Why is Manuka Honey expensive?
Manuka Honey is certainly expensive when you compare it to any typical table honey you might purchase from your local grocery store. There are also a variety of different pricing options when buying legitimate Manuka Honey. In this article, let us walk you through the special features of Manuka Honey to help you understand how it is priced, why it’s so expensive, and why it’s in such high demand.
Let’s start with why Manuka Honey is more expensive than other honey varieties.
There are many different factors which influence the price of Manuka Honey and some of those factors include its rarity, its unique properties, and how it’s harvested and tested.
Heritage & Properties
Manuka Honey is unique to New Zealand and comes from the Leptospermum Scoparium tree, which is a native and limited resource. The word Manuka is the indigenous Maori word for the Leptospermum Scoparium tree.
Unlike any other Honey in the world, Manuka Honey has very unique properties which are tested and measured rigorously before export. These health and wellness properties are found in varying quantities, depending on the ‘strength’ of the honey, or rather it’s UMF™ (Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association) grading number and MGO levels.
There are two definitive classifications for Manuka Honey, set out by the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Primary Industries; Multifloral Manuka Honey and Monofloral Manuka Honey. Monofloral Manuka Honey is scientifically tested to contain more Manuka Honey than Mutifloral Manuka Honey. ¹
The Manuka tree isn’t abundant in New Zealand and generally grows at altitude, wild in high country farmland, making it difficult for beekeepers to access for packing. Helicopters are commonly used in the honey collecting process. Beehives will be transported in and out of these locations at a very high price.
Not only is collecting the honey challenging, but there is also a narrow window when the Manuka flowers are in bloom, only between 2 - 8 weeks per year, depending upon the season². As the Manuka tree can be temperamental, weather conditions can greatly impact and limit the time that the Manuka flower is in bloom, making the season and total harvest very limited in years of poor weather. This even further reduces production harvest, hence it’s a very rare commodity, adding to its reputation of liquid gold.
It takes the perfect alignment of controllable and uncontrollable factors like climate, soil fertility, plant species and bee health for the highest quality Manuka honey to be produced. During the short Manuka bloom, any weather from low temperatures to too much wind will affect the ability for bees to collect enough Manuka nectar. The pH and mineral levels in the soil have a large impact on the quality and health of the Manuka tree and ultimately affect the quality of the Manuka nectar.
Extracting high-quality Manuka honey, whilst maintaining the wellbeing and health of the bees is a specialised task for beekeepers. They will work quickly and efficiently to ensure the honey collecting process is as stress-free for the bees as possible.
Testing & Certification
Manuka Honey is subject to extremely strict testing requirements imposed by the New Zealand Government. These tests, which are enforced by the Ministry of Primary Industries, ensure that any Manuka Honey exported from New Zealand has been tested to meet and contain a minimum level of certain chemical markers. As mentioned, it also determines if it is a monofloral or multi-floral Manuka Honey.
In addition to the first level of government testing requirements, members of the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) are subject to additional testing and grading requirements to meet an even higher standard. These tests provide additional confidence to consumers that the Manuka Honey they are purchasing is genuine New Zealand Manuka Honey of the highest purity and quality. This is displayed on jar labels as the UMF™ grading number and icon as shown in the example for a UMF™ 10+ Manuka Honey below.
The key chemical markers tested in the UMFHA testing include Leptosperin, DHA and Methylglyoxal.
- Leptosperin - this marker is the best way to identify genuine Manuka Honey as it is uniquely present in the nectar of the Manuka Flower.
- Methylglyoxal, commonly labelled as MGO is the antibacterial component of Manuka Honey.
- DHA - this marker is also uniquely present in the nectar of the Manuka flower. DHA also helps to understand the maximum MGO concentration through the concentration of the DHA.
The UMFHA also provide additional consumer confidence by undertaking random Manuka Honey testing from UMF™ certified honey jars on retail shelves all around the world. This deters counterfeits from entering the market being labelled as UMF™ certified honey.
These testing requirements and licensing fees, which ensure that the Manuka Honey you purchase is genuine and of the highest quality, further increases the costs incurred to provide the very best Manuka Honey.
Every batch of our Manuka honey is rigorously independently tested by New Zealand lab Analytica, so our customers can be sure that what is printed on our label is exactly what is in the jar.
The UMF Testing certificate is made available to all our customers.
There are only approximately 2800 tonnes of Manuka Honey (2018) produced annually, this is compared with around 1.9 million tonnes of other honey produced globally. This 2800 tonne has to supply the entire global market and with high demand, this also drives the price up.
The higher the grade of Manuka Honey, the less there is available and the more scarce it becomes. UMF 24+ Manuka honey or greater is extremely rare and not in abundance like the lower grades of Manuka honey. It’s higher grading number also indicates a higher level of efficacy which makes its value more understandable.
Now that you know why Manuka Honey is more expensive you may wonder…
Why does pricing vary so much from one brand of Manuka Honey to another?
If Manuka Honey is very low cost then it is likely it is of a lower grade or has lower potency.
As a general guide, a UMF™ 5+ (which has MGO levels of 83 or above) makes for great honey for daily use and when used with food and beverages. A UMF grade of 10+ (MGO levels of 263 or above) or any higher UMF™ grading number can also be used for food & drink but is also considered a high enough MGO level for topical use in beauty and health & wellness.
If the Manuka Honey you are purchasing has an MGO level lower than 83+ or is a multi-floral Manuka Honey then it should be considerably cheaper than higher-graded Manuka Honey as the MGO levels are low. In contrast, a UMF™ 24+ Manuka Honey with a 1122+ MGO level is very hard to harvest, has a high measurement of Methylglyoxal and is, therefore, more expensive.
Many Manuka Honey jars have numbers on the front, but this does not mean it is related to any test based grading system or scientific measurement (unless clearly stated). There are two specific numbers you can look for that will provide you with additional confidence that the Manuka Honey you are buying is of high quality, has passed the New Zealand Government’s MPI requirements and has been graded by the UMFHA:
- UMF™ Grading number. This is a licensed and trademarked grading system which gives you confidence in your purchase. On our jars, you will see the UMF™ grading number on the front and UMF™ grading icon on the right side of our jars. Common UMF™ numbers include, but are not limited to UMF™ 5+, UMF™ 10+, UMF™ 15+, UMF™ 20+, UMF™ 24+.
- MGO - this number is a scientific measurement of the Methylglyoxal levels in the honey. The higher the number the better for this measurement. MGO is not a grading system - it only indicates the levels of Methylglyoxal in the Manuka Honey.
There is a direct correlation between the UMF™ number and the amount of MGO tested in the jar ³. Below you can see our UMF™ and MGO table which shows you the MGO levels as found relating the corresponding UMF™ number.
Having UMF™ and MGO both present on jars will offer you confidence in your purchase.
It’s also important you are aware of fake Manuka Honey or poor quality products on the market⁴.
You can also read more about UMF™, MGO and other grading systems in our article which helps you understand what each grading system and number means.⁵
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us directly, we’d be happy to help.