UMF™ vs MGO vs KFactor vs BioActive vs MGS vs NPA? What Do These Manuka Honey Numbers Mean?


12 minutes

Essential Takeaways

There are too many ways that manuka honey brands label their products. UMF™; MGO; KFactor; BioActive; MGS; NPA… which one(s) can you trust?

The manuka honey numbers can be broken down into two types: full grading systems and measures of individual chemical markers (MGO and NPS). UMF™ is the most reputable and trustworthy system, and some of the other systems aren’t widely used.

In addition to these systems, New Zealand manuka honey also undergoes strict export requirements from the NZ government’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Extensive international research has been carried out on manuka honey from New Zealand, specifically focused on its health benefits and high levels of naturally occurring antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

It’s the high methylglyoxal levels (otherwise known as MGO) in the manuka honey that make it so sought after and effective.

MGO content sits at the heart of most of the manuka honey numbers you’ll see on jars today.

But from MGO to UMF™, KFactor, BioActive, MGS, and NPA; that’s a whole lot of acronyms to remember when you’re just trying to buy a decent jar of manuka honey.

So we created this guide to break it down for you. Which system do you actually need to pay attention to, and what does it tell you?

In this guide to manuka honey numbers and grading systems:

Manuka Honey Grading Systems vs. Chemical Markers

First up, let’s separate our manuka honey numbers into categories. We have grading systems which measure multiple factors in the manuka honey, and we have measurements that identify a single chemical marker in the honey.

These are the most common grading systems:

And these are the most common chemical marker measurements:

  • MGO (Methylglyoxal)

  • NPA

Let’s dig a little deeper…


What Do UMF™, MGO, BioActive, MGS, KFactor and NPA Test and Measure?

The following list outlines the different manuka honey grading systems and what each measures, as per what is published and publicly available.

To get a better understanding of each testing marker and what they mean, continue reading below.


UMF™ stands for Unique Manuka Factor, and was established as a grading system by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) in New Zealand in 1998.

It was designed to test authentic manuka honey from New Zealand to protect the integrity of the product and the best interests of global consumers.

A UMF™ grading test measures Leptosperin, MGO (Methylglyoxal) DHA and HMF. These factors verify authenticity, potency and freshness.

It is the only grading system that measures all four chemical markers and is considered the strictest and most reputable manuka honey measurement system in the world. It goes far beyond the minimum export requirements set out by the New Zealand Government’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

A company producing and selling UMF™ manuka honey must be licensed by the UMFHA to sell manuka honey that is UMF™ rated. It is also a requirement to have the UMF™ logo AND grading number on a label.

Searching for a company’s licence number can be done via the UMF™ website.

The UMF™ Honey Association is the only known grading standard that independently tests its members' honey once it reaches retail and online stores globally, thus ensuring authenticity.

No other grading system independently performs these authenticity tests, which ensure that the honey has not been tampered with since export and maintains its quality levels.

UMF™ honey is guaranteed to hold, at minimum, the strength stated on the label. For example, UMF™ 15+ will contain at least 514mg/kg of MGO for the duration of its shelf life.

Here at New Zealand Honey Co.™, all of our manuka honeys are certified under the UMF™ system because we believe in providing nothing but the best.

We work with a reputable independent testing facility, and our processes go well beyond what is required to be UMF™ certified. Before selling a product, we make sure it’s glyphosate residue free, GMO free, Halal and Kosher, and more. Find out about our accreditations and credentials here.

If you’ve already purchased a jar of honey from us, you can use this tool to search for your UMF™ testing certificate. Here’s an example of what it looks like below:


BioActive measures both the peroxide and non-peroxide activity of manuka honey.

This can be difficult to measure accurately as the hydrogen peroxide (H202) antibacterial activity degrades very quickly when exposed to fluids, heat and sunlight.

BioActive has recently given way to MGO as the preferred grading system.


Named after the father of manuka honey science, Peter Molan, the Molan Gold Standard™ (or MGS for short) measures the MGO and DHA levels in manuka honey between 5+ and 30+. The number assigned correlates to the equivalent phenol strength of the manuka honey's antibacterial activity.

MGS will not provide a grade for manuka honey which has MGO levels of less than 100 mg/kg. This grading system is not widely used.


So what is KFactor in manuka honey?

Manuka KFactor does not reportedly measure MGO, NPA or Leptosperin levels. In the early marketing materials, it was said to measure and reflect the pollen count, but this seems to no longer be promoted.

