The popularity of Manuka Honey has been rising in recent years, but there is still doubt and confusion amongst consumers. With so many Manuka definitions and grading systems, it is easy to understand why there is a lack of consumer confidence and understanding. Amongst many other questions, people ask us “what is Manuka Honey”.

Here is what we know and like to share with everyone.

What is Manuka Honey?

Manuka Honey is collected from the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium)
found in New Zealand and Australia. It has a very unique and strong flavour profile often described with words such as earthy, caramel, smoke, wax, oily and herbaceous. Its popularity has come from scientific research showing results consistent with antibacterial qualities. Though this research is preliminary, findings so far have gained global attention and excitement.

Is there a difference between New Zealand Manuka Honey and Australian Manuka Honey?

There are a couple of notable differences between New Zealand and Australian Manuka Honey.

-The species Leptospermum scoparium is native to both countries. However, the name “Manuka” is a Māori word native to New Zealand. This has come under the spotlight recently with New Zealand lodging multiple global trademark applications for the term “Manuka”.

-Although the species are the same, there are notable differences in makeup and flavour profiles due to soil and environmental conditions. Manuka gained its reputation in New Zealand, a certain flavour and consistency a lot of consumers are expecting aren’t necessarily there when buying Manuka Honey from Australia.

What do all the grading systems mean?

UMF®, MGO, NPA, Kfactor, BioActive, Active. A simple “Manuka Honey” google search can quickly turn into confusion and is enough to put you off buying that delicious pot of honey you were hoping for.

One of the most important decisions Ka Noa made when starting out was what grading system to use. It was an extremely important decision as we wanted to offer our customers a transparent and trustworthy product and as we saw it there were only two options.

A few points to make about Manuka grading systems:

-Any grading system making suggestions of health benefits cannot be packaged or sold in New Zealand. New Zealand has strict laws about making health claims on Manuka Honey labels.  If the words “Active”, “Bio Active” or NPA are on a pot of Manuka it has not been packaged in New Zealand and therefore has not been subject to New Zealand’s strict laws.

-It is common practice for foreign companies to import bulk honey from New Zealand to bypass strict labelling regulations.

Many Australian and American companies sell New Zealand Manuka Honey as “Active” or “Bio-Active”. These words are a clear warning that this honey has bypassed New Zealand’s strict Manuka Honey labelling standards.


-MGO stands for Methylglyoxal, an organic compound found in some types of honey and particularly prominent in Manuka Honey. It is under study for its potential activity against E. coli and S. aureus.

MGO was one of the grading systems we considered when Ka Noa was in its creation phase.


-UMF® stands for “Unique Manuka Factor” a trademark owned by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association.

The UMF® grade tests for many compounds found in Manuka Honey including Methylglyoxal, NPA, DHA, HMF and Leptosperin. Leptosperin is a great test for authenticity because it is only found in Manuka Honey.

UMF® is the only grading system that has an independent body regulating and checking all Honey under its umbrella. They carry out regular spot checks on Manuka Honey being exported or on the shelf, therefore ensuring the Honey is true to its label.

This is the grading system we chose for KA NOA™ Manuka Honey. We felt it was a great way to offer our customers a transparent and trustworthy product.

All our laboratory test results can be found listed alongside their relevant pots and grades on our website.

In Summary:

What is Manuka Honey? – Earthy, Waxy and Herbaceous, a delicious honey from New Zealand. Sort after for its unique properties, it has a strong global reputation stemmed from preliminary research results on its antibacterial qualities.

What do the grading systems mean? – In short, the grading systems show the concentration levels of Manuka’s unique compounds. There are many different grading systems but only one with an independent regulatory body: UMF®.

Why do people love eating Manuka Honey? – It’s delicious, unique and a natural product in its purest form. It is fantastic used in a smoothie, with your breakfast cereal, spread on toast or our favourite way, by itself just how nature intended.