What do you think about when you hear the word “manuka honey?” Do you think – honey from New Zealand?

Recently, New Zealand’s Manuka Honey Appellation Society (MHAS) withdrew its appeal against previous rulings in the UK and European Union, dealing a major setback to its long-running campaign to trademark and claim ownership of the name “Manuka honey.”

The Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) has been battling MHAS for five years in multiple jurisdictions over its attempts to trademark the term “Manuka” as its own.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) accepted that the general public understands Manuka honey is not produced exclusively in New Zealand but originates from several places, including Australia.

The truth is, Australia does produce a lot of manuka honey, and is the second biggest producer behind New Zealand. The argument has been – if it doesn’t come from New Zealand, can it be considered “real” manuka honey?

The MHAS sought to trademark the term in the US, Europe, New Zealand, and China, but no region agreed to register the trademark.

The international Manuka honey market is expected to be worth around $1.27 billion in annual trade by 2027.

Is it the right decision?

Australia is home to 85 of the 87 known Leptospermum species worldwide, the shrub that produces Manuka honey, and has produced it since European honeybees were introduced in the 1820s.

There is no evidence to show that Australian-produced manuka honey doesn’t have the same properties as that produced by bees in New Zealand. In fact, some studies have shown that while Australia doesn’t use the same UMF grading system that New Zealand honey is internationally renowned for, Australian honey can actually show higher anti-bacterial property than those produced in New Zealand.

However, it’s not the purity that’s in question, but the branding rights that are at stake. Manuka is a Maori word – a language native to New Zealand.

The MHAS backdown means the UK IPO ruling of December 2021 in Australian beekeepers’ favour stands, and there is no restraint or trademark on Manuka naming rights.

AMHA Chair Paul Callander said there was growing demand for Manuka honey due to the many health benefits it provides, from consumption to medicinal uses and wellbeing products, and the greater certainty in the UK and Europe would allow Australian Manuka growers to enjoy their share of this demand.

Despite long-term support for the industry, the Australian federal government was slow to offer support to fight the MHAS campaign, but it rallied behind the group after a plea from the AMHA and other stakeholders.

Callander said: “The Attorney General’s office assisted us with funding to allow us to continue to fight further legal engagements, which increased our capability to defend our industry. This support rallied our resolve at a time when the Australian beekeeping industry had expended significant amounts of money mounting defences in various jurisdictions. Frustratingly, the AMHA have spent a lot of time and money on the preparation of a detailed response to the appeal, which was already filed when the surrender occurred. I do hope our efforts led somewhat to the MHAS re-thinking their position. Clearly there has been a change of thinking by the New Zealand group, and hopefully we can spend our time and money working together to promote this wonderful medicinal honey to the world, rather than fighting over naming rights.”

About the author 


I'm Erin, and my family has been raising bees for over two generations. We no longer raise bees on Manuka flowers, but it remains one of our favorites, and we eat it daily, among other honeys like Kamahi and Rata. Since Manuka has grown in popularity overseas in recent years, we thought we should educate people on the true benefits of Manuka and how to find quality Manuka honey. Haere mai to our site, written by us and designed by our brilliant computer whiz of a son, Byron. We hope you find it helpful!

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