At the time of writing, KFactor focuses on 5 general pillars that are unrelated to the specific bioactivity levels in the honey. These are:

  • Traceability to the hive

  • Free from antibiotics, glyphosate and pesticides

  • Non-GMO verified

  • Produced and packaged in New Zealand

  • Raw and unpasteurised

Whilst these credentials are important and valuable, they don’t provide and guarantee of the potency of the honey you buy.

Our New Zealand Honey Co. manuka honey range ticks all of these boxes, and they are also UMF™ certified for potency, authenticity and freshness. So you can rest assured that you’re getting nature’s best.

What Does NPA and MGO Mean on Manuka Honey

NPA and MGO refer to specific chemical markers in manuka honey, unlike the grading systems above that test for multiple markers.


The meaning of MGO on manuka honey is all to do with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

MGO stands for methylglyoxal. This chemical compound is believed to be primarily responsible for manuka honey’s unique health and wellness properties.

The more MGO in the honey, the higher the MGO number and the more potent the beneficial compounds.

Manuka honey jars with high levels of MGO are used by doctors and vets for serious medical conditions.

MGO numbers typically range from MGO 83+ to MGO 1450+.

Read more: What does MGO mean on manuka honey?


NPA is the non-peroxide activity, which refers to the additional antibacterial activity found in manuka honey.

In other types of honey, much of the antibacterial activity comes from the presence of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). So the NPA value looks at the level of antibacterial activity that comes from other sources.

It is calculated based on the concentration of MGO, and it corresponds with the UMF™ equivalent grade of honey eg. 5+, 10+, 15+.

While this is also not an established grading system, we’ve mentioned it here, as it’s common in some countries (such as the UK).

Read more: Manuka Honey Ratings Explained: What You Need to Know

UMF™ MGO Levels NPA Levels




How to Identify Authentic Manuka Honey

Genuine UMF™ manuka honey must comply with the following criteria:

  1. The UMF™ certification is clearly stated on the label.

  2. The honey is produced in New Zealand. As mentioned above, honey cannot be imported into New Zealand. Therefore, the consumer is assured that UMF™ manuka honey is truly manuka honey from New Zealand.

  3. It is processed, packed and labelled in New Zealand.

  4. It has the New Zealand UMF™ Licensee’s brand name on the label (and is also present on the UMFHA website licensees list).

  5. It is produced by a New Zealand company licensed to use the UMF™ quality certification.

  6. A grading number without the UMF™ abbreviation next to it does not identify genuine UMF™ manuka honey. It must have a rating number alongside the trademark UMF™ to be considered authentic.

  7. It can be verified by the Official UMF™ Release Document which states the test results for the batch number shown on the jar label. The Official UMF™ Release Document presents test results for all four Manuka markers (Leptosperin + Methylglyoxal + DHA + HMF).

The Production Process of Manuka Honey

In this section, we break down how our raw manuka honey is processed, from collection to testing and exporting.

This way, you can gain a deeper understanding of what the manuka honey numbers mean and what to look out for when buying your authentic manuka honey.

  1. Manuka honey is collected from beehives in wild and remote areas of New Zealand.

  1. Samples are sent to independent laboratories for MPI testing to identify whether it is a monofloral or multifloral manuka honey (UMFHA association members have additional testing done to maintain their UMF™ grading. See Analytica 3-in-1 for more details).

  1. From the MPI test results, the honey is then identified as multifloral or monofloral manuka honey.

  1. Honey is packaged and labelled in New Zealand and then exported (some companies export and then package & label overseas). At this point, companies will also place their specific grading numbers on the jar labels.

If a company is a member of the UMFHA, additional testing may be performed once it has been exported to ensure its authenticity.

Read more: How Do Bees Make Honey?

Things you didn’t know about manuka honey…

Did you know…

  • It is illegal to import honey into New Zealand. Therefore, it’s important to check that the manuka honey you’re considering purchasing has been processed, packed, and labelled in New Zealand to ensure it is 100% authentic New Zealand manuka honey.

  • The manuka plant is native to New Zealand.

Mānuka is a Māori word used for the Leptospermum scoparium tree.

How To Test For Authentic Manuka Honey from New Zealand

To protect the integrity of manuka honey, the New Zealand government has set strict regulations around how it is produced and sold to the public.

The NZ Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), a government organisation, clearly stipulates the legal requirements regarding the export of manuka honey.

This includes a scientific test of 4 chemical markers and a single DNA marker in the honey.

