the honey would just sparkle,” Bruce recalled.
Another change? Fewer honey companies were competing for shelf space.
“It’s evolved to today where over 800 different companies show up in the grocery stores throughout the country,” Bruce says.
In addition to more competition, there are more varieties of honey available today, and Sioux Honey has been at the forefront of creating new honey products. In recent years, the beekeeper-owned co-op has developed new flavors, such as SUE BEE® INFUSIONS™ Strawberry, Lemon and Vanilla honeys, as well as SUE BEE® Hot Honey, which Bruce helped develop.
“I was involved with that from the start, and it was truly something that we developed from the ground up, so to speak. Or maybe from the hive up,” says Bruce. “We had to test it, and test it and test it – we wanted it to be as pure and as good a product as possible.
“We didn’t want to just throw something out there. So it took a lot of time, with other people in the company helping. It was really a team effort in building it.”
Like many Sioux Honey lovers, Bruce names SUE BEE® SPUN® Honey among his favorites. And he enjoys the original SUE BEE® honey in his tea each morning.
“I also put it in yogurt, which I have pretty much every day. Another great thing to add honey to is cereals, like oatmeal, during the winter months.
“We also use honey a lot in cooking. My wife will use it in recipes. There are so many things that you can use.”
Bruce likes to talk to people about the benefits of substituting traditional sugar with honey. He even convinced a guy he knows who works for a sugar company to make the switch.
“He prefers honey for his coffee now. I won’t tell what company it is,” Bruce says with a grin.
“Another big change at Sioux Honey, the industry and Sioux Honey is how we communicate. In the past, I was traveling almost every week. Since March of 2020, Zoom and Teams is now an everyday part of our vocabulary. As an example, I am on a Teams meeting daily with Sioux Honey associates, brokers and customers. We had a new VP of sales at Sioux Honey, Scott Lebow, and I met Scott via Teams, and we did not have the opportunity to meet in person for over six months. We have Teams meetings several times a day and have been able to really get to know one another.”
What’s next for Bruce?
Can you guess what Bruce will miss most? If you said, “the people,” you are 100% correct.
“I am definitely going to miss working with all the great people at Sioux Honey. A lot of people there are not just my associates, but friends. And that also goes for the brokers and customers that I work with too,” Bruce says.
“Over the year, you develop both working relationships and friendships, and just talking to them every day … that, I’m going to miss.”
As for post-retirement, Bruce has some plans, including a few home improvement projects. He also wants to travel with his wife, play golf and visit friends.
“I think the toughest thing that I will have is not working on something for Sioux Honey every morning before seven o’clock. I’m probably going to miss that the most.”
“I would also like to thank all my family, friends, everyone at Sioux Honey, both current and past associates, as well as the Sioux Honey Board members and co-op members, and all the brokers I have worked with. I want to also thank all the customers I have had the pleasure to call on and all the many other people I have met in the food industry and organizations I have been part of for all their support. It has been my honor to know them.”
All of us at Sioux Honey are going to miss YOU, Bruce. You have been such an important member of our family for so many years. You are much more than an employee. You are our friend, our mentor, our colleague, and, most of all, you are family.
“If anyone wants to call me and talk about honey, I’ll probably be more than happy to do that,” Bruce adds.
We’ll try to let you relax and enjoy some much-deserved time off for a while, Bruce. But keep your phone close by!
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