Manuka honey only comes from New Zealand and is well known for having special anti-microbial properties that other honey does not have. To harvest Manuka honey, bees must forage nectar from the white flowers of the Manuka bush which is only in season for 12 weeks in New Zealand’s summer. UMF is a testing criteria that proves the honey contains certain levels of key compounds.
What does UMF mean?
UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor. It’s an independent grading system which was invented in New Zealand by a trade-body called the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA). Brands pay a licence fee to the organisation in order to use the logo on their pots. Our licence number is 1043. All brands who are part of the UMF grading system will use the same UMF logo.
Can any Manuka brand pay for a UMF logo?
No, the UMFHA are very strict in who is able to use their logo. Firstly the company must pack their jars in New Zealand itself. Secondly the honey must meet certain levels of four naturally occurring markers to be given a UMF rating. And finally, the honey must be tested by an independent lab in New Zealand.
So what does UMF measure, and what does it guarantee?
To establish the UMF level of a Manuka honey, four things are checked.
1. The level of MGO in the honey. MGO (or methylglyoxal) is the substance that scientists generally concur gives manuka honey its special properties that other honey does not have. The level of MGO can be linked to the anti-microbial (bug killing) benefits of Manuka. Put simply, the higher the MGO level, the higher the UMF level will be and the stronger the anti-microbial benefits of the honey will be. Some honey brands choose to only display the MGO level on packaging as it is the main active compound in Manuka honey.
We have created this table so you can easily see how UMF and MGO levels compare to each other:
2. The presence of DHA in the honey. DHA (or dihydroxyacetone) is natural substance that is a precursor to MGO which is found in the nectar of Manuka flowers. DHA converts to MGO in the bee hive during the honey production process. Essentially, it’s impossible to have MGO in a Manuka honey without DHA. Therefore, in order to get a UMF rating, the honey must also show the presence of DHA to prove that the honey has been created in the correct way in a bee-hive and not chemically altered.
3. The level of Leptosperin. Leptosperin is another naturally-occurring chemical marker found only in the nectar of Mānuka and some closely related species. It was discovered by Yoji Kato in Japan in 2012, and through UMFHA’s science programme, was found to be indicative of Mānuka honey authenticity. i.e. if there is no Leptosperin in the Manuka honey, then the honey is not true manuka from New Zealand Manuka bushes. In order to secure a UMF rating, the level of Leptosperin in the honey must be more than 100 milligrams per kilogram.
4. The level of HMF (or Hydroxymethylfurfural). HMF concentrations increase under excessive heat and prolonged storage times. HMF is particularly relevant to Manuka honey as heat can be used to accelerate the conversion of DHA to MGO fraudulently, thus altering the chemical profile to make Manuka honey appear stronger and therefore more valuable. In order to protect customers, to secure a UMF rating, the HMF content after processing should not be more than 40 milligrams per kilogram.
How does Honey New Zealand do these tests?
Our honey is tested five times between the beekeeper and the pot you buy from our website. We use several independent laboratories in both New Zealand and the UK which test for the above UMF criteria, and also separate tests to ensure the honey meets the New Zealand guidelines – also called the MPI Standard. And because Honey New Zealand also owns much of the land where our bees roam, we have a transparent supply chain where we can trace every single pot back to the exact group of bee-hives where the honey was harvested. We call this our Hive to Home promise.
Is UMF honey better than other types of measurement?
UMF is certainly the most comprehensive testing standard in the world for Manuka honey. Some brands choose to only display the MGO level on their pack, which is valid as that is the main active compound in manuka. But with the UMF system, you can guarantee that your honey has been checked for additional markers.
What UMF strength do I need?
A UMF 5 product is best suited for everyday wellness, cooking and flavouring as it naturally has lower anti-microbial properties. If you require higher levels of anti-microbial effect, then you should buy a higher grading like a UMF 10, 15 or 20.
How can I be sure Honey New Zealand Manuka is genuine?
In order to be exported from New Zealand as “manuka” the honey must meet strict NZ Government Guidelines to prove it is the real deal. This is known as the Ministry for Primary Industries Standard, or MPI Standard for short. Introduced in 2017, the standard means that brands who produce Manuka must test for 4 naturally occurring markers and a DNA test. This proves that the honey is from New Zealand itself and not another country. The MPI Standard tests are for completely separate markers to the UMF system. Which means that in total our honey is tested for the presence of 9 separate compounds.
How do I use Honey New Zealand Manuka?
Many of our customers like to enjoy Manuka honey from a spoon, taking one teaspoon full every morning. Some prefer to mix their Manuka into a warm drink with lemon and hot water. We do not advise people to put honey into boiling water as very high temperature can affect the active compounds in the honey. Our Manuka is also perfect to cook with, either drizzling the honey over cereals or porridge, or even adding to marinades, cocktails and desserts depending on how adventurous you are feeling.
Is Honey New Zealand Manuka medical grade?
Our honey is not sterilised or designed for use in hospitals. Healthcare establishments who use Manuka honey for wound healing will require sterile packaging for plasters and bandages whereas our honey comes in pots. Although our UMF 20 honey is one of the strongest you can buy, with very high levels of anti-microbial MGO, which customers do tell us they find benefit from using.
Is Honey New Zealand Manuka raw or heat treated?
There is no formal definition of what “raw” honey means, but some brands say raw is about preserving the natural state of the honey from the hive. All Honey New Zealand Manuka honey is filtered in our factory in the North Island of New Zealand to remove any remaining wax or honeycomb left from the hive before it is put into jars. It is also brought up to room temperate to make it easier for us to pour and gently creamed (another word for stirred) which prevents it crystallising and going hard in the jar once bottled. So while we feel our honey is as raw as it should be, we do not put this on the packaging as some customers may like to buy a honey that also contains wax/honeycomb and has not been creamed at all, so is harder in texture.