Why is Manuka Honey so Expensive?

Manuka honey has gained worldwide popularity in recent years thanks to its unique properties, health benefits, and medicinal applications. Despite its many advantages, one question remains in the minds of consumers: Why is Manuka honey so expensive?

In this article, we will delve into the factors that contribute to the high price of Manuka, including its origin, production process, and the challenges faced in maintaining its authenticity and quality.

By understanding the reasons behind the high price tag, you will be better equipped to determine whether the investment is worth it for you.

5 Reasons Manuka is So Expensive

Superior Germ-Killing Properties

One of the primary reasons behind Manuka honey’s high price is its exceptional germ-killing properties. Unlike regular honey, Manuka honey (tea tree) contains a unique compound called methylglyoxal (MGO), which is responsible for its potent antimicrobial and antibacterial effects.

The concentration of MGO in Manuka honey is much higher than that in other types of honey, making it particularly effective in combating various pathogens and infections.

The scientific community has widely recognised Manuka honey’s superior germ-killing abilities, leading to its use in various medicinal applications. For instance, it is often used as a natural remedy for wound care, treating burns, and combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Its effectiveness in these areas has led to a growing demand for Manuka honey, which, in turn, has contributed to its high price.

Moreover, the presence of MGO in Manuka honey also requires careful handling and processing to ensure that its antimicrobial properties are preserved. The efforts taken to maintain the quality and potency of Manuka honey throughout its production process inevitably add to its overall cost. As a result, the superior germ-killing properties of Manuka honey play a significant role in its expensive price tag.

manuka plant with bees

Limited Production Window

In addition to its superior germ-killing properties, Manuka honey also boasts a variety of unique properties that set it apart from other types of honey and contribute to its high cost. Some of these distinctive characteristics include:

  1. High Nutritional Content: Manuka honey is packed with essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. Its rich nutritional profile enhances its therapeutic effects and adds to its overall value as a health-promoting food.
  2. Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Manuka honey has been shown to possess potent anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the body and promote healing. This makes it an attractive natural remedy for a variety of conditions, such as skin irritations, sore throats, and digestive issues.
  3. Stable Shelf Life: Manuka honey has a longer shelf life than regular honey, thanks to its low water content and high acidity levels. These factors help prevent the growth of bacteria and other harmful microorganisms, ensuring that Manuka honey remains safe for consumption over an extended period.

Because it comes all the way from New Zealand

Another significant factor contributing to Manuka honey’s high price is its exclusive origin. Manuka honey is derived from the nectar of the Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium), which is native to New Zealand. This geographical exclusivity not only limits the regions where Manuka honey can be produced but also adds a certain prestige to the product, as it cannot be replicated elsewhere in the world.

New Zealand’s strict regulations and guidelines surrounding Manuka honey production further contribute to its cost. These measures ensure that the honey is sourced, harvested, and processed in a sustainable and ethical manner, preserving both the environment and the honey’s unique properties. Compliance with these stringent standards requires significant equipment, training, and certification investments, ultimately increasing production costs.

Furthermore, the transportation and export of Manuka honey from New Zealand to international markets also contribute to its price. Shipping costs, import duties, and taxes can add a considerable amount to the final retail price, especially when the product is in high demand.

Because Manuka flowers for a very short period

The limited flowering period of the Manuka tree is yet another factor that contributes to the high cost of Manuka honey. The Manuka tree typically blooms briefly, ranging from two to six weeks per year, depending on weather conditions and location. This short flowering period restricts the availability of Manuka nectar, making it a scarce and valuable resource.

Beekeepers face several challenges during this brief window, including unpredictable weather conditions, the need to ensure optimal hive placement, and competition with other nectar sources in the area. These challenges can affect the overall yield of Manuka honey, further limiting its supply and pushing up its price.

Additionally, during the Manuka flowering season, beekeepers must carefully monitor and maintain the health of their bee colonies. This is essential to maximize honey production and protect the bees from diseases and pests. These efforts require significant time, resources, and expertise, which inevitably adds to the cost of producing Manuka honey.

