Why Does Honey Come in Bear-Shaped Bottles?

The adorable design helped launch one small honey farm to national success.
The cutest bottle on the shelf.
The cutest bottle on the shelf. / CSA-Printstock/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images (bear honey bottle); Justin Dodd/Mental Floss (question mark)

If you’re at all familiar with Winnie the Pooh, you know there’s nothing bears love more than a sweet helping of honey (they like bees, too). But bears don’t make honey. So why do we often squeeze the sticky substance out of bear-shaped bottles?

The cute condiment container has a somewhat surprising origin story. Its creation came about from a 1957 dinner party between Ralph and Luella Gamber— founders of Dutch Gold Honey—and their friends Woodrow and Rita Miller. While brainstorming ideas for novelty honey containers, the group landed on the idea of a honey bear. As Ralph Gamber put it, “We just figured a bear likes honey, why not a bear of honey?”

This concept launched their small hobby farm to national success, and helped popularize the bear bottle design. The original product certainly had room for improvement—it leaked and could get quite sticky, and details like the nose and eyes were hand-painted—but over time, all those quirks were worked out and the process of manufacturing them became much more streamlined.

It’s worth mentioning that the Gambers’ idea wasn’t entirely original. In 1952, a man named Edward Rachins actually filed a patent for his own bear-shaped bottle, followed by a slew of other animal-shaped containers

The Gambers never filed a patent for their design, which is why you’ll see all sorts of honey sellers use similar bottles for their products. The couple came up with the idea when Winnie the Pooh was really popular—in fact, Pooh creator A.A. Milne died the year before their 1957 dinner party—and didn’t want their viral product to attract any potential legal trouble.

Their iconic honey bear was nameless for decades, but that’s no longer the case. Dutch Gold celebrated the 50th anniversary of their honey-shaped bottle in 2007. As part of the festivities, the company held a naming contest for the famous bear, with Nugget coming out on top. 

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