WAXAHACHIE — Pride is something that each employee at Burleson’s Honey carries with them as they bottle a Waxahachie staple that has turned into a nationally-craved product.
Founded by T.W. Burleson, honey producer opened its doors to customers in 1907. That initiative is now being carried into the future by the fourth and fifth generations of Burlesons.
According to the Burleson’s Honey website, the Waxahachie-based facility is the Southwest’s largest packer of honey and is the only major honey packer in Texas. The raw honey used at the plant is purchased from beekeepers in United States, Canada, Argentina and several other countries around the globe.
“My great grandfather is T.W. Burleson. He got started in beekeeping and left his job as a district attorney here in Ellis County. He started with a few colonies of bees. Not too long after, his son, my grandfather; T.E. Burleson Sr. decided they were going to have to do something with the excess honey,” Burleson’s Honey President Tim Burleson said. “So they began a packing plant, which was down at 1206 W. Main here in Waxahachie. That is where we got our start.”
Tim explained the packing facilities later moved into a multi-story building on Rogers Street in Singleton Plaza, In that building, all of the honey packing operations took place in the basement.
“During that time, my great grandfather and my father ran both the bees and the packing plant. We had a number of employees that helped us with the bees. We packed a lot of our honey at that time. That was back when Ellis County was a cotton capital of the world,” Tim stated. “Of course, with cotton growing and bees here, the particular strains of cotton produced different strains of honey. As the years went on, they decided that it was too much to run the bees and the packing operation. So they began to sell the bees off to a lot of their employees.”
Tim explained that the company continued on Rogers Street for many years before moving to its current facility on Peters Street, which was built in 1968 where Burleson’s continues to grow today.
“We package our own honey. We have own branded items. We have our flagship cooperate blue label and then we have a number of others. We have organic honey. We have orange honey. Then we pack anything from an eight-ounce bottle to a 42,000-gallon tanker,” Tim said. “We pack private labels for a number of different customers. It is all done in this facility here in Waxahachie. We have two packing lines that we use for our retail and food service lines. We have another area that we use for our industrial and bulk items. We have retail bottled honey that we package, which is from eight ounces to the traditional 40 ounces.”
According to the company website, before any product is brought to the Burleson’s Honey facility, it is thoroughly tested to ensure that it has not been adulterated in any way, shape or form. Burleson’s adheres to strict production requirements and abides by all Food and Drug Administration labeling requirements.
Burleson’s has in-house quality assurance tests, as well, and those findings are then validated through third-party laboratories. Raw honey is purchased from worldwide sources and custom blended to exacting standards.
“As the honey comes in we will grade it, we will taste it and test it. Then, as we began to assemble those different colors and flavors and put them into our inventory, we computerize the batches so that they are uninformed each time that we pack them,” Tim said. “If we are packing for our retail and flagship type brand we are looking for clover type items that are nice and light and palatable. That is what we call table grade honey. If we have a customer that has specifications for industrial to bake bread we look for honey that is dark and robust and flavor.”
Tim explained that using honey to make bread helps to retain the moisture of the bread.
Burleson’s currently packages three different private label companies here in Texas. The honey packing operation in Waxahachie is made up of 23 employees that operate the 25,000 square feet facility. Burleson’s distributes honey throughout the south and southwest area of the county and ships as far as California and Florida.
“I think if people are looking for a top-notch product check out our Burleson Blue label items, our clover honey. Two of the other items that are a little bit unknown are our orange blossom honey, which is honey that is produced from bees that visit the orange groves and bring back the nectar. It is still honey. We purchase that honey from either California or Northern Mexico, where the orange groves are,” Tim said. “Another product that is not very well understood is the cream honey, which is finely granulated honey in a tub that is a lot thicker. So it works a lot better when you are making a peanut butter and honey sandwich. It will stay on the bread better.”
Tim smiled as he recalled the times when he has seen a person in the store picking out a Burleson’s product to purchase.
“Occasional I will watch a shopper pick up a jar of honey. If I am somewhere else other than Waxahachie I will walk up to them and say thank for purchasing our product,” Tim recalled. “I’ll then tell them who I am and where I am from.”
Tim feels that his great-grandfather would be amazed by the operation undertaken by the company today, which grew out of an interest he had and enjoyed. Tim also sees the bright future for the business here in the city.
“The plan for the future is that we hope that Waxahachie will continue to be a home for our company and our family,” Tim stated. “We will continue the tradition of bringing consumers the best products that we can put together and put in a bottle.”
For more information about Burleson’s Honey, visit its website at www.burlesons-honey.com.
*Editor's note: This article first appeared in the July edition of the Ellis County Business Journal.