Of course we wanted to know! Learn the sweet tradition behind this iconic bottle.
Shutterstock/Robert Gebbie Photography
True story: I had a pale yellow, white-bellied teddy bear when I was a little girl. His name? Honey. I also had a cat named Muffin, so I must’ve been a food aficionado even at the ripe old age of 4. Still, it was clear to me then, and I bet you’ll agree:
Bears and honey just go together. But, I asked myself recently, how did that combo come to be? It’s such an everyday staple few of us have ever stopped to wonder why honey comes in that cute little bear! Here’s the sweet truth I discovered behind the iconic bottle.
How the Honey Bear Came to Be
Rewind to California, 1957. Two beekeeping couples, the Gambers and Millers, are having dinner at Ralph and Luella Gambers’. Shop talk turns to brainstorming how best to market their honey, and soon they strike upon the irresistible idea: Everyone knows that bears like honey (as in Winnie the Pooh, whose creator, A.A. Milne, had died just a year before). Winnie the Pooh was on people’s minds and in their hearts.
Add in the skyrocketing popularity of teddy bears (introduced in 1902 to honor President Teddy Roosevelt for famously sparing a bear’s life on a hunting trip), and Ralph got the sweet idea. Why not package the honey in a golden squeezable little bear?
The Gambers’ 10-year-old company, Dutch Gold, debuted the honey bear with yellow cone-hatted spout later that same year. The couple’s daughters, Marianne and Nancy, hand-painted little black noses and eyes (and sometimes even red lips) onto each bottle of Dutch Gold. The honey bear was immediately loved! Since Ralph Gamber never patented his bear-shaped honey bottle, many honey makers followed suit with their own honey bears.
In honor of the bottle’s 50th birthday in 2007, Dutch Gold had a contest to name the sweet and squeezable bear. And it wasn’t Honey. In homage to the company’s golden moniker, the winning name was Nugget!
Grab your honey bear and cook up a sweet creation.
This cinnamony treat reminds me of baklava, but with only a few easy ingredients, it's a fraction of the work. My Aunt Adele shared the recipe with me, and I think of her whenever I make it. —Sue Falk, Warren, Michigan
Go to Recipe
When my boys were young, they couldn’t drink milk but they could have yogurt. This was a cake they could eat. And it’s one dessert that doesn’t taste overly sweet, which is always a nice change of pace. You can liven up the flavor with different fruits and even different types of honey. —Linda Leuer, Hamel, Minnesota
This salmon and veggie sheet-pan dinner is packed with umami Asian flavors and is so easy to make. It's high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and so many other nutrients, but it's so delicious! We like to serve it over brown rice or quinoa. —Pamela Gelsomini, Wrentham, Massachusetts
Many ethnic festivals are held in my city throughout the year. One in May is the Greek Hellenic Festival. My family enjoys baklava—a traditional walnut strudel. Once you learn how to make baklava, you'll see it's not difficult. Even working with phyllo is easier than you'd expect. Just have your ingredients ready to go and follow the directions on the package. The results are scrumptious and well worth the effort. Make sure you buy a bottle of the best honey before you start! —Judy Losecco, Buffalo, New York
The classic caprese gets a sweet makeover with this inspired summer starter. Burrata, mint and honey are served over nectarine halves—or any stone fruit you like—in this creamy, dreamy dish. It's one of those recipes with honey that's unexpected and so delicious. —Anthony Gans, Hawthorne, California
I use these shiny, beautiful loaves as the centerpiece of my spread. I love the taste of honey, but you can also add chocolate chips, cinnamon, orange zest or almonds. Leftover slices of this sweet challah recipe work well in bread pudding or for French toast. —Jennifer Newfield, Los Angeles, California
Serving this moist cornbread to family and guests is a pleasure. Honey gives the bread a slightly sweet taste, and most people find it difficult to eat just one piece. —Adeline Piscitelli, Sayreville, New Jersey
Even if you dislike the main veggie, you will love this Brussels sprouts salad. The dressing is truly tasty, and it pairs so nicely with the apples, grapes and walnuts. You can also add whatever cheese, nuts or fruit you prefer. —Sheila Sturrock, Coldwater, Ontario
My husband especially enjoys this lemon meringue pie recipe with condensed milk. His mother made a similar treat for him when he was a child, but it was rewarding for me to create a recipe of my own that he loves so much! —Portia Gorman, Los Angeles, California
I adapted a traditional honey cake recipe for this dessert. I wanted something that would show off all our amazing local honey as well as tasty summer berries. This also works perfectly as a Fourth of July cake, with the blueberries in the top corner and the raspberries in stripes—you wouldn't need as many blueberries, but you would need more raspberries. —Elisabeth Larsen, Pleasant Grove, Utah
