Debbie Carosella’s dual mission, managing fast growth and protecting the bees that drive it, is purely Colorado
Talk about sweet victories.
Madhava Natural Sweeteners was founded in 1973 by a simple arrangement with beekeepers and founder, Bart Utley, who sold honey out of the back of his van in Boulder. Today, Madhava is a successful, natural sweetener company with products available in every major food retailer. The company has doubled in size in the last four years and operates from a 42,000 square foot warehouse in Longmont.
“We are a company that is rooted in honey and that is how we got started,” says Debbie Carosella, CEO of Madhava. “We have taken our love of all things sweet into a number of categories.”
The Madhava story begins in a 100-year-old farmhouse on a small farm in the foothills of Colorado, just outside of Boulder. Madhava is a Sanskrit word meaning "born of honey;" it is derived from the Sanskrit word madhu, which means "sweet". Indeed, it was born of honey…
Madhava Natural Sweeteners has been providing pure, natural sweeteners that offer healthier alternatives to highly processed sugars and artificial sweeteners. Madhava's natural and sustainable products include pure honey, organic agave nectar, and new organic coconut sugar. Additional product offerings include baking mixes, coffee syrup and pancake syrup.
“What makes us different is that we work to be at the rawest and least processed form,” says Carosella. “We are working with the same beekeepers we have been working with for over 40 years.”
Carosella refers to the Longmont/Boulder area as the epicenter of the natural and organic industry, and claims that is key to their progress. “It is a tremendous asset for us. Everybody helps everybody here. We all have the highest intentions to help everyone.”
“We really are here to do the right thing and help people make the right choices,” says Carosella. “We are organic, non GMO, pure and use raw materials and fair trade. It may cost more but we make choices about high quality and standards.”
Madhava is sourcing its honey from many of the same beekeeper families that it has been sourcing from since the company started. But due to their growth and the issues impacting the bee industry, they now source from a broader set of beekeepers. “The issues facing the bee industry aren’t just about honey as bee pollination impacts many of our country’s agricultural products,” says Carosella. “We donate 10 cents of every Madhava honey purchase to research programs that are working to save the bees. We call it our SweetEarthProject and we donate to a number of different organizations that are doing the critical work around saving the bees.”
Carosella knows pitching sweets is not necessarily about promoting the main food groups. “We are about sugar and we’re not going to apologize for that,” says Carosella. “We know you want sweet. We all want sweet. But there are better products to offer, so if you’re going to have sugar, do it in a more organic way. When I do sugar, I do it more responsibly now.”
Challenges: “We are a growing company, and it is all about the challenge of managing your growth,” says Carosella. “Fortunately, that is our biggest challenge. We have had such success in new products.”
Opportunities: “We have our greatest opportunities in creating new categories,” Carosella says of the evolution of Madhava. “Taking our heritage and our roots in natural sweeteners and taking them into other categories to provide better choices is what we are doing. Look at our maple/agave syrup. It is priced between Aunt Jemima and 100% maple so it is affordable to more people.”
Needs: “We want to keep hiring committed and passionate people,” says Carosella. “As we keep growing, so do the number of people who work here. This company inspires me and so do the people who work here.”