What Makes Manuka Honey So Special?

Manuka honey is known for its distinct flavor, color, and nutritional characteristics. What gives Manuka honey these distinctions? In 2013, the UMF Honey Association created the Manuka ID Project to answer this question. Samples of nectar and honey were collected from across New Zealand. Analysis of Manuka honey revealed the presence of three key chemicals: Leptosperin, DHA (Dihydroxyacetone), and MGO (Methylglyoxal). If a honey is not from New Zealand or does not contain these three chemical markers, then the honey is not Manuka honey, no matter what the label says.

How Do I Know If My Manuka Honey is Really Manuka Honey?

Look for the letters “UMF” on the label. UMF is a quality trademark and indicates the approval of the UMF Honey Association. The UMF Honey Association performs facility audits, product traceability tests, and chemical analysis to ensure that if the words “Manuka honey” are on the label, then Manuka honey is in the jar. The popularity of Manuka honey has led many imitators to enter the market. The UMF Honey Association has set out to protect consumers from these imitators.

What Does UMF 16+ Mean?

The UMF Honey Association has created a grading system to measure the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) present in Manuka honey. As stated above, Manuka honey contains three key chemicals: Leptosperin, DHA, and MGO. The UMF grade is based on the concentration of MGO. The grades are as follows:

0-4 Undetectable.

5-9 Low.

10-15 Medium.

16+ High.

A grade of UMF 16+ indicates superior, high quality Manuka honey. Such a grade ensures that you get the most of what makes Manuka honey so unique.

I See Other Grades on the Label. What Do They Mean?

A number on its own or without the UMF trademark does not identify genuine Manuka honey. The UMF Honey Association uses only the UMF Grading System. Other grading systems (HPA, NPA, TA, or KFactor) are based upon different criteria and are not supported by the UMF Honey Association.

What If I’m Still Unsure?

A jar of genuine, UMF-approved Manuka honey should clearly display three items:

  1. The UMF trademark.
  1. A UMF grade.
  1. Proof of New Zealand origin.

If your jar of Manuka displays more information, less information, or different information than the three items above, check the front label for a UMF Honey Association license number. Only licensed organizations are allowed to use the UMF trademark. Licensed organizations are listed on the UMF Honey Association’s website.

With a working knowledge of Manuka honey terminology, you can now be sure that you are enjoying genuine, UMF-approved Manuka honey.

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