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      Sunday, November 29, 2015

December 2007

Honey Products

The best known primary products of beekeeping are honey and wax, but pollen, propolis, royal jelly, venom and queen bees are also marketable primary bee products. This profile deals with honey, wax and royal jelly, given their popularity.


Honey can be used for a variety of purposes, including:

Honey is most commonly consumed in its unprocessed state - e.g. liquid, crystallized or in the comb.  In these forms it is taken as medicine, eaten as food or incorporated as an ingredient into various food recipes.

Food ingredient
The traditional use of honey in food preparations has been substituted in most cases by sugar and more recently by various sugar syrups derived from starches. These exhibit similar composition and characteristics, but at a much reduced cost.

Honey is largely used on a small scale, but also at an industrialized level in baked products, confectionary, candy, marmalades, jams, spreads, breakfast cereals, beverages, milk products and many preserved products.

"Natural", health and biological products use honey abundantly as a sweetener of first choice, together with non-refined sugars substituting for refined sucrose.  In fact, honey can substitute for all or part of the normal sugar in most products. Limitations are presented on one side by costs and handling characteristics, and on the other by the natural variations in honey characteristics which change the end product, making it more variable and requiring more frequent adjustments in the industrial formulations.

Baked products that contain honey tend to dry out more slowly, have a lesser tendency to crack, and offer an improved aroma.

Confectionary production includes honey. For the production of caramels, honey is only used in small quantities since its hygroscopicity (ability to absorb moisture) presents a major disadvantage.  It reduces the preservation time and softens the caramels at the surface, causing them to stick together.

Breakfast cereals use honey either in its liquid, dried or pulverized form, both for better flavour and increased consumer appeal. It can be mixed with cereal flakes and dried fruits or applied as a component in the sweetening and flavouring film which covers the flakes.  The dryness or hardness of the cereal can be adjusted with the honey content and the degree of drying.

Candy bars often use honey as a binding and sweetening agent. The bar ingredients are chopped to various sizes and mixed with the hot honey and sugar.  Depending on the composition and the degree of heating of the sugars (including the honey), a more or less solid product is obtained after cooling.  In any case, all such products are fairly hygroscopic and need to be packed with material impermeable to moisture.

Ice cream sweetened with honey has never had much commercial success (except in Italy), since it melts more easily and at lower temperatures than those made with sugar.  This difference makes it difficult to distribute ice creams made from different sweeteners together.  In other countries, honey-based ice creams are marketed successfully when is sold in pre-packaged individual portions or larger 0.5 to two litre containers. The addition of more than 7.5 per cent honey softens the ice cream significantly, due to its lower freezing point.

Industrial non-alcoholic beverage industries use honey due to the wider distribution of "functional" drinks, such as health-oriented strengthening and replenishing isotonic drinks. Iced tea can also be flavoured and clarified with the addition of honey.  These beverages use a special ultra filtration process to eliminate impurities, etc.  Such ultra filtered honey loses some of its flavour and colour, but is highly appreciated by food processors because it provides a more consistent product with lower production costs.

Cake mixes, breads, and drink or energy health powders use dried or dehydrated honey.  Other applications are in cosmetics and alcoholic beverages, in which additional water content is not desired or where handling of liquids increases production costs.

Ingredient in medicinal products

In places with considerable temperature fluctuations, honey is a well-known remedy for colds and mouth, throat and bronchial irritations and infections.

Honey is used in moisturizing and nourishing cosmetic creams, but also in pharmaceutical preparations applied directly on open wounds, sores, bed sores, ulcers, varicose ulcers and burns.

Tobacco industry

The tobacco industry uses honey to improve and preserve tobacco's aroma and humidity.


It is important to note that pollen will vary according to the plant species from which it is gathered and no one pollen type can contain all the characteristics ascribed to "pollen" in general.

Uses of pollen include:

For the treatment of various prostate problems, pollen is usually prescribed in its dry pellet form as collected by the bees.  (Note: pollen has not been recognized as a medicinal drug.)

