Honey Jargon: A Glossary of Industry Terms

EDUCATION

9 minute read

Essential Takeaways

  • The best way to make sure the honey you’re buying is genuine is by checking its certification and that the credentials are legitimate.

  • Certification, test results, numbers, and logos displayed on the jar might be confusing to read. Use our handy jargon table to help you out.

Zooming in on an image or squinting at a jar trying to decide if the small print on the label is legitimate is no way to spend your honey-shopping weekend.

But those tiny words and numbers on the label hold so much critical information.

As a honey consumer in a world where fake honey often sits alongside real honey on the digital and physical shelf, it’s really important (but also quite confusing) to know what the small print means and make sure that you’re getting the real deal.

The terminology used in the honey industry declares a honey’s origin, extraction, and processing, prior to the honey jar being available for sale.

Without checking the hives out for yourself, reading the label is the simplest way to discover more about what you’re buying (whether it’s filtered, multifloral, UMF, etc.)

Let’s peel back the label to find this out in our comprehensive glossary of honey industry terms and definitions.

In this guide to honey jargon:

  • How to make sure your honey is genuine
  • Breaking down the jargon - what the words actually mean
  • What good honey looks like and how you can tell

Before we get to our glossary of honey jargon, let’s take a look at some of the basic things to keep in mind when shopping for manuka honey.

How Can I Be Sure My Honey Is Genuine?

A jar of honey with popular buzzwords such as “natural” and “clear” is harmless: these are adjectives used to describe the content inside.

But as soon as a bigger claim is made, it needs to be verified.

The honey industry is riddled with manuka counterfeits, considering that the amount of manuka honey sold around the world far outweighs what is being produced.

In order to assure legitimacy, New Zealand producers must test their manuka honey. To take it a step further, some exporters (including New Zealand Honey Co.) opt to hold themselves to the highest standards by joining the UMF™ Honey Association.

Read more: Our blog on how to avoid buying “fake” Manuka Honey

The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) regulates honey production with the five attributes test. Passing these gives the honey the acclaimed manuka stamp of approval.

To authenticate honey as monofloral mānuka honey, five attributes must be present:

  • ≥ 1 mg/kg 2’-methoxyacetophenone; AND
  • ≥ 1 mg/kg 2-methoxybenzoic acid; AND
  • ≥ 1 mg/kg 4-hydroxyphenyllactic acid; AND
  • ≥ 400 mg/kg 3-phenyllactic acid; AND
  • DNA from mānuka pollen (< Cq 36 which is approximately 3 fg/μL DNA).

 

MPI states that a batch identification number and address must be found on every honey jar label in the event of a product recall or quality check. If a honey label states the floral source or a nutrient claim, these are required to be proven with evidence.

Therefore, as long as a honey brand provides the legally required information on their honey labeling, set out by the Ministry for Primary Industries, you can use this as a good indication that the quality of honey is what the label states.

As for the rest, MPI states that honey labels must not mislead customers in any way and be able to provide sufficient evidence to prove the claim.

We feel it’s necessary to explain some of this, so we’ve put together the following table to answer any queries you may have about what the words on the jar mean.

Glossary of Honey Jargon

Let’s start breaking down the definitions of the jargon used in the honey industry.


HONEY

Honey

Honey is defined as a product collected by honey bees from either:

  • blossom nectar;
  • the secretion of living plants; or
  • the excretions of insects that suck nectar from living plants;

which is then modified by honey bees and stored in the cells of a honeycomb.


To be labelled ‘honey’, the product must be honey containing more than 60% reducing sugar and less than 21% moisture.


HONEY SOURCE

Honeydew

Honeydew honey is collected by bees from the secretions of plant-sucking insects, such as aphids.


This honey can have a stronger flavour compared to honey collected by bees from the nectar of blossoming flowers.


The labelling of honeydew honey can be described as simply ‘honey’, where the product must contain more than 60% reducing sugar and less than 21% moisture.

Manuka

Manuka honey is sourced by bees collecting nectar from the manuka tree, native to New Zealand.


Manuka honey can be monofloral or multifloral.


Only when all four chemical attributes and the DNA of manuka pollen are present, the monofloral manuka term can be used on the label.


UMF™ accredited manuka honey can range from 5+ all the way up to 31+


Read more: Our blog on Manuka Honey FAQs

Nectar

Nectar is the raw form of honey.


The fragrant and sweet liquid is found in the blossoming flowers of plants, collected by bees, and then transformed and stored in the cells of a beeswax comb.


HONEY FLORA

Monofloral

Monofloral refers to honey that bees have predominantly collected from a single flower variety.


If the characteristics for a particular monofloral honey are not met through chemical and DNA testing, the honey cannot be labelled as monofloral, but rather multifloral.


Flora type is not required on honey labelling. If the flora type is specified as “monofloral honey,” the brand needs sufficient evidence to prove this claim.

Multifloral

Multifloral refers to honey that bees have collected from two or more flower varieties.


It’s also called wildflower honey, polyfloral, or blended honey.


Multifloral honey can in no way be labelled as monofloral.


Flora type is not required on honey labelling. If the flora type is specified as multifloral honey, the brand needs sufficient evidence to prove this claim.


HONEY EXTRACTION

Chunk

This consists of one or more cut pieces of comb honey.


Chunk honey is usually packaged with additional liquid honey.

Comb

This consists of a whole or cut honeycomb and is considered the purest form of honey, straight from the hive.


