Heavenly Organics works with organic farmers all over India. Company founders Amit Hooda (center) and Rick Jones (right) make sure their growers are paid a fair wage for their products.
I pondered the value of healthy food as I drizzled amber Wild Forest Honey onto half a grapefruit and gazed out the window at the rolling mountains of North Carolina. While on vacation, I had happily devoted myself to experimenting in the kitchen—especially with three flavors of Heavenly Organics honey. I poured it over sliced pears, spread it on toast, added it to salad dressing, spooned it into tea, mixed it with yogurt, and even added it to my homemade tahini sauce.
Sweeteners That are Good for You
Enthusiastically selling their sugar, honey, and sweetened condensed milk to health food stores, Heavenly Organics clearly does not hold the common belief that sugar is bad for you. On the contrary, they claim the opposite.
“Everyone loves sugar, be it an elephant or a little worm—every organism depends on it to live,” says Heavenly Organics president Amit Hooda. “People are always running away from sugar nowadays because the current methods of processing make it unhealthy.”
The sugar sold by Heavenly Organics is the only 100 percent organic sugar on the market. The farmers use herbs instead of chemicals to process the sugar, and the sun to dry it. This whole process creates a sugar that dissolves slowly in your physiology and doesn’t spike your blood sugar. Indian Ayurvedic medicine considers this type of sugar to be beneficial in treating throat and lung infections, and it is widely used in many other Ayurvedic remedies.
Sweetened condensed milk is another product that Heavenly Organics has redefined. In the Indian tradition, cows are considered sacred, so these dairy cows are free of confinement. They wander at will during the day and come home every evening of their own accord to get milked. The resulting sweetened condensed milk, made with organic raw milk and organic cane sugar, is great for baking and tastes amazing added to coffee or tea.
Care of the Honeybees
I found it especially fascinating to learn about the properties of Heavenly Organics honey. The standards for honey are not very well overseen, leading to bold claims from companies about the quality of their products. In reality, no honey from the U.S. is USDA Certified Organic. Bees can travel up to seven miles from their hive and regularly venture two to three, increasing the likelihood that bees feed on crops that are genetically engineered or treated with pesticides.
Heavenly Organics raw honey is harvested from forest regions in India that have never been touched by chemical sprays. It is USDA Certified Organic, harvested in a sustainable fashion, and bought from farmers at a higher than market price. Rural farmers used to cut down entire hives, smoking the bees out and squeezing the whole comb containing eggs, larva, and pollen. Heavenly Organics farmers practice refined methods that involve taking only the portion of the hive that holds ripe, pure honey. This way, no harm comes to the hive, and within a couple of weeks the honeycomb is ready to be harvested again.
“At Heavenly Organics,” Amit says, “we have respect for honeybees as our planet’s prime pollinators, responsible for the biodiversity of any farm or garden.”
Forests in India are known for their wild medicinal herbs, affording health benefits to each of the Heavenly Organics honey varieties. For example, Wild Forest Honey is harvested when the neem plant is in season. Known as the jack-of-all-trades herb, neem is used to treat a broad range of internal and physiological illnesses.
A Father’s Influence
Amit Hooda grew up in Northern India, where his father is a well-respected organic agronomist. They kept a sprawling garden of fresh sustainable herbs and vegetables, and a dairy cow who roamed the land. “I grew up learning that healthy food is the best medicine,” says Amit.
Amit moved from India to the U.S. in 2000 to get his Master’s degree in computer programming at MUMin Fairfield. He had a job lined up straight out of school. But during a business course in which students designed their own business plans, Amit had an idea.
During his childhood in Northern India, Amit witnessed the dedication of his father, Dr. I. S. Hooda, to helping hundreds of farmers in India and parts of Asia preserve their traditional and sustainable methods—and get paid for it. “Only large agribusiness is subsidized by the government in India,” Amit explains. “Small farmers using traditional methods are very unfortunate. They are the members of society left behind—left to starve.”
Dr. Hooda has been trying to change that by helping small family farmers find markets for their products and ensure a reliable income. He has also worked with the Indian government to subsidize farmers using traditional methods. One success occurred when he connected five-star hotels with local organic farmers, who supplied the hotels’ restaurants with fresh produce.
Drawing on his father’s experience, Amit decided to put his job offer aside and begin his own organic food company, together with Jay Christopher and Rick Jones. They narrowed the product line down to sweeteners, such as honey and sugar, which could be easily imported from India.
My enjoyment of Heavenly Organics products took on a new meaning when I realized that the company rewards India’s farmers and ensures that they will continue to protect the biodiversity of India’s forests. Amit saw the value of creating symbiotic relationships where supplier and consumer both experience benefits. “I realized that starting this business would be a good cause for me,” Amit said, adding, “I want to make a contribution to society.”
Now five years old, Heavenly Organics is available in over 300 locations nationwide, including Whole Foods. In Southeast Iowa, the products are available at Hy-Vee. In Fairfield, find them at Everybody’s, Golden Dome Market, and At Home Store; in Iowa City, New Pioneer Coop.
Heavenly Organics is looking for experienced salespeople. Please contact Amit Hooda for more information.