Food supplement
Pollen is often used today as a dietary food supplement or natural health product.  Pollen is very rich in nutrients and vitamins, especially Vitamin B12 and E and is an excellent energy source.  In recent years, increasing numbers of athletes have begun to take bee pollen as a dietary supplement which produces maximum performance with no harmful side effects.  (Source: )

Pollen has been included in some cosmetic preparations with claims of rejuvenating and nourishing effects for the skin.  The effectiveness has not been proven, and there is considerable allergy risk for a large percentage of the population.


Though in many cases beeswax can be replaced with cheaper, synthetic waxes, it has very special characteristics, medicinal benefits, plasticity and aroma which ensure its continued use.  Many of these characteristics cannot be achieved with artificial waxes.  The trend for more natural products in cosmetics may also increase its use.  There are many types of synthetic waxes available today, often with superior characteristics for special applications.  Apart from price and availability, beeswax has preferred characteristics in a wide range of applications.  There are very few products which consist of only beeswax or in which only beeswax can be used, but the value or characteristics of most other products are enhanced or complemented by its inclusion.

Uses of wax include:

Candle making
Beeswax, next to the cheaper tallow, was the major raw material for candles until the development of cheaper petroleum products such as paraffin waxes. Beeswax candles remain straight under higher ambient temperatures, whereas candles made of paraffin tend to melt.

Metal castings and modeling
Because of its plasticity, beeswax is easily formed and carved.  It maintains its shape well, even over very long periods of time, and its relatively low melting point permits easy and complete removal from casting moulds.

Beeswax provides solidity to emulsified solutions, facilitates the formation of stable emulsions, and increases the water holding capacity of ointments and creams.

Food processing
Beeswax is used in a variety of products and processes, from packaging to processing and preservation.  Many of these applications can be accomplished with other cheaper waxes, and most of these processes involve large scale and complicated production procedures.

Textiles and papers
Textiles and paper can be waterproofed with various products containing beeswax.

Varnishes and polishes
In 1998, a patent was registered for varnish made from dammar resin and beeswax to be used for painting and for art restoration.

Other products
There are other products in which beeswax provides some improvement and in which it is a traditional ingredient, including grafting wax, crayons, floor and furniture polish, general purpose varnish, sealing wax, corrosion prevention, protective car polishes and sewing thread especially for sail and shoe making. Again, in many of these products, beeswax can be replaced by cheaper, synthetic waxes.

Cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries
These industries have no complete substitute for beeswax.  At least, small quantities will always be needed to maintain quality and specific characteristics.  In many other applications, beeswax is replaced with synthetic waxes, and compromises in quality are accepted by manufacturers because of the reduced cost and greater availability of synthetic waxes.  Industrial use of beeswax might increase if availability could increase and become more reliable or if prices could drop significantly.

Royal Jelly

Royal jelly is secreted by the hypo pharyngeal gland (sometimes called the brood food gland) of young worker (nurse) bees, to feed young larvae and the adult queen bee. Royal jelly is always fed directly to the queen or the larvae as it is secreted; it is not stored. This is why it has not been a traditional beekeeping product. The only situation in which harvesting becomes feasible is during queen rearing, when the larvae destined to become queen bees are supplied with an over-abundance of royal jelly. The queen larvae cannot consume the food as fast as it is provided and royal jelly accumulates in the queen cells. The exact definition of commercially available royal jelly is therefore related to the method of production: it is the food intended for queen bee larvae.

Royal jelly can be sold in its fresh state, unprocessed except for being frozen or cooled, mixed with other products, or freeze-dried for further use in other preparations.

The fresh production and sale can be handled by enterprises of all sizes since no special technology is required.

In its unprocessed form it can also be included directly in many food and dietary supplements, as well as medicine-like products or cosmetics.  For larger industrial scale use, royal jelly is preferred in its freeze-dried form because of easier handling and storing.

Since the assumed benefits of royal jelly have not been sufficiently proven, statements made in advertisements and on package labels should avoid suggestions which are not well-founded.

A large amount of royal jelly is sold and consumed as it is harvested.

Royal jelly is used in:

Dietary supplements
Royal jelly often falls into the category of dietary supplements because of its assumed stimulant and therapeutic value.  Health benefits include increased energy and immune system protection.  It also alleviates anxiety, asthma, moodiness and sleeplessness.

