What do the different MGO grades mean?

What do the different MGO grades mean?

Executive summary

  • The higher the Methylglyoxal (MGO) grade, the higher the potency of the Mānuka 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 Mānuka flower
  • Many factors can affect the MGO levels in Mānuka, these include; geographical location, soil, weather and quality of beekeeping

You’ve probably read about the amazing properties of Mānuka honey, you might have also heard about different ‘grades’ of Mānuka honey. What exactly does this mean and how do the different grades come about?

How is Mānuka honey graded?

Every batch of Manukora Mānuka 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 Mānuka honey (mg/kg) to determine its strength/potency.

Once we have the MGO testing completed, and provided the Mānuka 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 Mānuka honey, but it often exceeds this amount!

The higher the MGO grade, the higher the potency;

What is so special about MGO?

MGO is a naturally occurring antibacterial compound that originates from the nectar of the Mānuka 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 Mānuka 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 Mānuka 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 Mānuka 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 Mānuka tea tree flowers for only 2-6 weeks over 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 Mānuka 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 Mānuka honey during the short nectar flow each year.   

What about the UMF rating system

The Unique Mānuka Factor (UMF) grading system was developed by the UMF Association as a way of identifying genuine Mānuka 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 Mānuka honey are extremely important but can change due to various natural and environmental factors. The grading of Mānuka honey can also get very confusing.

This is why we grade all of our Mānuka 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 Mānuka honey, no matter the grade, you can be sure that your honey will be rich, smooth and creamy caramel from the rare and beautiful Mānuka tea tree, harvested by our amazing honey bees in the wild New Zealand forests.
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