Why is Manuka Honey So Expensive?
Manuka Honey is unlike any other, but why does it cost so much more than conventional clover and local table honeys? To understand, let’s look at all of the chance occurrences that must take place to create Real Manuka Honey.
Manuka Honey Is Not Like Other Honey
First, Manuka Honey is nothing like other varietals of honey. Local wildflower honeys and conventional clover honeys may always have a place in your cupboard, but Manuka Honey contains 20 times the individual natural compounds, giving it a range of health benefits that are unique to Manuka Honey.
Real Manuka Honey is made when bees almost exclusively pollinate the Manuka Flower
To make genuine Manuka Honey, bees must solely pollinate the Manuka Flower. If the Manuka Flower is only one of many blooms pollinated, the honey created is ‘Multi-Floral’ Manuka, which has a much lower concentration of Manuka Honey’s unique wellness properties. Monofloral Manuka Honey is created when bees, by their own free will, choose to pollinate this unique bloom above all others.
The Manuka Flower blooms only 2-6 weeks per year
It would be one thing if the Manuka Flower bloomed throughout the season, but this plant has a very short flowering window. This means that bees have as little as 12 days to collect the nectar of the Manuka Flower and create the Manuka Honey yield of the entire year. It also takes bees 22,700 trips to the Manuka Flower to gather the nectar needed to create a single jar of honey, which is a lot of work in a very short period of time.
The Manuka Flower is only native to the remote hills and forests of New Zealand
If the Manuka Flower could grow anywhere, Manuka Honey would not be as rare a natural occurrence. But in addition to a short bloom window, Manuka Flowers are only found in specific microclimates in its native New Zealand, often in the most isolated hills and forests. This wild plant is very sensitive to changes in climate and weather, pollution and other human interference, so the further away the Manuka plant is situated from human contact, the healthier the Manuka Flower, bee colonies and Manuka Honey. This is why Comvita only harvests Manuka Honey from locations that are very difficult to access - leaving the plants and bees alone to produce their best honey in sustainably managed and regenerative ecosystems.
Not all Manuka Flowers contain high levels of the compounds unique to Manuka Honey
In addition to the Manuka Flower’s rarity, not all blooms create nectar that yields a high concentration of Manuka’s three key chemical markers, Leptosperin, Methylglyoxal and DHA. So despite all this work of pollinating the rare bloom to create this unique honey, it may still not have meaningful levels of Manuka’s unique properties that make it conducive for use in wellness and beauty routines. This is why it’s important to pay attention to the rating system shown on your jar of Manuka Honey. Comvita uses UMF™ certification (Unique Manuka Factor), the only independently verified rating system that measures for all three of Manuka’s unique chemical markers and guarantees minimum levels of activity in each jar. UMF™ also tests for the presence of naturally occurring Leptosperin, the plant marker that identifies that the honey is from the nectar of the Manuka flower. No other rating system gives you a clear picture of what you’re getting - UMF™ is the gold standard.
A UMF™ 20+ is not four times stronger than a UMF™ 5+
Logically you might think that a UMF™ 20+ has 33% higher levels than a UMF™ 15+, or that two UMF™ 5+ make the power of a UMF™ 10+, but that’s not how it works. Rating numbers are not flatly proportional to the concentration of active compounds. For example, UMF™ 20+ Manuka Honey, the rarest of the rare, has over 10x the levels of Methylglyoxal as UMF™ 5+ Manuka Honey. This chart compares levels of Methylglyoxal (MGO) across all four equivalent UMF™ ratings:
In short, between the delicacy of the Manuka Flower, the short period of time it blooms, and the rarity of high concentrations of Manuka’s key compounds, it’s a miracle of nature that this powerful elixir comes together in the first place - and it’s all the more important to invest in the real thing, crafted sustainably, and verified for authenticity.