Ingredient in food products
A mixture of royal jelly in honey (one to three per cent royal jelly) is probably the most common way in which royal jelly is used as a food ingredient.  In some European countries, it is also used in yogurt. Vitamin supplements and fruit juices are enriched with freeze-dried royal jelly.  Royal jelly is widely used in beverages in Asia.

Ingredient in cosmetics
Except in Asia, probably the largest use of royal jelly is in cosmetics. Royal jelly is included in many dermatological preparations, but mostly in those used for skin refreshing and skin regeneration and rejuvenation.

China is unanimously recognized as the world's largest producer and exporter of royal jelly. The country exports around 2.2 million lb./ year, while Japan has the highest consumption of the product.

Source:  "Value­-added Products from Bee Keeping", by R. Krell, FAO Agricultural Services Bulletin, No. 124,




Product Component

Potential Uses



 1) Food

Most commonly consumed in its unprocessed state (e.g. liquid, crystallized or in the comb).


2) Food ingredient

The traditional use of honey in food preparations has been substituted by sugar and various sugar syrups derived from starches.  These exhibit similar characteristics to honey, but at a much reduced cost.


a) Natural, health and biological products

Honey can substitute for all or part of the sugar in most products.  Limitations include costs, handling characteristics and the natural variations in honey which change the end product, make it more variable and require more frequent adjustments in the industrial formulation.


b) Baked products

Advantage: products containing honey tend to dry out more slowly, have a lesser tendency to crack, offer an improved aroma.


 c) Confectionary production

Disadvantage:  Honey used in confectionary products can only be used in small amounts. In caramels, for example, honey reduces preservation time and softens the caramels at the surface, causing them to stick together.


d) Breakfast cereal

Used in either its liquid form or dried and pulverized both for better flavour and increased consumer appeal.


e) Ice cream

Disadvantage:  Honey in ice cream causes the ice creams to melt more easily and at lower temperatures than those made with sugar, causing issues in distribution and sales.


 f) Non-alcoholic beverage industry (e.g. functional drinks/iced tea).

Need to use a special ultra filtration process to eliminate impurities.  Ultra filtered honey loses some of its flavour and color, but gains in consistency, which is highly appreciated by food processors for its lower production costs.


3) Ingredient in medicine-like products

Honey is used in moisturizing and nourishing cosmetic creams, and pharmaceutical applications.


4) Used by the tobacco industry to improve and preserve tobacco's aroma and humidity


Source:  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome 1996





Product Component

Potential Uses


Note: Pollen from each species is different and no one pollen type can contain all the characteristics ascribed to "pollen" in general.

1.  Medicine (however, pollen has not been recognized as a medicinal drug)

Treatment of various prostate problems.  Usually prescribed in its dry pellet form as collected by the bees.


2. Food supplement



3. Cosmetics

Used in cosmetics with claims of rejuvenating and nourishing effects for the skin.  Effectiveness has not been proven and there is a considerable allergy risk for a large percentage of the population.

Note: In many cases beeswax can be replaced by cheaper synthetic waxes.

1. Candle making

Advantage:  allows candles to remain straighter under higher ambient temperatures than candles made of paraffin.


2. Metal castings and modeling



3. Cosmetics

Provides solidity to emulsified solutions; facilitates the formation of stable emulsions; increases the water holding capacity of ointments and creams.


 4. Food processing/ preservation

Disadvantage:  Can use cheaper waxes as a substitute.  Large scale and complicated production procedures.


5. Waterproofing of textiles and papers



6. Varnishes and polishes



7. Other products include: grafting wax, crayons, floor and furniture polish, general purpose varnish, sealing wax, corrosion prevention, etc.

Disadvantage:  In many of these products, beeswax can be replaced by cheaper synthetic waxes.


1. Dietary supplements



2. Ingredient in food products

Is mixed in with honey in European countries.  Vitamin supplements and fruit juices are enriched with freeze dried royal jelly.  Royal jelly is widely used in beverages in Asia.


3. Cosmetics

Largest market segment for this product. It is included in many dermatological preparations, but mostly in those used for skin refreshing, regeneration and rejuvenation.


Source:  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome 1996


Even though many potential markets exist for honey and its by-products, many of the markets listed above have substitute products that are more cost-effective than honey.  The primary markets for honey continue to be in the retail, foodservice and industrial markets.


