The history of Manuka honey is that until the early 1990s, it was just one of a number of really nice honeys produced from flowering native New Zealand trees. Enter a Dr. Peter Molan of the Waikato University in New Zealand, who through his research discovered a very unique and special property of manuka honey. Dr Molan was studying the health properties of honeys which are normally attributed to a natural mild hydrogen peroxide antiseptic released when the enzyme glucose oxidase produced by the bees as a preservative in the honey comes in contact with moisture in the body.
However, this "peroxide activity" is easily destroyed by exposure to fluids, heat and sunlight. The discovery that Dr. Molan made was that Manuka honey had a different property, what he termed a "non-peroxide activity"(NPA), which was more potent & stable, opening up the possibility of a wide range of uses. The term "Unique Manuka Factor", or UMF was coined (and trademarked) to describe this property which varied in strength as measured from different batches of Manuka honey produced in various parts of New Zealand.
Professor Thomas Henle at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany set out to isolate what it was in Manuka honey that was producing this antibacterial affect. They isolated a compound, methylglyoxal (MGO), as having a direct correlation to the UMF rating of Manuka honey. UMF is measured by observing the inhibition to growth of bacteria within honey samples. MGO can be directly measured in ppm or parts per million. UMF ratings range from 5 to 15 typically, MGO from 100-550ppm.
For labeling purposes, MGO is trademarked by Manuka Health New Zealand Ltd. UMF is registered and controlled by The Active Manuka Honey Association (AMHA). The largest member of AMHA is Comvita New Zealand Ltd.
The New Zealand government has recently stepped in and set honey labeling guidelines to reduce confusion over honey activity in worldwide markets. From January 2015 all honey is only to be labeled with the actual methylglyoxal test results, which may be displayed as MG, MGO, or UMF from different honey producers. Our honey is tested by either Hill Laboratories or Analytica, the two largest and most trusted labs in New Zealand. Our honey now displays methlglyoxal test results for the batch we are selling. We believe in full transparency, and are happy to make our test results available upon request.
The worldwide market for "active" Manuka honey is strong, with much of the product being exported to Europe and Asia. Many of the companies that market and sell Manuka honey buy it from producers all over the country. The honey is typically blended to achieve a certain UMF or MGO rating, and pricing is set according to this rating. Our approach is different; we are selling a seasonally limited production of some of the best tasting Manuka honey available, harvested from a specific area of New Zealand. We'll mark the label consistent with each batch's test results. See our blog for more information on "how honey grows".