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Why is Manuka Honey So Expensive?

We are all aware of the umpteen advantages and health benefits of honey but do you also know the best honey there is? If you thought of Manuka honey, then you are absolutely right. Boasting of a delicious taste and packed with a plethora of medicinal qualities, Manuka honey has a quality and flavor profile which is unlike any other typical honey. And for the same reason, it is also one of the most expensive honeys available out there. 

Having said that, let’s come to the many reasons why Manuka honey is one of the best honeys in the world and also why it is priced the way it is priced. Before we begin, let’s look at how real Manuka Honey is made.

How is Real Manuka Honey Made?

Real Manuka Honey can only exclusively be found in the remote hills and forests of New Zealand, and is made when honey bees pollinate with the Manuka flower. The catch here is that the bees must pollinate ONLY the Manuka flower. If the bees pollinate multiple pollen, the honey made as a result is ‘multi-floral’ Manuka and not real Manuka.

This ‘multi-floral’ Manuka is much less qualitative as compared to the real Manuka honey and also has comparatively less medicinal properties which are unique to the real Manuka Honey. 

Naturally, the honey which is obtained under preferable conditions like we mentioned is bound to be priced above the lot. Here's listing the top reason why Manuka Honey is so Expensive. 

Top Reasons Why Manuka Honey is So Expensive

There are several factors which contribute to making Manuka honey the most expensive honey in the world. While it’s scarce availability and unique medicinal properties are some of the top reasons, there are scores of other factors which we will now list down for you. 

1. Heritage and Native Environment

Manuka Honey is a unique honey which is only produced in the dense forests of New Zealand and no other place in the world. The honey comes from the special Leptospermum Scoparium trees (1which are identical to the woods of New Zealand.

These trees, locally known as Maori, are unique to the region because of the climate and regional weather. Since Leptospermum Scoparium trees cannot be found elsewhere, it automatically drives up the cost of the honey thus obtained from them. Although, with the development of science and technology, scientists can try and clone this tree in the labs, the quality of the honey obtained here may not be the same.

2. Loaded with Health Benefits

Time and again, we have all been told about the myriad health benefits of honey. However, very rarely are we told of the exact grading process that determines the exact health benefit of any typical honey. While most honey types do not have a definite grading, Manuka Honey does. Each batch of Manuka honey is lab tested to determine its potency, individual medicinal properties and health benefits.

The strength and power of a honey can be determined from its MGO levels. The  grading number and the MGO levels of Manuka honey is given by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association, which subsequently indicates how good or bad the honey is.

Typically, higher MGO levels make for more potent health benefits. Manuka Honey not only goes through the potency test but also goes through a classification process which determines its class. This classification for Manuka honey is done by the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Primary Industries.

  • The first classification is Multifloral which is the least potent and has very low levels of methylglyoxal and hence is the cheapest of the lot. 
  • The second in this classification is Monofloral Manuka Honey which has comparatively higher MGO levels and hence is stronger. This classification goes on further and decides the potency and strength of each honey batch. While more stronger and potent honey is costlier. The price is also for the officers and extensive testing processes that the consumers pay for. 

3. Commute Cost

Another factor that makes for a large chunk of the uber expensive price tag for Manuka honey is the commuting cost, that most people tend to miss out on. Manuka honey is produced in the high altitude forests of New Zealand. The altitude makes for the difficult route to reach the forests. And at the same time, the bees need to be tended to because of the exclusivity of the honey. Since the trail is difficult to trek, the easiest and the most convenient way to reach these forests is by a helicopter. Aside from the commuting cost via helicopters, there is also additional fuel and maintenance charge that can further strike up the costing of the Manuka honey. 

4. Small Harvesting Window

Manuka flower has a very short flowering window when the bees can pollinate and produce honey. This window can be as short as 2 weeks and as long as 8 weeks for the honey to harvest. Other than this time period, either the honey isn’t ready or it isn’t good so neither of it can be used for consumption.

