Articles, News, and Resources about Manuka Honey
Bees & Trees has been working hard to educate and inform consumers about the misleading labeling of Manuka honey in the US market through our website blog posts and Facebook posts. This article reinforces what we've been sounding the alarm about. They mention the UMF rating, but they don't say that the other legitimate way to label Manuka honey is by displaying the actual amount of methylglyoxal (MG) on the label, which is what we do.
UMF is a trademarked term that can only be used by companies who pay to participate in the "Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association," an industry trade association. We, along with a many other producers, choose to use the actual concentration of methylglyoxal on our labels.
Here's another quick update from the Toko School. They've been checking on their hives. Don't forget - it's winter there!
Click here to read their latest blog entry.
August 2, 2018
Despite being a while since we heard from the Toko School, they have been busy learning about honey bees. They've sold most of their honey and are learning about the life cycle of the bees.
For those of you who may be new to the Bees & Trees Community, we previously donated honey bees to the Toko School in New Zealand for a class project. Our head beekeeper, Raul, has been working with the children through all the phases of beekeeping. It's been quite fun to watch.
Read all about it on their blog: Toko School Bee Blog.
Various Manuka honey brands say lots of convincing things on their labels. For the unsuspecting consumer, the descriptions on these labels really do sound legitimate. They talk about pollen count, naturally occurring peroxide activity levels, and even DHA content. The problem is that none of these things have any relevance to what makes Manuka honey unique – methylglyoxal (MG). All Manuka honey is valued and sold based on the amount of MG in the jar – not pollen count, peroxide activity levels or DHA (a precursor to MG) content. You have to wonder why they don’t just put the amount of MG on the jar. Probably because the actual amount of MG in the jar does not equal the deceiving number they portray on the jar. Usually, these companies will put a number that looks like a UMF rating. UMF stands for “Unique Manuka Factor.” It is trademarked by the UMF Honey Association (UMFHA). Companies can only use a UMF designation if they belong to this organization. If they don’t belong, they can use the actual MG amount. Sounds simple, right? It should be. But companies will use a number that looks like a UMF number, but not actually say “UMF”, thereby hoping the consumer doesn’t realize or notice that there is no UMF designation. Here’s an example:
Here is what they say:
This label says 20+ Bioactive Manuka Honey. It also says that the “total activity level is a reflection of naturally occurring peroxide activity levels.”
Here is what they don’t say:
All honey has naturally occurring peroxide activity levels. Glucose oxidase, when combined with the moisture of a wound, will convert to hydrogen peroxide, and is an antiseptic. However, this type of “activity” has none of the benefits of Manuka Honey, which was discovered in the early 1990s to have a different, much more potent, broad-spectrum anti-bacterial property. At the time, this was coined “Non-Peroxide Activity” or NPA and later trademarked as "Unique Manuka Factor" or UMF. Further research identified that Manuka honey’s potency is directly correlated to the naturally occurring organic compound methylglyoxal (MG). And the MG is what is laboratory tested to determine the potency and efficacy of Manuka honey.
Here is what they mean:
We take a bunch of floral type honeys and mix them with a really cheap, low-grade Manuka Honey so we can still say its Manuka honey, and label our jar with a 20+ hoping to make you think that it’s a 20+ UMF Manuka honey (which would be equivalent to a really high potency 870+ MG Manuka honey). So unless you know about MG and UMF designations, you will pay big money for very cheap honey. You can find us on the shelves of some of the biggest name retail stores in the US. In our experience, the US consumer has not really caught on yet. We have a much tougher time in Europe and Asia where the consumers are more aware of how to read Manuka Honey labels. We really hope you buy a lot of our product before you figure us out.
Tricky, aren’t they?
“Profit is sweet, even if it comes from deception.” -Sophocles, Greek Playwright
Here is what you should do:
When you are purchasing Manuka honey, make sure the label says the actual amount of methylglyoxal, abbreviated as MG or MGO, OR says UMF. If you just see numbers, it’s probably not what they want you to think it is. To know what the numbers mean, take a look at this chart (1).
