What is the difference between UMF™ and MGO?

How to compare UMF™ and MGO quality ratings in Manuka Honey

The amazing health-supporting properties of Manuka Honey are well known. Whether it’s helping to support your immune system and digestive health, boost your energy, heal wounds, maintain your oral health or helping your skin look amazing, Manuka Honey is a true gift from Mother Nature.

But, with so many brands available, and so many ways to measure the strength and effectiveness of each, how do you know what to buy and which is best?

UMF™ … MGO… purity… complexity? At Comvita, we know selecting the finest can be confusing, so we’re here to help. Just like our Manuka Honey products, we believe in keeping it simple and only delivering the absolute best.

Read on to discover what to look for when you’re searching for the world’s finest Manuka Honey either here at home in Australia or when you buy online. We’ll help ensure you’re getting the real deal with all the renowned benefits of pure, genuine, monofloral Manuka Honey.



What are the two main Manuka Honey grading systems?

Until recently, there was no single standard for what constitutes Real Manuka Honey. Even now, many authenticity claims are made by honey producers all over the world, even though no one has necessarily tested or verified what’s in the jar!

Take a look at Manuka Honey in natural food stores and upmarket supermarkets across Australia and you’ll find they’re labelled with a huge variety of marketing terms like “Bio-Active”, “Active”, or “Factor”, with numbers ranging from 5 to 500.

Small wonder customers are confused and it’s hard to tell genuine, verifiable quality in between all the hype.

Thankfully, two systems now lead the industry today: MGO (Methylglyoxal) and UMF™ (Unique Manuka Factor). Here at Comvita, we believe the most important seal to look for is UMF™ – a quality trademark that identifies natural, authentic Manuka Honey.


What does UMF™ measure in Manuka Honey?

UMF™ is the standard that independently assures the quality of New Zealand Manuka Honey, so that consumers around the world can be confident in the strength and purity of each jar they buy. Here in Aotearoa, we’re fortunate to live right where it all started – in the country that’s home to beautiful native Manuka trees and the birthplace of this thriving industry.

Each Manuka Honey product that carries the UMF™ trademark must pass the stringent Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMF™HA) quality, grading and rating tests.

The UMF™ grading system measures four unique signature compounds which ensure purity and quality. These are:


Methylglyoxal (MGO)

MGO is the compound that’s principally responsible for Manuka Honey's unique non-peroxide antibacterial activity (which is not present in other types of honey). There have been cases of adulteration where synthetically made MGO has been added into honey to make ‘fake’ Manuka Honey. In other words, measuring MGO alone is not a guarantee of the purity and quality of Manuka Honey.


Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)

DHA is a natural plant compound found in the nectar of Manuka flowers. DHA converts to MGO over time in Manuka Honey as it matures.



Leptosperin is a unique natural plant compound found only in Manuka Honey. It’s extremely difficult to make synthetically and is not commercially available. As this compound cannot be artificially added to Manuka Honey, it is an excellent marker for authenticity.


Lepteridine™ 3,6,7-Trimethyllumazine

Discovered by Comvita scientists, this is a unique natural plant compound found only in Manuka Honey. It’s extremely difficult to make synthetically and is not commercially available. Like Leptosperin, this compound can’t be artificially added to Manuka Honey, so it’s another excellent marker for authenticity.

Comvita is the only honey producer that test for Lepteridine™ 3,6,7-Trimethyllumazine levels in Manuka Honey – another sign that our honey is genuine, high quality Manuka Honey.

The UMF™ rating is the gold standard - giving you a more comprehensive and assured view of what’s in your Mānuka Honey.


What does MGO measure in Manuka Honey?

MGO stands for ‘Methylglyoxal’, a unique, naturally-occurring chemical compound found in Manuka Honey that gives it its unique antibacterial properties and makes it one of the most sought after and rarest honeys in the world.

It’s one of the four unique compounds that can be used to identify the purest and best Manuka Honey. The Methylglyoxal (MGO) grading system solely measures the amount of MGO present in Mānuka Honey (in mg/kg). MGO is a compound that contributes to the unique non-peroxide antibacterial activity of Mānuka Honey. However, synthetic MGO can be manufactured and added into honey to create ‘fake’ Mānuka Honey.

Therefore, measuring MGO alone does not give you sufficient assurance of the authenticity, purity and quality of the Mānuka Honey you are buying.



Which is the best rating system for Manuka Honey?

