Why is Mānuka Honey so expensive?

Manuka Honey is a special New Zealand Honey that is made from the nectar of the native Manuka plant, called Leptospermum Scoparium. The nectar from the Manuka flowers is converted to Manuka honey over the period. It is a highly valued product because of its unique nutritional ingredients and benefits that makes it so different to other honeys.

Manuka honey is produced seasonally from late spring to summer. The quantities produced vary each year as it is greatly weather dependant. Due to its’ global popularity, the demand is extremely high, and production is relatively low. 

According to a recent market study, in 2018, the total New Zealand honey exports now top $350 million a year and have been one of the fastest growing exports at 19% per annum over the past 10 years. These statistics are for all honey, but industry estimates suggest Manuka honey accounts for 70-75% of the total value. New Zealand honey receives a price multiple that is seven to nine times higher than most other exporting countries. New Zealand manuka honey is the most expensive in the world and receives a significant premium over other honey products. However, on a volume basis New Zealand accounts for just 1.5% of global trade.

The Science behind it

There has been extensive scientific research done on Manuka Honey, highlighting its remarkable natural properties that are near to non-existent in other varieties of honey. It has been found that the reason behind why Manuka honey is so special is because of the presence of a naturally occurring compound called, Methylglyoxal (MGO). MGO is formed in the honey from the Manuka nectar, and as the honey matures, the MGO content in the honey has been found to increase.

What is MGO?

MGO stands for methylglyoxal, the naturally occurring compound in Manuka Honey that makes it so special. Not all Manuka honey is created equal and the MGO levels can vary greatly. Every pot of honey is tested for the MGO level and certified for natural MGO content. The MGO number on the pot specifies how much MGO is in the pot of honey. The higher the MGO, the greater are the beneficial health factors and hence higher the price.

We are also providing our consumers with a BIO rating number. It is not as widely popular as MGO rating, but still has a very important role to play in the honey we consume.

What is a BIO rating?

BIO rating means, it is an indicative of the Bioactive compounds in that pot of manuka honey. Bioactive compounds are extra nutritional constituents occurring naturally in plant foods in small amounts, however in quantities enough to produce bioactive effects. The other relevant health promoting effects of these Bio compounds are anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, neuro protective, cardio protective properties. Polyphenols also play an important role as a prebiotic, increasing the ratio of beneficial bacteria in our gut, which is important for health, weight management, and disease prevention. They also promote brain health and protecting against dementia.

What type of Bio active compounds are present in Manuka Honey?

The important Bioactive compounds in manuka honey are Phenolic acids and flavonoids. There are more than 100 flavonoids and phenolic acids present in Manuka honey, of which the most important ones are 3-Phenyallactic acid, and gallic acid.

New Zealand government has done an extensive research on manuka honey definition, and they included 3-phenylactic acid as one of the main chemical components in manuka honey.

Zealandia’s manuka honey contains a high number of phenolic compounds, providing a relevant antioxidant capacity. In fact, Manuka honey exhibits the highest value in terms of phenolic content and antioxidant capacity compared to other types of honey around the World.

Honey Sourcing

Our lovely ladies (worker bees) work hard, travel far and wide to gather our precious cargo, nectar, which eventually turns into honey. The Manuka bush grows in deep forests, hills, mountains and coastal regions. However, there are special places where the natural properties and concentration of Manuka are higher than other places. The bees have a science of their own and are smart enough to learn the locations of these remotely located hives.

The central plateau of New Zealand is one such place where good quality Manuka honey comes from and it is also home to Zealandia honey, Taupo. Here amongst the hills and mountains, the area is so remote and untouched, that sometimes the only way to access the hives, is via helicopter! This is pristine part of New Zealand is free of harmful pollutants, sprays and toxins. Zealandia is lucky enough to source honey from such remote locations.  

Manuka Honey testing in laboratory

Every jar of honey that the consumer buys on the other side of world must be tested extensively for its attributes as defined by Ministry of Primary Industry (MPI), New Zealand. In 2017, the MPI finalised a robust and sophisticated scientific definition that can be used to authenticate whether a honey is New Zealand Mānuka honey. The test for monofloral and multi-floral Mānuka honey requires all the 5 attributes described in the MPI documentation for testing Mānuka honey. If the honey fails to meet one or more of the attributes, it cannot be identified as monofloral Mānuka honey – but may still pass the test for multi-floral Mānuka honey.

Zealandia Manuka range undergoes extensive testing for measuring the MGO, DHA (dihydroxy acetone), HMF (Hydroxy methyl furfural), BIO+, the 5 chemical markers defined by the MPI, and many more.

To ensure that you are getting the real deal, authentic New Zealand Mānuka honey, we verify the Methylglyoxal content of all our honey and display the amount of MGO per mg/kg on all our labels. A unique feature of Zealandia Honey is that, we also test for bioflavonoids, which are an active component in honey. The BIO rating displayed on our label is the total bio-active compounds in that jar of honey. We also test to make sure that there are no additives in our product, we test for 150 pesticides and C4 sugars (to check for adulteration) in our honey.

The IANZ & ISO certified independent laboratories we use verify the content of our honey before we ship the order to your destination.

Certifications and traceability of Zealandia Manuka Honey

Our reputation for honey production and export rests on the integrity of our products and the credibility of our systems. Our partner processing and packing facility is BRC (British Retail Consortium) and RMP (Risk Management Procedure) accredited. They undergo thorough auditing from time to time to ensure all good manufacturing processes are being followed.

To make our supply chain completely transparent, we use the batch number to trace your product back to the beekeeper, extraction facility, production facility and laboratory it has been through. All because your safety and the quality of the product is our highest priority. Our batch numbers are unique for every batch of honey we produce. They provide us with the confidence to trace our honey products throughout the distribution chain, from the hive to the end-consumer and back.

The year and day of manufacturing will tell us when your honey was packed in one of our MPI certified facilities. The product identifier will tell us our code was engraved onto a M100 or ‘Zealandia Manuka MGO 100+’ jar. Finally, our unique id numbers will help you trace back to the raw material that was used to come up with the perfect product.

Well-being benefits gained

Manuka honey played a prominent role in traditional Maori healing. It was not till late 20th century that modern science made significant inroads into studying its properties and benefits.

Research confirmed that manuka honey has remarkable natural properties that are near to non-existent in other varieties of honey. It is proven that Manuka honey is high in anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Most commonly, manuka honey is used to

  1. treat sore throat and colds
  2. helps with reducing gastric ulcers and flatulence, improves the health of gut bacteria due to its pre-biotic properties
  3. Helps with promoting oral health but reducing tooth decay, gum inflammation and bacteria associated with plaque formation
  4. Wound healing- helps with speedy healing of burns, cuts, abrasions
  5. Helps with treating acne and improves skin nutrition
  6. Helps boost overall well-being, immunity and energy levels

In a nutshell, the reasons for it being expensive are –

  1. Rare and precious
  2. Greatly dependant on the weather
  3. Promotes overall well-being and immunity
  4. The beekeepers go to great lengths, long distances and to the remotest regions to get top quality Manuka honey, sometimes they use even helicopters to access the remote Manuka bush
  5. Extensive laboratory testing for each batch of honey so that our consumers know that they are getting top quality for the money they paid for the product.
  6. Ensuring transparency in traceability, certifications, and accreditations

We hope that this article has been super helpful in understanding the reasons behind why this product is so expensive. Please feel free to drop a line or comment below if you had any past experiences with the benefits of Manuka honey. Also head on to our shop to browse our range of Zealandia honey on offer and make the most of the introductory sale.