Also, it takes the bees an approximate 22,700 trips to the Manuka flower to gather the nectar worth of one jar of Manuka honey. All of this only means that the Manuka honey is scarce and faces a shortage even before it is harvested and produced. Aside from the bee trips and the small window, there are also other factors that affect the harvesting of Manuka honey.

For example, till the time the honey is not produced and extracted, harvesters have no way to know if the trees are good enough to provide nectar to the bees. In worst cases, a tree may not even bloom which means there are no Manuka flowers and hence, no honey. As a result, the supply can never meet the never-ending demands for the world’s best honey. 

5. Weather Vulnerable

In some parts of the world, Manuka Honey is also called ‘liquid gold’ because of its exclusive nature and availability. One of the prime constituents in making this honey so unattainable is the weather condition in the forests of New Zealand. The weather affects the growth of the Manuka trees which in turn are the deciding factor for harvesting the honey.

Winters and cold weather is one of the most harmful conditions for the Manuka trees and since these trees are located at a high altitude, it is quite easy for the weather to turn cold. Cold weather not only defers the Manuka trees to bloom, but the non-blossoming of these trees mean that the bees cannot pollinate.

One other equally dangerous factor is strong winds. High velocity winds can remove the pollen or the blooms from the trees thus, deterring bees from being able to pollinate and make honey. The high winds also disable the flight of the bees. All of these factors affect the harvest of the honey and ultimately lead to an increase in the cost price of Manuka honey. 

6. Bee Health Maintenance

The second most integral factor in making Manuka Honey, other than the Leptospermum Scoparium trees, is the bees. Bees play one of the most important parts as they suck the nectar out of the Manuka flowers and then proceed to make the honey. Hence, the health of the bees is of utmost priority to the harvesters and also the dealers.

The catch is that the bees can also fall very sick very easily as they are not used to the high altitudes of the forests. The weather can affect the health of the bees as well.

In the worst case scenario, the most damage is caused when the queen bee dies. The death of the queen bee means that the entire hive has to be dissolved. For all these reasons, the beekeepers and harvesters have to pay extra attention to the bees and tend to them.

So much so, that in case of bee illnesses, they are provided suitable medical care. Which further escalates the cost of the Manuka honey. Even after these precautions, sometimes the bees do fall ill and the production from that particular hive is lost. In such a case, the costing of the Manuka honey can go further up. 

7. UMF Grading Costs

We have already spoken about the grading process of Manuka honey batches. For the same, if someone needs a UMF graded Manuka Honey jar then they are expected to pay higher for the same. These charges are incurred because UMFHA goes the extra mile to check each jar and grade the honey accordingly.

The organization segregates batches, runs tests on them for purity and potency, and then rates them as per their research and findings. These researched jars have a UMF grading number and logo each and hence are priced higher, as they come after additional research which demands additional manpower and budget.

Hence, in this case, the consumer pays for the research. Likewise, the high graded Manuka Honey jars are much more expensive than the low graded ones or the ones that haven’t been graded at all. 

8. Dearth and Scarcity

Besides the high altitude and vulnerable weather conditions, another limiting factor is the existence of a small number of Leptospermum Scoparium trees. The current population of trees can only produce upto 2800 tons of Manuka honey which is very scarce as compared to the 1.9 million tons of honey that is produced by other flowers and sources. Naturally, the demand is much higher than the supply and hence the suppliers and harvesters have the option to really up the ante. The already expensive honey price goes up even further with the increase of quality. One of the purest and rarest Manuka Honey jars is labelled Manuka Honey 24+ and is famously known as ‘liquid gold’.

9. High Demand Low Supply

Another element that factors in the expensive cost of Manuka Honey is the supply demand chain that we just talked about above. Besides the regular buyers who desperately want to get their hands on this ‘liquid gold’, there are also food chains, restaurants and big brands who chime in at the time of supply.

Restaurants are the first one of the lot who pay huge sums of money to acquire Manuka honey, as the food made with Manuka honey is sold at an exponentially high price.