For monofloral manuka honey, the test requirements are as follows:

Test 1: Chemical test

The following chemicals all need to be present and at these levels:

  • 3-phenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 400mg/kg

  • 2-methoxyacetophenone at a level greater than or equal to 5mg/kg

  • 2-methoxybenzoic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1mg/kg

  • 4-hydroxyphenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1mg/kg

Test 2: DNA test

The DNA level from manuka pollen needs to be less than Cq 36, which is approximately 3fg/µL to be considered legitimate (regardless of whether it’s monofloral or multifloral).

This means regardless of the manuka honey numbers used on the label, a manuka honey must first pass the minimum testing requirements set out by MPI.

The MPI test results also indicate whether the manuka honey is classified as multifloral or monofloral. This must also be clearly stated on the label.

A monofloral manuka honey is typically labelled as ‘manuka honey’ and is considered of higher strength due to its higher manuka concentrations.

A multifloral manuka honey must also be labelled as such, often called ‘manuka blend’, 'multifloral manuka' or ‘manuka honey blend’ on labels.

What is a monofloral manuka honey?

Monofloral honey is honey that comes from the nectar of one main flower. In the case of manuka honey, this is the mānuka flower.

What is a multifloral manuka honey?

Multifloral honey is honey that comes from the nectar of many flowers or honey that has been blended with other types of honey. If the manuka levels in honey are not high enough, the honey will then be labelled as a multifloral manuka honey.

Watch our Head Beekeeper explain more about multifloral and monofloral manuka honey here.

More on MPI testing for manuka honey

The initial MPI testing required can be considered the minimum needed for a company to begin exporting honey labelled as manuka honey from New Zealand.

All of our New Zealand Honey Co. manuka honey products are independently laboratory tested to ensure that they meet or exceed these minimum requirements.

These MPI tests give you the confidence that you are buying authentic NZ manuka honey, but they don’t tell you the strength or antibacterial activity of the honey.

This is an important measure and is one of the main reasons why manuka honey is so highly sought after. For the additional quality measurements, further testing is needed to identify the markers relating to the manuka honey’s potency and authenticity.

Once a batch of manuka honey has passed MPI testing and is cleared for export, the additional independent grading systems are applied to manuka honey labels by each brand - UMF™, BioActive, MGS, and KFactor. Some suppliers (such as ourselves) also print the MGO levels for reference.

It is important to note that once the honey has been exported from New Zealand, there are no further measures or requirements from the Ministry for Primary Industries to guarantee the authenticity of the honey on the shelf.

This can create a gap between the export process and the honey on your table. Honey labelled with a UMF™ grade gives you the confidence of knowing that you’re getting the real deal.

For more information on MPI regulations, check out this page.

Why These Manuka Honey Numbers Matter

These manuka honey numbers can tell you important information about what you’re buying, including if:

  • The honey is free from additives

  • It’s non-GMO

  • It’s raw and unpasteurised (to ensure that the good stuff is kept intact)

Our New Zealand Honey Co. manuka honey is mainly sourced from remote New Zealand mountains where no sprays are used on the farmland, where we can be sure to get high-grade, monofloral produce.

There have been many cases of counterfeit and adulterated manuka honey being sold around the world, and this has become a big problem over the last decade. To make sure you’re getting the real deal, make sure to look for a genuine UMF™ certified jar.

Here’s a quick recap on what UMF™ tests for:


Testing for Leptosperin is the best way to identify genuine manuka honey, as it is specifically present in the nectar of the mānuka flower. It provides evidence that the honey tested definitely came from from the mānuka plant.


As already mentioned, MGO is the measurement of methylglyoxal in manuka honey. The higher the MGO level, the more effective the manuka honey is.


Along with Leptosperin, Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is also present in the nectar of the mānuka flower. The maximum concentration of MGO in the manuka honey can be determined by its DHA concentration. That’s because when bees harvest nectar from the mānuka flower, the DHA is what’s transformed into MGO.


Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) indicates freshness by providing evidence about whether the honey has been heat-treated or aged. Some suppliers have been known to heat treat and age manuka honey to quickly increase the level of MGO content so they can sell it for a higher price.

Look at the HMF level to ensure that you’re buying fresh honey.

Get Your Authentic Manuka Honey from New Zealand Honey Co.

Authenticity and transparency are at the heart of everything we do here at New Zealand Honey Co.

You can trust that we only partner with the best, most sustainable beekeepers throughout the country and that we put our honeys through the most rigorous independent tests.

By doing this, you can be confident that our raw manuka honey is packed full of the beneficial compounds that have earned it a global reputation.

We only deal in real.

Find out more about our accreditations and credentials here.

Or buy your manuka honey here.

Or if you’re unsure which grade is right for you, try taking our free quiz here.


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