Because its Rigorously Tested before Certification

The strict testing and certification process that Manuka honey must undergo to ensure its quality and authenticity is another factor contributing to its high price. Rigorous tests are conducted at various stages of production to guarantee that the honey meets the stringent standards set by certification bodies, such as the UMF Honey Association and the New Zealand government. Some key aspects of the testing and certification process include:

  1. Chemical Analysis: Manuka honey is subjected to chemical analysis to determine the concentration of key compounds, such as MGO, leptosperin, and dihydroxyacetone (DHA). These compounds are responsible for Manuka honey’s unique properties, and their concentrations are used to determine the honey’s UMF rating.
  2. Microbial Testing: To ensure Manuka honey’s safety and efficacy as an antimicrobial agent, it is tested for the presence of bacteria, yeasts, and moulds. Honey that meets the required standards is considered safe for consumption and suitable for medicinal use.
  3. Traceability and Authenticity: Manuka honey must be traceable back to its source to combat counterfeiting and protect consumers. Each batch of honey is assigned a unique identification number, which allows it to be tracked from the hive to the final product. This traceability system helps ensure the honey’s authenticity and protects the reputation of genuine Manuka honey producers.
  4. Certification and Labeling: Once Manuka honey has passed the necessary tests, it is awarded a certification, such as the UMF or MGO rating, which indicates its quality and potency. This certification must be displayed on the product’s label and other essential information, such as the batch number, the producer’s details, and the honey’s origin.

Understanding the Differences Between Manuka Honey Varieties

Manuka honey is not a one-size-fits-all product, and its variations in quality and potency can contribute to differences in pricing. Understanding these distinctions is essential for consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing Manuka honey. Some key factors to consider include the following:

  1. Unique Manuka Factor (UMF): The UMF rating is a widely recognized grading system that measures the potency and purity of Manuka honey. It takes into account the concentration of key compounds, such as MGO and leptosperin, which are responsible for the honey’s unique properties. Higher UMF ratings indicate superior quality and potency and, as a result, command a higher price.
  2. Methylglyoxal (MGO) Concentration: As mentioned earlier, MGO is the compound responsible for Manuka honey’s antimicrobial properties. The MGO content can vary greatly between different Manuka honey varieties, with higher concentrations offering increased antibacterial potency. Manuka honey with higher MGO levels is typically more expensive.
  3. Harvesting and Production Practices: The methods used to harvest, extract, and process Manuka honey can also impact its quality and price. Sustainable and ethical practices, which ensure the preservation of the honey’s properties and the well-being of the environment and bee population, can contribute to higher production costs.
  4. Certification and Authenticity: To guarantee the quality and authenticity of Manuka honey, various certification bodies, such as the UMF Honey Association and the New Zealand government, have implemented strict testing and labelling standards. Honey that meets these criteria and is certified as genuine Manuka honey will typically be priced higher than uncertified products. Consumers should look for certified Manuka honey to ensure they are purchasing a genuine and high-quality product.

Manuka from the Golden Triangle of New Zealand

Manuka honey is a unique and highly sought-after type of honey that is produced by bees that collect nectar from the flowers of the manuka tree, which is native to New Zealand. While manuka honey can be produced in other regions of New Zealand and even in other countries, the most highly valued and potent manuka honey comes from what is known as the “golden triangle” of New Zealand.

The golden triangle is an area on the North Island of New Zealand that is bounded by the cities of Auckland, Tauranga, and Hamilton. This region is considered to be the best area for producing high-quality manuka honey due to its unique climate and soil conditions, which are ideal for growing manuka trees.

The manuka trees in the golden triangle produce nectar that is especially rich in the unique compounds that give manuka honey its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This is why manuka honey from the golden triangle is considered to be the most potent and valuable.

In addition to its high potency, manuka honey from the golden triangle is also subject to strict quality control measures to ensure that it is genuine and of the highest quality. The New Zealand government has established a regulatory framework that requires all manuka honey to be tested for its unique compounds and quality markers before it can be sold as genuine manuka honey.

Traceability of Manuka

The best manuka honey is traceable because it provides assurance to the consumer that they are purchasing a genuine and high-quality product. Manuka honey is a premium product that commands a high price, and unfortunately, there have been instances of fraudulent or low-quality honey being sold as genuine manuka honey.

Traceability is the process of being able to track the honey from the hive to the store shelf. The best manuka honey is traceable because it allows consumers to verify the authenticity of the honey, as well as ensure that it has been produced using ethical and sustainable practices.

Traceability also ensures that the honey has been produced in accordance with the strict quality standards set by the New Zealand government. These standards require that manuka honey must meet certain quality markers and undergo laboratory testing to verify its unique compounds.

By choosing traceable manuka honey, consumers can be confident that they are purchasing a product that is genuine, high-quality, and produced in an ethical and sustainable manner. Additionally, traceability helps to support the local New Zealand honey industry by promoting transparency and fair trade practices.

Clinical Nutritionist | + posts

Cara Hayes is an experienced natural health practitioner with a Masters in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics from the University of Sydney. She has been writing for New Zealand Honey since 2020 and loves manuka in her morning tea.