Honey exploits NZ’s natural bounty

Celia Johnson

New Zealand-based Manuka Health has capitalised on the nation’s unique natural resources, and has developed a range of bee products exclusive to trees and plants found in New Zealand.

Manuka Health is one of a number of NZ companies producing Manuka honey products containing natural antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

All honey contains antibacterial com­pounds but Manuka honey is novel because it contains methylglyoxal, as opposed to hydrogen peroxide, and does not break down in heat or light or when applied to the body like other honeys.

The identification of methylglyoxal in some Manuka honeys is a recent dis­covery by the Technical University of Dresden, Germany, in partnership with Manuka Health.

“The reason why Manuka honey is special is because methylglyoxal pro­vides reliable antibacterial activity, which up until now has been identified as Unique Manuka Factor, or UMF,” Manuka Health chief executive Kerry Paul said.

“Whereas the antibacterial quality in regular honey disappears quickly in conditions including heat and light, methylglyoxal does not break down, resulting in the antibacterial activity of honey remaining intact.”


UMF Manuka honey is a creamed honey processed using gentle heat.

The process of creaming honey is sig­nificantly different to producing liquid honey, which is the most common form of honey production in the world.

To produce liquid honey, it must be heated at high temperatures and the sugar crystals filtered out so they do not bind together.

These actions neutralise regular honey’s antibacterial qualities.

Methylglyoxal is not affected by heat but the other nutritional properties of honey are.

By applying gentle heat Manuka Health is able to preserve all the nutri­tional properties of the honey.

Fortified for health

Manuka Health has produced a range of innovative products by combining the bioactive qualities from other natural products such as green tea extract with UMF Manuka honey, further enhanc­ing the functional benefits of the honey.

“We’re using UMF Manuka honey as a carrier of other bioactive com­pounds because it has a taste profile that is appealing to customers, unlike the extracts which, on their own, do not have a pleasant taste,” Paul said.

“We make sure we put an efficacious amount into the honey, determined by scientific research, to ensure the user gains the benefits from both the UMF Manuka honey and the other bioactive products,” he continued.

Natural products like green tea extract, for instance, contain a com­pound known as Epigallocatechin gal­late which is the source of the extract’s antibacterial and antioxidant qualities.

When added to UMF Manuka honey at a concentration that is backed by sci­entific research, the product promotes good health and wellbeing.

Export & demand

Manuka Health is currently exporting to 25 countries including Australia, North America, the UK and Europe.

According to Paul, awareness that bee products coming out of NZ are unique is growing worldwide, with pub­licity about the benefits of Manuka being particularly strong in the UK and throughout Asia.

“Through evolution the variety of the Leptospermum scoparium tree found only in NZ, for instance, has developed very high concentration levels of the valuable active compounds found in Manuka honey and is therefore under great demand,” Paul said.

The company is committed to the ongoing development of innovative, functional foods and is continually rolling out new combinations of bee products that have nutritional benefits for consumers.

“The next product we’re releasing is UMF Manuka honey and ACTIValoe Gel, designed for improving bowel health,” Paul said.

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