What Do Different MGO Grades Mean?

What Do Different MGO Grades Mean?

Executive Summary:

  • The higher the Methylglyoxal (MGO) grade, the higher the potency of the Manuka honey.
  • More MGO also means more of the other key bioactive properties such as Leptosperin.
  • MGO is a unique, naturally occurring antibacterial compound found in the nectar of the Manuka flower.
  • Many factors can affect the MGO levels in Manuka, these include; geographical location, soil, weather and quality of beekeeping.


What Does MGO Mean?

You’ve probably read about the amazing properties of Manuka honey, you might have also heard about different ‘grades’ of Manuka honey.

So, what exactly does this mean and how do the different grades come about? Below, we dig into this, helping you make the right choice when it comes to your next Manuka honey purchase.


How is Manuka Honey Graded?

Every batch of Manukora Manuka honey is extensively tested at third party laboratories to meet the strict requirements we have developed for authenticity, potency, and safety.

One of the most important tests we undertake is the Methylglyoxal test (MGO for short). We test for the concentration of MGO in the Manuka honey (mg/kg) to determine its strength or potency.

Once we have the MGO testing completed, and provided the Manuka honey meets all other testing requirements, we package and label it into the closest MGO grade.

Manukora MGO grading starts at MGO 50+ and goes all the way up to MGO 1000+ and above for very special harvests. Our labels clearly state the minimum level of MGO that you can expect in your Manuka honey, but it often exceeds this amount!

The higher the MGO grade, the higher the potency. Here's a quick breakdown of the MGO grades offered by Manukora:

What Is So Special About MGO?

MGO is a naturally occurring antibacterial nutrient that originates from the nectar of the Manuka tea tree flower. This special nectar contains an unusual type of natural sugar called DHA (dihydroxyacetone). The bees transform some of the DHA into MGO, and some DHA remains in the honey where it slowly releases more of the powerful constituent.

MGO’s antibacterial properties have been extensively studied; these studies have shown MGO to inhibit harmful bacteria such as E Coli and MRSA.

MGO is also a great marker for potency as the higher the MGO, the higher the concentration of other key bioactives such as Leptosperin (a powerful antioxidant only found in Manuka honey). Thus, a steady supply of MGO helps to explain the superpowers of raw Mānuka honey!


So, Why Are the MGO Levels Different?

Every time we harvest a new batch of Manuka honey, the concentration of MGO (and other key bioactives) is different. This is due to a few factors:

  • Geographical Location

New Zealand has a truly diverse geographic range, from subtropical rainforests to cool, snow capped mountains. As the location changes, so can the MGO levels. This is due to different strains of Manuka tea tree and different soil. 

  • Weather

In addition to the geographical location of the beehive, weather plays a critical role in the concentration of MGO. Every year the Manuka tea tree flowers for only two to six weeks over the summer and it requires hot, sunny weather for a good nectar flow. Our weather in New Zealand is extremely variable, so every year we have different results from the same locations.

  • Beekeeping

Not only do our master beekeepers have access to the most remote Manuka forests in New Zealand; they’re also focused on the highest quality beekeeping to ensure the bees are naturally healthy all year round. This means the bees are ready to produce highly active Manuka honey during the short nectar flow each year.   

What About the UMF Rating System?

The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) grading system was developed by the UMF Association as a way of identifying genuine Manuka honey. The association has many members, including Manukora.

The UMF grading system tests for MGO, DHA (the precursor to MGO explained above), HMF, and Leptosperin. The UMF grading system is linked directly to MGO (e.g higher MGO means higher UMF) e.g.:

UMF 5+ = MGO 83+
UMF 10+ = MGO 263+
UMF 15+ = MGO 514+
UMF 20+ = MGO 829+

Manukora’s extensive testing program covers all of the UMF tests and additional safety tests (e.g. glyphosate residue) that are not covered by UMF. We make all of these tests available for our customers through our easy to use QR trace system.

To keep things clear and simple, we use only the MGO system for grading on our labels.


The concentrations of key bioactives in Manuka honey are extremely important but can change due to various natural and environmental factors. The grading of Manuka honey can also be very confusing.

This means that products like our Manuka Honey MGO 850+, Manuka Honey MGO 600+ UMF 16, and Manuka Honey MGO 200+ represent different levels of these valuable bioactives.

To further understand the significance of these gradings and the colors associated with different honey types, our Honey Gluten-Free Guide, Manuka Honey Color Guide, and information on How to Choose Manuka Honey can be immensely helpful.

Additionally, for those interested in the digestive health benefits of Manuka honey, our guide on Manuka Honey for Digestive Health offers valuable insights.

This is why we grade all of our Manuka honey using the MGO system which ensures high levels of all key bioactive compounds. The higher the MGO number, the higher the concentration of this very special antibacterial compound, and the higher the other key bioactives such as Leptosperin.

If you would like to dig deeper, be sure to scan your unique QR code on the lid or box of your jar to see the third party test results for MGO, DHA, HMF, Leptosperin, and Glyphosate.

When buying Manukora Manuka honey, no matter the grade, you can be sure that your honey will be rich, smooth and creamy caramel from the rare and beautiful Manuka tea tree, harvested by our amazing honey bees in the wild New Zealand forests.


What is the relationship between MGO grade and the potency of Manuka honey?

MGO (Methylglyoxal) grade directly correlates with the potency of Manuka honey; the higher the MGO grade, the more potent the honey. High MGO levels also indicate a higher concentration of other key bioactive properties like Leptosperin.

How does the geographical location affect the MGO levels in Manuka honey?

The MGO levels in Manuka honey can vary depending on the geographical location, as different areas have distinct strains of the Manuka tea tree and soil types, which can influence the MGO concentration.

What does the MGO testing process involve for Manuka honey?

MGO testing measures the concentration of Methylglyoxal in Manuka honey to determine its strength or potency. This process involves extensive testing at third-party laboratories to ensure the honey meets strict requirements for authenticity and potency.

What is the significance of the UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) grading system?

The UMF grading system identifies genuine Manuka honey by testing for MGO, DHA, HMF, and Leptosperin. It directly correlates with MGO levels, providing a standardized measure of the honey's quality and potency.

Why are there different MGO levels in Manuka honey batches?

Variations in MGO levels are due to natural and environmental factors like the beehive's geographical location, weather conditions affecting the nectar flow of the Manuka tea tree, and the quality of beekeeping practices.

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