At Comvita, we use both UMF™ and MGO ratings on our labels, so our customers can find the quality ratings they’re looking for. However, when it comes to rating the quality of Manuka Honey, we believe there really is no comparison and that UMF™ (Unique Manuka Factor) is the global independent standard for Manuka Honey.


What strength of UMF™ Manuka Honey is best?

Comvita’s UMF™ strength ranges from 5+ to 20+, with 20+ indicating the highest level of beneficial compounds. The higher the number, the higher the concentration of these natural compounds, which is why higher UMF™ level honeys also tend to have a darker colour and distinctive taste (some might even call it ‘medicinal’).

The possible health benefits of Manuka Honey are believed to be more potent, concentrated and potentially more effective when the UMF™ number is higher. Giving you an extra boost when you need it most. We’ve put together a helpful guide to discovering which Manuka Honey is right for you.


What else is important when choosing the best Manuka Honey?

At Comvita we have our feet firmly grounded in science. But we know that’s not all that’s important when it comes to choosing the best Manuka Honey.

We also believe that taking care of our land – the very place that has given us the precious gift of Manuka Honey in the first place – is just as precious. And so we think an equally important measure is choosing a reputable, enduring company that actively works to protect our bees, our planet and our future.

At the heart of Comvita is a deep respect for our natural environment. It’s always been this way, since 1974, before ‘climate change’ even became an issue.

Our sustainable practices honour the natural state of Manuka Honey and ensure this precious and rare nectar is available for generations to come. And our harmony plan ensures we leave the world a better place, for bees, trees, people, and our environment.


7 ways to be sure your Manuka Honey is authentic

We’ve covered UMF™ versus MGO and other factors to consider when you’re buying Manuka Honey. But here’s a quick list of 7 things to check to ensure you’re getting the real deal.

  1. Your Manuka Honey is from New Zealand
  2. It’s made from Manuka Flowers
  3. It gets the MPI tick (Ministry of Primary Industries)
  4. It contains four unique compounds
  5. It carries the UMF™ quality mark
  6. It’s independently verified and certified
  7. It’s produced by a reputable, well-established brand (like Comvita)

Read more about the 7 ways to ensure you’re choosing authentic New Zealand Manuka Honey here.


It certainly can be confusing out there … so we hope that this guide has helped you understand the way Manuka Honey is rated so you can make informed choices and enjoy the benefits of pure, genuine Comvita Manuka Honey for yourself.



What does the UMF™ symbol mean on Manuka Honey?

The UMF™ symbol is shorthand for the most comprehensive, independently certified and internationally recognised quality assurance system for Manuka Honey. It’s designed to validate the four key elements of authentic Manuka Honey: potency, authenticity, purity, shelf life and freshness.

All Manuka Honey products that carry the UMF™ trademark must pass the stringent Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) quality, grading and rating tests. And you can rest assured that every jar of Comvita Manuka Honey makes the grade!


What does the MGO symbol mean on Manuka Honey?

MGO stands for ‘Methylglyoxal’, a unique, naturally-occurring chemical compound found in Manuka Honey that contributes to its unique antibacterial activity. The MGO rating appears on many brands of Manuka Honey, but be aware that it’s only one of four unique compounds that can be used to identify the authenticity, purity, freshness and shelf life of Manuka Honey.

It can also be a little confusing, as MGO numbers tend to be much higher than UMF numbers (e.g. UMF10+ = MGO 261). Instead, we recommend looking for brands that feature the UMF™ trademark which is far more stringent and covers all four factors.


Is UMF™ better than MGO?

In a nutshell, yes. While the MGO rating tests for one compound that occurs in authentic Manuka Honey, UMF™ is the ‘gold standard’ rating system that tests for so much more.

It’s the only standard that includes the Four Factor Quality Test, which checks for the four key elements of Manuka Honey: potency, authenticity, shelf life and freshness.

The UMF™ trademark was developed by the UMFHA, which has been at the forefront of almost three decades of world-leading research to understand the benefits and quality management of genuine Manuka Honey.


Where can I buy UMF™ Manuka Honey?

You can start right here on our website. All Comvita Mānuka Honey carries the UMF™ trademark, meaning you can be sure that it’s pure, potent, authentic and fresh Mānuka Honey. You’ll also find our Mānuka Honey and other high quality bee products at selected health stores, pharmacies, gift shops, duty-free stores and department stores around Australia and the world.


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