The Discovery of Monofloral Manuka Honey

24 February 2023

Although monofloral Mānuka honey has gained an extensive reputation around the world for being some of the best honey possible - it’s integral to your Mānuka honey business to know the origins. While the history of the Mānuka flower can go back centuries, you may be surprised about how recent of a discovery pure Mānuka honey was.

As a crash course in history, this article will go through the different stages of Mānuka honey development - right up until the present day when we see premium Mānuka honey on shelves across the world.


What Were The Early Uses Of The Mānuka Flower 

In the pre-colonial era of New Zealand, the Mānuka tree was commonly found around the coastal areas. While technically a tree, Mānuka is most often seen as a shrub and has profound use and meaning to the indigenous Māori population. This tree served as a vital tool for several different items. For example, the hard, red wood of the shrub was used for paddles, weapons, spade blades, bird spears, and mauls to house buildings.

More than just wood for tools, the bark of the Mānuka was commonly used for medicinal purposes. The bark would be used as a sedative, the bark boiled with leaves, with the resulting vapour inhaled for colds, and the ash from the bark was rubbed onto the skin to treat certain skin conditions.

Even today, the practice of Rongoa Māori (traditional healing) still includes similar methods. There is cultural and practical importance to this tree, but the world may be more familiar with how the Mānuka flower became integral to the development of one of the world’s most famous honey.


When Did Honey Become Common in New Zealand

In 1839, the honey bee was introduced to New Zealand by Methodist missionary, Mary Brumby. It is documented that Brumby brought two hives to the country when she landed in Hokianga. In addition, there were bee species in New Zealand before Brumby’s arrival, but they were not suitable, or capable of, producing any honey.

It was here that beekeepers became more common, as the New Zealand bush proved to be a fruitful environment for bees. Particularly in the Bay of Islands, it was noted the Māori population would sell honey and, in fact, they became the first commercial beekeepers in New Zealand.

Apiarists flourished at the turn of the previous century, as there were approximately 100,000 hives in the country by 1929. Beekeeping became even more prevalent after the end of the Second World War, and in 1950 there were around 7,000 beekeepers with over 150,000 hives. The number of hives and apiarists grew from here with the discovery of different honey variations - and noticeably one in particular…

For more information, please read ‘The History of Manuka Honey’.


The Discovery of Monofloral Mānuka Honey

It was not until the 1980s that Dr Peter Molan discovered the amazement of pure monofloral Mānuka honey. A highly-regarded biochemist, Molan not only discovered this unique honey that came from a single source but also discovered the unique bioactive ingredient methylglyoxal (MGO).

This interesting component is found in most honey varieties but is found in large concentrations within monofloral Mānuka honey. There has been speculation and hypotheses among the scientific community about the potential antibacterial activity that occurs with MGO. However, it must be noted that these findings are very much in their early stages and await further concrete evidence.


The Size of The Pure Mānuka Honey Market Today

The Mānuka honey market has experienced significant growth in recent years due to increasing consumer demand for natural and organic products. Particularly for the New Zealand economy, Mānuka honey exports constitute over $500M annually. Since the discovery and proliferation of Mānuka honey as an ingredient, more diverse products such as skin care, wound care, and dietary supplements have been developed.

However, the market has also faced challenges such as supply constraints, counterfeit products, and a lack of standardisation in Mānuka honey grading. The industry, including the Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association (UMF™HA), has made efforts to address these issues, including the development of certifications and standards for Mānuka honey to ensure authenticity and quality.

For more information, please read - ‘UMF™ Mānuka Honey Grading Explained’

Despite these challenges, the Mānuka honey market is expected to continue to grow, driven by increasing customer awareness of its unique benefits and the ever-expanding market for natural and organic products.


Midlands Apiaries Can Provide You With 100% Pure New Zealand Mānuka Honey

Midlands Apiaries is the perfect partner for your brand. Wherever your business sits in a specific industry, i.e. skincare, natural foods, or genuine Mānuka honey provider - we have all the latest technology and expertise to deliver what you want and when you need it. In addition, our widespread Mānuka honey supply and production operations can work with you to achieve your goals.

We also offer the services of a highly knowledgeable sales & marketing team. So, if you’re looking to bring a fantastic brand to market, our team of professionals can plan a pathway to your launch. With an extensive network of honey supplies and laboratories - Midlands Apiaries can provide your business with everything it needs.

Additionally, as the largest New Zealand supplier of wholesale Mānuka honey globally, Midlands Apiaries knows a thing or two about quality. An accredited, independent laboratory tests each batch of Mānuka honey from Midlands Apiaries for certification. We are very aware of the stringent requirements set forth by UMF™HA. Our undeniable expertise in crafting Mānuka honey will give your business the necessary confidence to consistently deliver quality products.

Get in touch with us today for more information about how Midlands Apiaries can make for a beneficial partner in your budding business.



Johnston, M., McBride, M., Dahiya, D., Owusu-Apenten, R., & Nigam, P. S. (2018). Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview. AIMS microbiology, 4(4), 655.


Website: https://www.berl.co.nz/economic-insights/honey-exports-continue-grow .