UMF Association


Helping to create an ID for manuka honey

New Zealand manuka honey commands prices significantly higher than non-manuka honey due to its unique anti-bacterial properties, and occupies an enviable brand position resonating with consumers around the world.

Yet recently this brand has been under attack from a rise in “fake” New Zealand manuka honey, which British tests reveal contain none of the properties which are claimed for on the label, and in some cases is not even manuka honey.

To protect this brand and to prove the origin of New Zealand honey, the UMF Honey Association ran the Manuka ID Project throughout 2013.

The project was designed to prove a method to definitively identify the floral source of New Zealand honey, so as to give importers, retailers and consumers assurance they are purchasing genuine NZ Manukau Honey.

The first step of the project was to collect samples of honey from clean traceable hives throughout regions of New Zealand. To complement the honey samples, authentic nectar samples were also collected.

Once collected and during testing, the honey needed to remain free of contamination from both physical contaminants and other honey sources to ensure it remained as true as possible to the intended floral type.

The FoodBowl provided a facility which fitted the brief of the project, which needed to stand up to international scrutiny of New Zealand’s trading partners.

The FoodBowl had a Risk Management Programme that covered this type of processing and had the capacity to meet some overseas market requirements if needed. It enabled hygienic, confidential and secure on-site storage of the honey before, during, and after extraction, access to a warm room for preparation of the honey boxes prior to extraction, a clean space for the extraction process, as well as stringent cleaning procedures to ensure there was no risk of contamination between extractions of different honey samples.

Equally important was the strict traceability of the product incoming, during production and upon sending to the laboratory. The traceability procedures at the FoodBowl were audited by an external auditor, AsureQuality, to international standards.

The methodology developed and enhanced whilst at the FoodBowl included establishing organoleptic and physical parameters of Manuka honey, for example colour, thixotropy, conductivity, and dissolved solids content. These techniques had been used traditionally in the discrimination of honey types.

The samples were then sent offsite to an accredited lab for further testing in New Zealand, from where they were dispensed to laboratories around the world for analysis such as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Mass Spectrometry.

John Rawcliffe, General Manager of the UMF Honey Association, says The FoodBowl using the facilities at The FoodBowl will help the project stand up to international scrutiny:

“The UMF Honey Association’s use of the FoodBowl enabled it to verify traceability and the procedures to ensure complete separation of each of the authentic honey samples. Key customers of the Association were able to visit the FoodBowl and review documentation and procedures, which has provided credibility to the Manuka ID Project at an international level.”

Collaboration between these laboratories will eventually lead to the establishment of a definitive test for the Manuka content of a honey. This can then be applied by producers and marketers alike to better protect the consumer when buying such a high-value product as well as securing New Zealand’s position as a world leader in uniquely active honey.