The Manuka Honey Industry
The Manuka honey industry is always evolving and always interesting.
It’s an industry we feel privileged to be a part of.
Manuka honey: A rare gift
For most of the year here in New Zealand, our native Manuka plants are without flowers. Then, from approximately early September every year, something remarkable happens.
As the New Zealand winter wanes and seasons shift, in some of the most isolated areas of the country, our native Manuka plants begin to flower. The flowers are nothing more than buds at first. But quickly, the buds blossom into beautiful Manuka flowers.
To harvest Manuka nectar, environmental conditions must be just right. If winds are too strong the flowers are ripped from their stems; when rains come, the bees decide against venturing from their waterproof hives. This is what makes producing Manuka honey both so exciting and so tough. Manuka flowers move from buds to stage five flowers (that no longer produce nectar) in around 25 days. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for our beekeepers to move and place our beehives, and for the bees to gather Manuka nectar.
When the Manuka flowers are in bloom our beekeepers often work tirelessly around the clock, even using helicopters to move beehives to challenging, remote locations. When we’re successful happy bees feast on sweet Manuka nectar and transport it back to their hives to make one of nature’s most remarkable and rare gifts: thick, aromatic and rich, high-MGO Manuka honey.
Manuka honey science
Manuka honey is unlike any other type of honey. Long ago, scientists investigating its medicinal properties documented Manuka honey’s unusual bioactive nature. After years more research and technological advances, they discovered Manuka honey’s distinctive bioactive properties were caused by its unusual concentrations of methylglyoxal, or MGO. Everyday honey might have MGO concentrations of 2-5mg of MGO per kg. Manuka honey houses as much as 500 times that amount.
Simply put, Manuka honey is unique and people use it as much more than just a naturally sweet substance.
The relatively high demand for Manuka honey – alongside its rarity – sometimes causes shortages.
New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) introduced a clear cut legal definition of Manuka honey. Today’s definition states that four chemical markers from nectar and one DNA marker from Manuka pollen must be at a certain level to meet overseas export requirements for Manuka honey. The rules came into effect in February 2018.
At Helena Health, we welcome the definition and regulation. All our honey either meets or exceeds the MPI’s definition, and we test every batch of our Manuka honey to be sure of it. What’s more, the regulations once again give consumers the confidence they need to source genuine Manuka honey.