People have been eating honey for thousands of years, and it’s hard to establish how long exactly it’s been around. There are cave paintings in Spain dating back to 7,000 BC that show early records of bee keeping, and there is a 15,000 year old cave painting that shows a human figure, actually stealing honey from a beehive – showing how valuable it was.
Even more remarkable is the fact that fossils of honey bees exist way back to over 150 million years ago!
It has been claimed that honey lasts forever and in most cases, this is true – it is one of the very few foods that has an indefinite shelf-life. This is due to the low moisture content of honey and the fact that it is loaded with natural sugar, which dries out and destroys any bacteria that make an attempt to live in it.
It’s been called an extraordinary, magical ‘superfood’, and has played such a significant part of our history, and now, thousands of years later, there is an even bigger demand for honey, and particularly honey with the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF).
So… what is the UMF Manuka Honey?
Unique Manuka Factor is the term applied to Manuka honey, produced from bees, that pollinate only the flowers of the Manuka tree. Manuka trees are unique to New Zealand, and often grow in very remote areas.
The manuka flower produces nectar with characteristic and unique signature compounds, and this gives manuka honey a unique, rather extraordinary enzyme called methylglyoxal (MGO). It is this enzyme that has earned manuka honey the term ‘superfood’.
For a food that has such a long history, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that the real uniqueness of manuka honey was discovered. Dr Peter Molan, a scientist from the Waikato University, New Zealand, uncovered this during his research into the different types of honey, and found Manuka honey is unique in that it has a higher level of enzymes than regular honey.
This is where the term ‘Unique Manuka Factor’ was devised and gained the global recognition and appeal it has today.
UMF® is the registered name and trademark held by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) and is a measure of the characteristics and values that make up manuka honey. This trademark guarantees the purity and superiority of the product.
To qualify for a UMF® grading, the honey must contain dihydroxyacetone, (DHA) methylglyoxal and leptosperin. This quality trademark can be used only by New Zealand companies who are licensed users and who meet specific criteria.
UMF is not present in the nectar of all manuka flowers, and honey without the UMF only contains hydrogen peroxide, which is common to most types of honey.
Manuka honey has four times the nutritional content of normal honey, hence the name UMF manuka honey.
The UMF rating system gives consumers the confidence they are buying the real deal.
Even the location of the beehives plays an important part. A hive that is surrounded by a higher concentration of manuka plants is more likely to produce a more powerful form of manuka honey than a beehive which is located amongst a wide range of other plants with only a handful of Manuka trees.
Beware - not all honey is created equal!
Of the many honey products that adorn supermarket shelves all around the world, only about 80% of the honey that is labelled and sold as manuka honey, is actually the real thing. To set this right and protect the growers and consumers, standards have been set up to ensure that consumers are getting the genuine article. A lot of honey is labelled manuka that actually doesn’t even come from New Zealand.
How do I know if I am buying genuine UMF Manuka honey?
It’s simple: Always look for the UMF® trademark when you buy honey to ensure the authenticity of the product. The higher the number, the higher the MGO factor, and the purer the honey. Honey without the UMF® trademark is generally low-grade honey and doesn't have the characteristics of manuka honey, and therefore is not so much in demand.
To ensure you are getting genuine manuka honey, look for these four things
• An UMF® trademark that is clearly shown on the container
• The honey will come from New Zealand and include a UMC license number
• The UMF® company name and license number will be on the label
• The honey will display a UMF® rating from 5+ upwards. If the label doesn’t show a UMF® trademark and a number, it’s not the genuine article
Not all manuka honey has this special quality, and for those products that do, the strength varies. The higher the number, the more pure and active the honey is.
The UMF rating system gives consumers the confidence they are buying the real product.
There are less than 100 companies that are licensed to use the UMF rating system for their manuka honey, and at Bee Plus, we are proud to be one of them.
You can learn more about our approach and UMF manuka honey by clicking here.
We are licensed to use the UMF® trademark. Licence number 2037
Did you know Napoleon loved bees? When he arrived on the island of Elba where he spent ten months of his life in exile, he had a flag made with a single line of bees in flight. Napoleon loved bees because they symbolised power, obedience and trust.