A teaspoon of honey a day may be the new mantra

Manuka flowers

The discovery of the compound in Manuka Honey that gives it anti-bacterial properties has placed it into the category of a medical food.  Susan Kirk reports.

Kerry Paul sold his first pot of honey on July 2006 after 14 years as a senior executive in the dairy industry and six years in biotechnology; commercialising science.

Manuka Health New Zealand was formed in July 2006 by a group of investors who realised the potential of the special health properties of New Zealand bee products.

The business, located at Te Awamutu, specialises in Manuka honey products. They source 400 tonnes of honey for use in health products and dietary supplements.

There’s nothing new about the healthy characteristics of New Zealand Manuka Honey.  Its fortifying benefits help with many common ailments including stomach pain;  reflux/heartburn; wound infections and wound healing and skin infections and healing.  But until recently scientists were unsure of the exact compound that was attributed to its anti-bacterial properties. Research by Professor Thomas Henle and his team at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany discovered the compound methylgloxal or MGO™.

MGO™ occurs in all honeys however the concentration is usually in the range of 0 to 10 mg/kg. In contrast, MGO™ is found in manuka honey from as low as 100 mg/kg and high as 1000 mg/kg.

Propolis collected by bees from trees and plants is another product that has potential anti cancer properties due to its high levels of CAPE (Caffeic Acid Phenyl Ester).  Importantly, Manuka Health Propolis has twice the bioflavonoid levels of other Propolis in the world. Bioflavonoids provide powerful anti-oxidant properties.

New Zealand has many unique native plants which translate into strong flavoured honeys well known around the world.  The native Reawarewa or New Zealand Honeysuckle is another plant dripping with honey and a favourite for bees.  The honey also has very high anti-bacterial properties, even more effective than Manuka in inhibiting the growth of selected wound infecting species of bacteria. It has a distinctive clean, sweet, smoky, and complex flavour, much revered by honey lovers.

Much of New Zealand’s honey is purchased and blended with other honeys, particularly in Germany, Europe and Australia.

The company produces creamed honeys which are processed by encouraging the sugar crystals to bind together.  Sugar crystals are removed from liquid honey.

“Like making wine there is an art to making honey,” said Kerry.

“There is no prescribed formula and we rely on the beekeeper to get it right.”

Beekeepers also need plant knowledge particularly flowering times.  Hives are strategically placed next to the flowering plant to produce a premium monofloral honey.  Mixed honey; or honey that comes from a range of different flowers is of lesser quality and is categorised as a blend.

Once the honey is brought into the factory and categorised by a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures including colour; taste; viscosity; pollen count; and smell, independent laboratory testing then gives the Manuka honey a rating on the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) scale.

25 markets including Australia purchase Manuka Health products and distribution is primarily through retail outlets and pharmacies.

A small part of the market includes food services where a 50 gram premium Manuka honey sachet is sold to hotels and motels.  Manuka honey is popular in the food service industry due to its very strong flavour, good taste and aroma.  The company also has a range of organic honeys for the market.

Distribution networks throughout Australia have enabled adequate penetration and amazing sales for a new business.

Recently Manuka health won the Product Innovation Award in the Central North Island Region at the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Business Awards 2007.

  • functional foods
  • Local honeys
  • sustainable honey production


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