Another industry is the Beauty Products industry who bids in large amounts of money. As Manuka Honey has a UMF rating of 10+, it can be used in various creams, ointments, powders and other beauty products that can enhance one’s skin or scalp etc., and make it healthier. All of these leave little room for independent buyers to purchase high quality Manuka. If at all, they are only left with low-graded jars that come after. 

10. Exportation and Shipping Costs

Like we mentioned before, Manuka Honey is only produced in New Zealand and that means the delivery for some incurs huge exportation and shipping costs. Other than the exportation and shipping charges, special precautions are taken and efforts are made to keep the honey safe and healthy while it is en route. These protective measures are not only elaborate but also cost a lot of money. So Manuka honey might be a little cheaper in New Zealand than it is in the rest of the world. This only means that the farther away you are from New Zealand, the more expensive this honey would be, for you. 

How Can You Save Money on Manuka Honey?

Now we are not saying that we will help you get Manuka honey priced cheaply. But there are a few strategies, tips and tricks, that might help you get a jar at a slightly reasonable rate.

Buy Low UMF Graded Manuka Honey

You can choose to buy low UMF graded Manuka honey with a grading number of around 5. This won’t be the purest form of Manuka Honey but will still be better and more potent than a lot of other honeys present out there.

Wait for the Sale Season

Sometimes (that is, if you are lucky), you can also find Manuka honey on sale. Grocery stores offer discounts especially during the Holiday season. Furthermore, you can also save up rewards, coupons and benefit points from grocery stores that you know supply Manuka honey. That way, you can get a jar at a slightly cheaper cost. You can also checkout our post on best manuka honey, there you will find the best deals. 

Buy from the Source and Cut Down on Shipping Cost

This may be a tad bit difficult to achieve, but if possible, you can take a yearly trip to New Zealand and buy Manuka honey in bulk. This will give you relief in the exportation and shipping cost. 

UMFHA Tests and Varying Prices of Manuka Honey

We have spoken at length about the UMF grading and how the UMFHA tests the honey batches and rates it, which eventually drives up the rate of the Manuka honey. We have also mentioned that the higher graded Manuka honey jars are more potent and hence more expensive.

But now the question is, what do the UMFHA actually tests for in the Manuka Honey before grading it?

So, UMFHA tests for certain properties in the Manuka honey. The frequency with which these properties are present in the Manuka honey determine for the higher or lower rating. Higher frequency makes for a better grading and so on. But what are these properties? Let’s find out-

Leptosperin

The first factor which the UMFHA tests for is Leptosperin, which is a typical element present only in the Manuka trees. The presence of this element ensures that the honey is real Manuka Honey. If Leptosperin is not present in the honey, then it definitely means that the honey is fake.

MGO

MethylglyoxalMethylglyoxal, also known as MGO, is an anti-bacterial element found in the Manuka honey that makes for its umpteen medicinal qualities. Higher MGO levels increase the potency of the honey and its selling price.

DHADHA

DHADHA is just a concentrated form of MGO which again determines the potency, strength and purity of Manuka honey. Higher DHA levels make for better Manuka Honey jars. 

Is Manuka Honey Worth the Cost?

Manuka Honey is exorbitantly priced but is it worth the cost? We will answer that question right away for you and tell you straight away that it is worth the cost because of its myriad health benefits. Scary diseases like eczema and other deadly skin rashes can be cured just by applying Manuka honey on the wound. Aside from treating infected wounds, it can also improve your health if you intake it with food and beverages. 

Some of its many qualities are to help reduce tooth plaque, prevent the spread of gingivitis, improve oral health and more. It can also help with sinus problems and restrain the growth of cancer cells. So yes, Manuka Honey is definitely worth the cost. 

So, now before thinking how and why Manuka Honey is so exorbitantly priced, you must look at the reasons, benefits and several medicinal properties of the ‘Liquid Gold’. You could use the information above to purchase this rare honey and use it to your benefit. If you have any other relevant piece of information that we might have missed out on, feel free to mention it in the comment section below. 

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