If you still have questions, let us know. We want you to be certain about what you’re paying for and what you’re getting. Whether you buy our product or another legitimate Manuka brand, it’s good for our industry to have educated, aware consumers.
You can see how we label our honey here.
1. This chart shows the correlation between a UMF rating and the MG concentration of the honey. To display the UMF trademark on the label the honey must also be tested for threshold levels of Leptosperin and Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). These are two of the 6 chemical markers, plus a DNA marker that are typically tested for on Manuka honey. Four of the six chemical markers, plus the DNA marker are required by the NZ government before Manuka honey can be exported.
July 5, 2018
We had a lot of fun in New York City this past weekend at the Summer Fancy Food Show. Wow, what a gigantic tradeshow! The Show, established in 1954, is now the largest marketplace devoted exclusively to specialty foods and beverages in North America. The Specialty Food Association, a not-for-profit trade association for food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs, owns and produces the show. The Fancy Food Show has helped launch such brands as Popchips, Honest Tea, Ben & Jerry’s, Stonewall Kitchen, Walker’s Shortbread, Tate’s Bake Shop, ZICO Coconut Water and Vermont Creamery.
From New York to Hawaii to Louisiana to Maine, more than 1,300 U.S. specialty food companies presented the latest chocolate, cheese, olive oil, baked goods, jams, salsas, tea and of course, honey. Honestly, there were too many products to name.
Registered attendees represented top names in specialty retailing, restaurants and foodservice including Kroger, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, UNFI, KeHE and Southern Season. Others signed up included Barnes & Noble College, Zingerman’s, Marriott, and thousands of buyers from local specialty food markets.
So as you can see, this show was a BIG DEAL. We had folks stop by our booth from the likes of Whole Foods, Dean & DeLuca, Formaggio Kitchen, Williams Sonoma, and, wait for it - O, The Oprah Magazine! There were lots of others too. We're anxious to follow up with everyone we spoke with, and are excited about bringing on some amazing new retailers to carry our honey.
Stay tuned for updates as we grow our family of retailers and customers!
Our beautiful booth...
The Bees & Trees Crew on Set-Up Day...
The Fancy Food Show...
Bees & Trees on the What's New Shelf...
The Bees & Trees Crew in the main lobby of the convention center...
April 18, 2018
"Hi, I am a fan and prior purchaser. I am wanting to order two jars of the 'Batch 10'. The website says it's summer 2016. So, unless I am mistaken, it is late summer 2018 in NZ right about now, which makes this batch 2 years old? I am concerned about that and why would I not be getting newer/fresher stock from 2017 or even the most recent harvest?" Cheers, David
That is a great question (and one we get a lot)! Manuka Honey is always aged or grown after harvest, typically for 12-24 months at ambient temperature. This is to allow the MG levels to grow, as the DHA converts to MG naturally. At harvest, the current batch started at about 200 MG and it is now in the 480-520 MG range. So, it takes time for the honey to mature before it is packed and sold. We take a small batch, hive to jar approach, harvesting and packing exactly what the bees make. That is why we put the harvest date and the extraction batch number on the label. Think of it as a fine wine - being 2-3 years old means you are getting a better honey!
April 3, 2018
They have their honey all labeled ready to sell! The children at the Toko School are open for business. Take a look at the photos of the children busy at work prepping their honey jars.
Click here for more.
April 3, 2018
When we started this journey with the children at the Toko School in New Zealand, we didn't realize the lessons would span so many topics. Since the children will be selling the honey they've harvested, they need a logo for their honey jars. In this post, the children learn about what makes a successful logo and what is needed for a good logo.
Click here to read their bee blog.
April 2, 2018
Our friends at the Toko School have put together a short compilation of photos and videos of their honey extraction process. Click the image below to watch.
For those of you new to Bees and Trees, we donated hives to the Toko School in New Zealand and our head beekeeper, Raul, has guided them through the beekeeping process from the start. It's been a lot of fun to share their learning journey.