Honey producers have four alternatives to market their honey.

Directly to consumer
Although the vast majority of honey is sold in large volumes to large packing houses, many beekeepers sell their honey directly to consumers.  They sell from honey houses (the actual facility where honey is extracted, possibly even a kitchen or garage), roadside stands and farmers markets.  In addition, some honey producers have become producer packers by launching their own line of honey and selling it directly to large supermarket chains in competition with major packers.

To a honey co-operative
Bee Maid honey does all the marketing for Canada's two honey co-operatives (in Manitoba and Alberta). The co-ops' primary roles are to receive, grade and handle honey collected from member producers.  They sell honey either within Canada or by exporting it to other countries. The honey sold in Canada and abroad is marketed either as Bee Maid honey or as another branded product.

To a honey packer or dealer
Canada has several large independent honey packers who purchase honey directly from producers for resale in either the domestic or foreign markets. Packers commonly purchase honey in 45 gallon (imperial) drums so no repacking is required. However, the honey producer must supply his/her own barrels.

To the export market
There are a number of producers who export honey to foreign countries.  In addition, there are honey agents, skilled in exporting honey, who can be of assistance. The export market is a viable alternative, but it requires a lot of knowledge and work. Sampling and testing requirements are rigorous for honey that is shipped out of the province.


Approximately 80 per cent of Canadian honey production is concentrated in the three prairie provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba.

Some of Canada's top players in the commercial honey industry include:

Bee Maid ( Bee Maid is Canada's largest marketer of consumer packaged honey, with distribution centres around the world. Honey for Bee Maid is produced by beekeepers in the western prairies and is processed and packaged at their facilities in Spruce Grove, Alberta and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Billy Bee Honey ( Billy Bee Honey is based in Toronto, Ontario and is Canada's largest private honey packer.  Their state-of-the-art plant has an annual capacity of 25 million pounds, and their sophisticated technology allows them to maintain their competitive advantage in the ever changing world market. They are also one of Canada's largest exporters of bulk and packaged pure Canadian honey.  Billy Bee honey is delivered to over 30 countries including the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Mexico and Hong Kong.

Capilano Labonté, Victoriaville, Quebec (  Effective July 1, 2003, Capilano Honey Limited (of Australia) and Miel Labonté Honey Inc. commenced working together to service the North American honey market, under the name Capilano Labonté.  Prior to their partnership, Miel Labonté had been producing and distributing honey throughout Quebec, the Maritimes and Ontario for the past 66 years.  The company is the largest honey packer in Quebec, holding approximately 55 per cent of the honey market in the province.  The company's supply chain includes over 200 Canadian beekeepers.

The company has a diverse product line which includes: liquid honey, creamed honey, honey jelly, honeycombs, candies and cough drops, royal jelly, pollen, honey mustard, honey BBQ sauce, beeswax and maple syrup.  With 35 employees, the company is also a major supplier of maple syrup to the Canadian retail industry.

Odem International Inc., Rosemere, Quebec ( The company is a trading house specializing in exporting bulk raw honey and beehive products (e.g. beeswax and bee pollen) from Canada to the United States in full container loads.  They also have an established reputation in Europe and Japan as suppliers of specialty honeys including Water White Clover, Raspberry, Sage, Mint, Buckwheat, Blueberry, Tupelo, Orange Blossom, Gallberry, Star Thistle, Basswood, Honeydew and Palmetto.

Their annual volume of honey is about 10,000 metric tonnes (mt.).  In Canada they buy directly from commercial beekeepers, while in Asia and South America they contract with specialized trading houses or co-operatives.  They sell directly to honey packers in the United States, Western Europe and Japan.  They move raw honey in full ocean container loads of about 20 mt. each. The honey is packed in 300 kg steel drums. Crude beeswax is traded by lots of 10 tons minimum. They buy from their suppliers of honey and sell to wax refiners in Europe and the United States. The beeswax must be in blocks, shrink wrapped on pallets or packed in boxes or bags.

Odem distributes bulk bee pollen and royal jelly in Canada and the United States. Bee pollen is packed in 50 pound boxes.  They offer different origins including the bee pollen from the western provinces, Spain and China.  Royal jelly comes from China and is fresh frozen, packed in one kilogram jars.

