National | Mānuka

Honey association seeks to protect unique Mānuka brand

A Māori bee company in the Far North is calling for Māori beekeepers to unite in an effort to protect the use of the term 'Mānuka honey' from being used offshore. This follows after the UMFH Association’s application to trademark it.

Mānuka Honey, it's a potential buzzing billion dollar industry, which is why the Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association is taking steps to protect it.

“Overseas markets have said ‘can we copycat this?’ and we say ‘no you can't’,” says Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association spokesman, John Rawcliffe, “They say ‘can we do what you're doing?’ and we say ‘yes, you can, but please don't use these words because the consumer says this product comes from New Zealand’.”

Rob Murray, Director of Tai Tokerau Honey Ltd is supporting the move and says Māori beekeepers should unite to find ways to strengthen the call.

“I still think Māori have got to have a big input into the word 'Mānuka' and with UMF and Maori working together I think we can work together and try market our product,” says Murray.

In the past two years, the honey industry has grown 47% with a huge interest from international investors wanting dibs. Recent reports indicate Australia is making claim to the native Mānuka shrub.

“Whether it came from there or not is not the issue.  The issue is these words, this research, this marketing position came from New Zealand and that for me is the key issue,” says Rawcliffe, “The consumer expects that and we need to protect that. (It’s the) same as Scottish whiskey and French champagne.  I could take a few vines and plant in my backyard but I can't call that French wine.”

Rawcliffe says NZ is behind on this issue. But if the ball falls in their court it will open new avenues for the NZ bee industry.

“If we get this right, we have the ability to grow not only Manuka but Kanuka and Rewarewa,” says Rawcliffe, “All these wonderful monofloral plants that do produce nectar, that do produce honey, and we have a massive industry to protect and hold and value.  That to me is the beauty of this journey.”

A journey that is long overdue. Last year in August the application was lodged to the trade industries.