New Zealand manuka honey producers are seeking the same trademark protection accorded to French Champagne and Scottish Whisky after a surge in fakes that aren’t made from the nectar of Leptospermum Scoparium, the native manuka bush.
The UMF Honey Association is seeking to protect the use of the name because imitations are damaging the brand at a time when demand in markets such as China is growing. The industry-based manuka honey lobby has filed for a certification trade mark covering “Manuka Honey” which will be free to use for New Zealand honey made by bees foraging on manuka flowers, it said in a statement. The push, similar to moves made by France to protect Champagne and Scotland to protect Whisky, would restrict the name to the region the product comes from and came after feedback from industry, and from consumers and offshore regulatory authorities.
“The increasing global demand for manuka honey is resulting in a variety of honey products from different parts of the world claiming to be manuka honey,” UMF spokesman John Rawcliffe said. “We need to protect it from pretenders elsewhere with their rash of ‘me too’ products and continue to build our New Zealand industry from a foundation of integrity and quality.”
Asian demand for manuka honey has seen the price for all New Zealand honey increase, amid a global honey shortage. Bees produced $187 million of exported honey in the June 2014 year, up 8 percent by volume and almost 30 percent by value on the previous year.
UMF’s move comes as the Ministry of Primary Industries cracks down on the manuka honey industry amid international criticism there was more manuka honey coming out of the country than New Zealand actually produces. With no industry consensus on what constitutes manuka honey, in July 2014, MPI has introduced an interim definition as well as a labelling guide for manuka honey, which outlines the characteristics of manuka-type honey and prevents manufacturers from making health claims.
UMF plans to transfer the trademark to an independent entity to manage.