This honey-flavored kale salad makes our taste buds tingle. It has a subtle sweetness from currants and a nutty almond crunch. Add grated Asiago and you’ve got a stellar side. —Ally Phillips, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
This sheet-pan chicken is an easy gluten-free, low-carb meal ideal for busy weekdays. The chicken is tender, juicy and so delicious! It's now on the list of our favorite meals. You can substitute any low-carb vegetable for green beans. —Denise Browning, San Antonio, Texas
You can easily whip up this creamy, spicy, salty dip. For parties, I love dips in the slow cooker—just turn it to low once the dip is cooked and let your guests help themselves. No need to worry about the dip getting cold and having to reheat it. —Julie Peterson, Crofton, Maryland
The topping on my sister-in-law's peach cobbler was so delicious that I asked for the recipe; then I decided to use that to top a cookie I developed with the flavors of baklava. My adult son tried one and immediately ate two more—which is unusual for him! It's a good recipe to mix up the night before and bake fresh the next day for company. —Sharon Eshelman, Harrington, Delaware
A cousin in North Carolina gave me the recipe for these delicious honey-glazed rolls. Using my bread machine to make the dough saves me about 2 hours compared to the traditional method. The rich buttery taste of these rolls is so popular with family and friends that I usually make two batches so I have enough! —Sara Wing, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This quinoa yogurt parfait is special to me because of its wholesome ingredients. Quinoa is gluten-free, which is good for those who have food allergies, like my daughter. And I love fresh ripe figs when they are in season. Enjoy this for breakfast or dessert. —Dawn Hutchins, St. Johns, Florida
Nectarines are in season for such a short time, you'll want to do whatever you can to extend the season. With this quick method for canning nectarines, you'll have delicious fruit all year long. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
This cranberry raspberry pie is my son Michael's recipe. It was passed down to him when he got married in 2002. The pie is quite tart, but it pairs well with a favorite vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. —Beverly Batty, Forest Lake, Minnesota
The way my boys eat them, I would spend a fortune on honey graham crackers at the grocery store. So I decided to make a homemade version that is less processed—and less expensive. These are wonderful, although they still don't last long. —Crystal Jo Bruns, Iliff, Colorado
My dad has been a wheat farmer all his life and my state is the wheat capital, so this recipe represents my region and my family well. This bread never lasts too long at our house. —Kathy McCreary, Goddard, Kansas
I discovered this fragrant salad in a cooking class. If you can, try to find orange flower water (also called orange blossom water), which perks up the orange segments. But orange juice adds a nice zip, too! —Carol Richardson Marty, Lynwood, Washington
Thirty-five years ago, I gave a friend of mine a platter of my assorted home-baked Christmas cookies. The next day, she brought over slices of this delicious cake, which she made for Hanukkah. Naturally, we exchanged recipes and my family and I have been enjoying this moist and flavorful honey cake ever since! I top my cake with a creamy caramel glaze. —Kristine M. Chayes, Smithtown, New York
Decades ago my grandmother passed this buttery lime cookie recipe to me. Through years of baking, our cookie memories keep the family connected, although we’re miles apart. —Paula Marchesi, Lenhartsville, Pennsylvania
This honey wheat bread recipe produces two beautiful, high loaves that have wonderful texture and slice very well. The tempting aroma of this bread baking can cut the chill from a cool autumn day. It's a tribute to the goodness of wheat. —Dorothy Anderson, Ottawa, Kansas
This balsamic chicken is a recipe I adapted from a cookbook that featured quick and easy recipes. I adjusted the seasonings somewhat and added a bit more honey to better suit my tastes. —Lisa Varner, El Paso, Texas
Colorful! Salty! Sweet! A wonderful spin on the spot that the typical mashed potato dish takes at the holiday table. So versatile, they're delicious with a main course of spiral sliced ham, turkey or beef roast. —Linda Povlock, Hampstead, Maryland
Christine loves to read, curate, sample and develop new recipes as a senior book editor at Taste of Home. A CIA alumna with honors, she creates cookbooks and food-related content. A favorite part of the job is taste-testing dishes. Previous positions include pastry chef at a AAA Five Diamond property. Christine moonlights at a boutique wine shop, where she edits marketing pieces and samples wine far higher than her pay grade.