Golden Acres Honey, Threehills, Alberta ( Golden Acres Honey is a packer and seller of Canadian honey. The company is also kosher and organically certified. They supply many major retailers in Canada as well as the private label market.  They ship by the pallet, pail, barrel, or tote in order to be able to service not only retail but industrial requirements.  The majority of their business is in wholesale.

In 2002, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reported that Canada was the ninth largest honey producer in the world, with about three per cent of the world production.

(Source: USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN Report, "Canada Honey Production and Trade Update 2002".)

Opportunities and Constraints

Opportunities and constraints on industry growth include:

  • The long-term average production per colony in Saskatchewan is 195 lb. per colony (with many individual operations having production averages in excess of 200 lb./colony).  This is one of the highest production averages in the world.
  • Honey production depends on the intensive management of bee colonies and an intricate knowledge of bees and bee management skills, which can only be acquired with experience.
  • Large commercial honey operations depend on experienced labour input, and experienced labour is becoming more difficult to find.
  • The Canadian Honey Council is working towards the development of a national strategy for honey production under the Canadian On-Farm Food Safety (COFFS) Program.
  • There is a growing market for certified "organic" honey, and it is expected to increase in the near future.
  • Asian markets could be considered for high quality, attractively packaged Canadian honey.
  • Issues over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) continue to be a concern for many honey producers who export to certain markets.
  • The continuing spread of honeybee pests, and the increased management and cost of controls, may hinder industry growth.

(Source:, "2001/2002 Canadian Honey Situation and Trends".)

The U.S. Honey Industry

The United States Department of Agriculture has estimated that there are between 139,600 and 212,000 beekeepers in the United States.  The vast majority (95 per cent) are hobbyists with less than 25 hives.

There are about 1,600 commercial beekeeping operations in the United States (those with 300 or more colonies), which produce about 60 per cent of the nation's honey.

Market Size

In 2006, over 154 million pounds of honey were produced in the United States, with a value of $161 million. The average annual yield per colony was 64.7 pounds.

U.S. Honey Market in pounds (2006)




Domestic Production




(Source: National Honey Board,

Although the long term (20 year) average honey production is 201.6 million pounds, since 2001, honey production has declined significantly to a record low of 154.8 million pounds in 2006.  The decrease in domestic production is attributed to colony losses and reduced production related to mite and other disease control problems.  Widespread drought in 2006 also contributed to the decline in honey production.

The United States consumption is nearly 350 million pounds.  (Source: Agricultural Marketing Resource Centre, Iowa State University, June 2003.)

Major imports of honey to the United States are from Argentina, Canada, China, and Mexico.

U.S. Imports 2006 (pounds)
























(Source:  National Honey Board.  "Other" includes all countries except China, Argentina, Canada and Mexico.)
Honey is produced in every state, with the following states being the top honey producers for 2006:

Top Honey Production States, 2006



(million pounds)


North Dakota









South Dakota




















(Source:  USDA, National Agricultural Statistic Services.)

The top six honey producing states represent nearly 60 per cent of the total United States production. 

Competitive Intensity

The United States honey industry is easily accessible; entry and exit from the industry is done with relative ease.

There are approximately a dozen large commercial honey packers that process over 50 per cent of the domestically prepared commercial honey.  The balance of the domestic production is processed, packaged, and sold by smaller firms or individual beekeepers. Since many of the top packers have been in business for a very long time (20 - 40 years), their processing facilities in many cases are not located close to production or to large population centres. History dictates the location of the plant. However, it was suggested that transportation costs tend to average out in the long run. (Source: Agricultural Marketing Resource Centre, Iowa State University, "Apiary Industry Profile", June 2003.)

This industry was described as being "competitive" especially in the retail and ingredient market segments, since "honey" sales make up a small component of each of the respective markets.  In addition, the profit margins are not very high, which is indicative of the fact that large multinationals have not pursued the purchase of a honey packer/processor.

The players in the industry include producers, packers, trading houses/ importers and queen bee and package bee producers:


Sioux Honey Association, Sioux City, Iowa ( Sioux Honey Association is the leading packing co-operative.  Membership had grown over the years to a peak of 1,200, but currently includes about 375 members as apiaries have grown, consolidated and modernized.

