Understanding the Different Grades of Manuka Honey and What They Mean

Understanding the Different Grades of Manuka Honey and What They Mean
Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

6 minutes

Executive Summary:


Grading Manuka Honey: Insights and Implications

Manuka honey is growing in popularity across the globe. But what makes it so special? How does it differ from regular honey, and what do all those grades mean?

Well, in this article, we will walk you through the grading systems used to quantify the quality and potency of each jar of Manuka honey. From here, you can better choose the grade of Manuka honey that suits your lifestyle and wellness journey. Let’s dive in!


What Are Manuka Honey Grades?

Like fingerprints, no two jars of Manuka honey are identical. The final product is influenced by weather, soil conditions, the location and maturity of a hive, and more. Thus, it’s important to grade Manuka honey to ensure that customers are completely aware of the properties and value of each jar they’re buying.

As you might be well aware, Manuka honey is harvested in the lush Manuka Tea Tree forests of New Zealand. The unique chemistry of the Manuka Tea Tree flowers’ nectar gives way to the Methylglyoxal (MGO) and other powerful antioxidants—like Leptosperin—found in authentic Manuka honey.

Now, a common way to grade Manuka honey is to measure one of its significant nutrients—like MGO. MGO is known for its potent antibacterial properties. This means a higher concentration of MGO automatically indicates higher antibacterial effects. So, let’s take a closer look at the importance of this particular compound.


Significance of MGO in Manuka Honey

Scientists attribute much of Manuka honey’s antimicrobial properties and immunity support to MGO. Simply put, the higher the MGO rating, the greater the honey’s antibacterial strength. 

Classifying Manuka honey according to its MGO content makes it easy to choose the product that suits your wellness goals. It further provides transparency regarding the potency and quality of the honey in each jar. After all, you can’t have an authentic Manuka honey jar without the presence of MGO.

However, MGO isn’t the only way to grade Manuka honey. So, keep reading to find out more!


Common Grading Systems Explained

Manuka honey can be graded according to its potency, quality, and authenticity. The most common grading systems include MGO, UMG, and K Factor grading, which we explore in more detail below.

MGO Grading

The MGO grading indicates the potency of the Manuka honey.  

This grading method measures the honey’s levels of methylglyoxal (MGO)—the nutrient that gives Manuka honey its unique antibacterial properties. Interestingly, the greater this value, the greater the presence of other beneficial nutrients, like the powerful antioxidant Leptosperin. 

The MGO value is also helpful when deciding on a particular Manuka product for specific wellness support. The MGO grading ranges from 80+ to 1000+, with higher MGO gradings offering a full range of health and wellness support—such as maintaining optimal digestion and immune function.

UMF Grading

The UMF grading indicates the quality of the Manuka honey. 

The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) grading system is unique to New Zealand’s Manuka honey but is recognized internationally. It uses four measurements to determine an overall value and guarantees not only the value of the honey but its freshness as well:

    • Antibacterial properties: MGO content
    • Authenticity: Leptosperin content (Leptosperin is unique to Manuka honey)
    • Shelf Life: DHA (dihydroxyacetone) content indicates how long the honey will hold its MGO content
    • Freshness: HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) content indicates how long the honey has been stored or if it’s been processed

The UMF factor can range from 5+ to 20+. The higher the value, the more potent and fresh the honey.

K Factor Grading

If you've been researching Manuka honey, you've likely come across K Factor grading. While this grading system indicates the authenticity of Manuka honey, it's worth noting that it's actually an unofficial grading system created by Wedderspoon (a producer of Manuka honey products) for marketing purposes. In other words, it's not a government-run or approved grading system.

While Manukora's Manuka honey doesn't use this system, here's a brief overview: K Factor grading focuses on the pollen count of the Manuka honey. The presence of Manuka pollen authenticates the honey as being genuine monofloral Manuka honey from New Zealand rather than a blend of other plant nectar (like common multi-floral honey). 

The pollen count also guarantees that the honey is not heat-treated and so still possesses its raw natural enzymes and nutrients that are easily destroyed by heat treatment.

The K Factor grading may indicate:

  • A K Factor of 12 (the lowest) indicates 65% Manuka pollen. 
  • A K Factor of 16 (the highest) indicates at least 75% Manuka pollen. 


How to Choose the Right Grade for Your Needs

With a wide variety of Manuka products on the market, it can sometimes be difficult to choose the right one for you. So, here’s how to select the right Manuka product for your wellness goals according to the MGO grading:

  • MGO 200+ is perfect for daily vitality
  • MGO 600+ offers energy and immune support
  • MGO 850+ offers immune and digestive support
  • MGO 1000+ offers the highest level of immune, digestive, and inflammation response support

To enjoy the beneficial nutrients found in Manuka honey, you must select a product that you can trust and an MGO content that matches your needs. A high MGO rating is essential for the greatest wellness support. However, some also enjoy the lighter side of MGO, such as for the lighter taste. Yet, the same can be said for those who enjoy a higher MGO honey; the higher MGO rating often gives way to a bolder and richer flavor.


The Role of Manukora in Promoting Quality

At Manukora, we are passionate about producing Manuka honey that reflects the goodness and purity of the Manuka forests where it’s created. This is seen through our commitment to The Art of Ethical Beekeeping™.  As such, we interfere with the beehives as little as possible, avoid processing or heat-treating the honey, and take care of the lush Manuka forests that sustain our carefully positioned colonies. 

Each batch of our UMF-certified honey is traceable, authenticated, and tested in a third-party lab. While our labels only display the MGO content to avoid confusion, the other values are made available through the QR codes found on each jar.


Which Manuka Honey MGO Grade Should You Choose?

Choosing the right Manuka honey is much easier when you understand the numbers and values on the jar. Consider the UMF value for overall quality. Look at the K Factor for proof of authenticity and raw (untreated) honey. For the greatest wellness support, choose the highest MGO value that you can afford. Remember, the greater the MGO content, the more potent the Manuka honey.

Not all Manuka products are equal. Select a brand that is transparent, traceable, and proven time and again. Why not explore the wide range of Manukora Manuka honey products? After all, your wellness routine deserves the best, and it doesn’t get any better than raw, authentic Manuka honey!


The Composition and Biological Activity of Honey: A Focus on Manuka Honey - PMC

The Golden Standard in Manuka Honey - UMF

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