Comb honey is also referred to as cut-comb honey.

Drained

Drained honey is the honeycomb tipped upside down so the liquid honey can be collected.


Drained Honey can be described simply as ‘honey’.

Extracted

Extracted honey is uncapped honeycomb spun inside of an extractor, where most of the liquid honey is separated from the comb using centrifugal force.


Extracted honey can be described as simply ‘honey’.

Pressed

Pressed honey involves the pressure of a honey press to squeeze out all of the liquid honey stored in the cells of a honeycomb.


The process of pressed honey ensures a higher yield, compared to drained honey.


Pressed honey can be described as simply ‘honey’.


HONEY PROCESSING

Baker’s

Baker's honey is made up of many different flora varieties.


After extraction, it is heated, producing honey with a low viscosity.


Baker's honey will be labelled as such, as it is perfect for use in baking and cooking.

Creamed

Creamed honey has been processed in such a way that controls the crystallisation of glucose. A blend of crystallised honey and liquid honey are churned together and stored at a cool temperature.


The finished product results in spreadable honey containing many tiny glucose crystals, preventing the formation of larger glucose crystals that naturally occur in unprocessed honey.


Creamed honey is also referred to as whipped honey.

Crystallised

Crystallisation occurs naturally in raw, unprocessed liquid honey where glucose sugar separates from water and forms a bond with pollen, growing into large crystals.


Crystallised honey can return to a state of liquid when warmed.


Crystallised honey is also called granulated honey or candied honey.

Dried / Powdered

Dried honey is liquid honey that has had the moisture extracted to form a honey powder. The process can involve the addition of drying agents mixed with the honey, which is then homogenised, spray dried, and packaged.


Dried honey is used in baking and patisseries.

Filtered

Filtered honey has been passed through fine filter paper or canvas. In some cases, diatomaceous earth is used to ultrafilter the honey.


Filtering honey removes all or most of the pollen grains and other fine materials normally found suspended in honey.


Filtered honey is a term used to describe honey that has been finely filtered, and must be labelled in this way and not simply called ‘honey’.

Pasteurised

Pasteurised honey has been heated to destroy yeast and the formation of glucose crystals, making for a smooth, dark honey with an extended shelf life.


Pasteurised honey is not typically labelled as pasteurised but appears as a translucent liquid, light or dark in colour.

Raw

Raw honey is liquid honey extracted straight from the comb in a way that may not involve heating and does not include additives.


Raw honey may still be strained to remove larger particle matter.


Unfiltered honey will generally be labelled as raw honey.

Strained

Strained honey has been passed through a mesh material to remove larger particles, such as actual bees and wax, while retaining the small particles in honey, namely the pollen and nutrients.


Most honey is strained honey and may be simply labelled as ‘honey’.

Unfiltered

As opposed to filtered honey, unfiltered honey has not been processed through a filter after extraction.


Unfiltered honey is extracted from the honeycomb, and has not been filtered or strained in any way. It may contain remnants of wax and bees.


HONEY CERTIFICATIONS AND LABELS

Allergies

Due to allergic reactions, honey containing traces of royal jelly and bee pollen require an advisory statement on the label.

MGO

Methylglyoxal (MG / MGO) is not a certification but rather a measurement of methylglyoxal, found only in manuka nectar.


“MGO” may be labelled alongside UMF™, even though UMF™ also indicates MGO amounts.


If anything less than 83 mg of MGO is present, the honey will not be certified as monofloral manuka honey by the UMFHA. However, they may state the MGO amount.

NPA

Non-peroxide activity (NPA) is closely related to the presence of the compound methylglyoxal (MG).


NPA is believed to be the antiseptic property of manuka honey. The NPA level may or may not appear on the label.

Organic

Honey that is certified organic must meet the requirements set out by the organisation providing the organic certification. In New Zealand, MPI is the certifying body.


Organic certifiers usually expect that the apiary site is not nearby conventional agriculture and the beeswax is organically approved.

UMF™

UMF™ (Unique Manuka Factor) is a New Zealand grading certification to determine the MGO, DHA, and Leptosperin in manuka honey.


A sealed honey jar with the “UMF™” certification on the label means the honey has been tested and proven to meet the criteria of being manuka honey.


A higher UMF™ number indicates a stronger concentration of potentially beneficial components.


Our UMF™ gradings are: UMF™ 5+, UMF™ 10+, UMF™ 15+, UMF™ 20+, UMF™ 24+ and UMF™ 26+.


Read more: Our blog on UMF™ Honey and the UMFHA

What Is An Indication Of Good Honey?

In today’s world where fake honey is prevalent, there’s only one reliable indicator of good, honest honey. Certification.

Pay close attention to the jar, and make sure you understand the numbers and jargon on it. Use the table above to help you make informed decisions regarding your honey.

If you’re buying manuka honey, make sure to avoid accreditation systems that aren’t backed by reliable sources. We recommend the UMF™ standard and you can see a full list of our accreditations here.

Honey Jargon on New Zealand Honey Co. Products

Here at New Zealand Honey Co., we’re combining two great things.

  1. We love to talk about honey,
  2. One of our core values is radical transparency.

This means that everything that should be said about quality manuka honey can be found on our labels. We don’t just make bold claims, we prove it.

We try to keep the labeling of our honey jars simple, and this guide should help. But if it’s all a tad overwhelming, you’re welcome to contact us with your questions.

Browse our New Zealand Manuka Honey selection here.

Your wellness journey starts with a spoonful a day.

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