Membership hails from the western two-thirds of the United States, plus Florida and Georgia.

Liquid honey is shipped by its members to their processing plants in 55 gallon (U.S.) drums, containing approximately 650 pounds of honey. Collectively, the membership produces around 40 million pounds of honey annually.

Sioux Honey markets their products globally under the labels: Sue Bee, Clover Maid, Aunt Sue, and Natural Pure North American brands.

Plants are located in Waycross, Georgia; Sioux City, Iowa; and Anaheim, California.

Sioux Honey is a world wide marketing organization.  Its global presence extends to the Middle East, Far East, South and Central America. Exports make up about 10 per cent of the company's business.


Dutch Gold Honey, Lancaster, Pennsylvania ( As the largest independent honey producer in the United States, the company processes in excess of 50 million pounds of honey each year, distributing it to some of the biggest names in the food and grocery industries. The company services retail, foodservice and bulk customers with an on-site retail outlet offering 13 different varieties of honey.

The company has four business divisions in two states (Pennsylvania and New Hampshire) - the original honey packing operation (which is located in a 100,000 sq. foot plant), a maple syrup processor and two specialized foodservice container distributors.

Raw honey is purchased from beekeepers domestically and around the world and processed by Dutch Gold. Dutch Gold typically purchases honey by the truckload. Each truck is loaded with 55 gallon (U.S.) drums, weighing 650 pounds apiece. The company supplies honey in consumer-sized packaging, five gallon pails, 55 gallon (U.S.) drums, stainless steel totes, plastic totes and tank trucks. The company sells only within the United States and all honey is certified kosher.

Dutch Gold distributes their honey anywhere east of the Mississippi, via their own fleet of 12 vehicles and through outside freight carriers.


Golden Heritage Foods, Hillsboro, Kansas  (

  • Packs honey under its own brand labels and private labels.
  • Target retail stores, wholesale clubs and foodservice distributors.
  • Receives their honey in 55 gallon (U.S.) drum lots.

The Packer Tracking Study conducted by Research Dimensions looks at the very large bulk ingredient, retail and foodservice markets.  The study is based upon actual pound sales (domestic and international) reported by approximately 14 packers representing about 56 per cent of the estimated honey market.  According to the study, honey went into three main market segments (see chart) between 1997 and 2000. This was confirmed by one of the leading packing companies in the United States.

Companies outside of the food industry (e.g. cosmetic or nutritional) commonly will purchase the honey they need for their products through a packer, rather than dealing directly with a producer group.

(Source: National Honey Board, Honey Industry Facts, March 2002.)

The International Market

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the top consumers of honey in 2002 were the United States, China, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and India.  Increased consumption can be attributed to the general increase in living standards and higher interest in natural and health products.

The international market usually trades honey in 300 kilogram metal drums, and only a very small percentage of the market is traded in retail containers.

The quality of the honey in general determines the price class, for example, table grade (United States grade A) or industrial grade (United States grade C or D). Such parameters as moisture content, cleanliness, off-flavours, and homogeneity (e.g. uniformity in composition and structure) are major considerations.


The current rise in health-consciousness, the new science indicating food's protective elements (e.g. nutraceuticals), and the number of industries looking for more natural-health promoting, healing or nostalgic ingredients are opportunities which are capable of positively impacting the demand for honey.

It is important to note that the industry is evolving primarily through consolidation, which is similar to what is happening in the retail industry.  Few "new players/processors" are emerging in this very competitive environment.  Existing players are growing and expanding their market presence by acquiring or partnering with other businesses.

The future of the Saskatchewan honey industry will depend on the province's ability to:

  • Protect the bee industry from exotic pests and diseases.
  • Maintain disease-free status.  This will allow Saskatchewan to continue to produce high quality hive products and expand its exports to international markets.
  • Implement quality assurance programs that certify that Saskatchewan bee hive products are free of disease and chemical residues.  This will increase market confidence and further develop Saskatchewan's reputation as a producer of high quality products.

For more information, contact:

Provincial Specialist, Apiculture
Saskatchewan Agriculture
Telephone:  (306) 953-2790

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