New Zealand stakes a claim on popular Aussie food product

When it comes to Australia and its good friend New Zealand there has been a lot of give and take

When it comes to Australia and its good friend New Zealand there has been a lot of give and take over the years. There have been arguments over sport, which nationality can claim Russell Crowe and for decades the two nations have argued over who created the pavlova. It’s all been carried out with a bit of gentle ribbing and some good humour.

But no more.

New Zealand is moving to trademark the word ‘Manuka’, and it has taken Australian honey producers by surprise.

You’ve probably seen the little golden pots of Manuka honey on the shelves of your local supermarket. It’s often clearly identifiable because it costs quite a bit more than the ‘regular’ stuff and celebrities have really gotten behind the quality of the product, which has made it hugely popular.

It’s not just the celebrity endorsements that add to the cost though. The reason this honey is liquid gold is because it’s produced from a single plant — Leptosermum scoparium. (Say that with a mouth full of marshmallows.) When the stuff gets exported it sells for around $150 per kilogram and as you can imagine the demand is growing in places like China because this honey has healing properties.

It’s an industry that collectively generates $300 million to the Aussie and NZ economies.

Despite the fact that the plant is native to Australia, the Kiwis feel the word ‘Manuka’, the plant and the honey bees that make the honey are theirs and so have set about making the name theirs.

“It’s a lot about New Zealand and that needs to be because the consumer wants it from New Zealand, wants to know that that word, Manuka, is linked to New Zealand and that’s what we’re doing,” John Rawcliffe of the NZ Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association says.

According to Rawcliffe the action is no different to that undertaken internationally for champagne and whiskey.

Should the Kiwis be successful in its push, Aussie honey producers wouldn’t be able to call the product ‘Manuka’ and are instead being encouraged (by those friendly New Zealanders, no less) to call the Aussie product ‘Tea Tree’ honey.

“The word [Manuka] is a Maori word, and that needs to be protected and ensured it’s held in its rightful place here as part of New Zealand,” Rawcliffe says.

Understandably the Australians thinks the move is ridiculous and the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council says it has evidence the word was used in Tasmania in the 1800s.

Do you enjoy honey? Do you eat Manuka honey? What do you think about the New Zealand decision to trademark the word ‘Manuka’?

  1. Val McMahon  

    Correction: Manuka is Leptospermum scoparium.

  2. Peter M  

    Manuka is also a suburb of Canberra.
    BTW, where did Kiwi fruit originate? It was not NZ.

    • Dean  

      I think its time u learned more about the History of Canberra and how the Manuka district got its name.

  3. Stephen  

    The term Manuka is actually Abfilblobian from the inner reaches of Abfilbobia in the Smoligan Mountains east of There-Abouts. The word has a basic translation of travel associated with a Bridge, but has a more colloquial meaning of “Get over it”.

  4. Isn’t this typical of an inferiority complex. Much like the Frogs and their champagne.

    • Dean  

      its more about other countries riding the shirt tails of another countries success. Why don’t u guys call it Tea Tree honey cause thats its true local Australian name. NZ didn’t call the Kiwi fruit by its original name. If Australia grew kiwi fruit what would they call it?? Aussie fruit I assume.

  5. Kiwi fruit came from China and came to NZ when the Head mistress of Wanganui Girls’ College visited her Missionary sister there in 1904. She brought home seeds and they were planted up the River valley where it flourished. It was known as Chinese Gooseberry, and changed to Kiwi fruit when it was first comercialised and exported in the 50 to 60’s.
    It is not over relevant where a plant originated on the planet, it is what you do with it’s produce.
    Can’t really see what the origins has to do with manuka honey.

  6. Robyn  

    Apparently Manuka honey has been produced in the Southern Hemisphere for years. It is definitely not just in New Zealand or Australia for that matter, but in other countries as well. The honey is also produced elsewhere in the world. Neither New Zealand or Australia can lay any claim to it & if they do they lie!!

    • Dean  

      What other countries and for how long?

  7. Greg Hills  

    It will come down to how many different meanings of the word Manuka there are. At the moment it does seem strange that the plant it is made from is native to Australia, so that would mean the honey is made in Australia. So I can’t see this patent lasting.

  8. Greg Hills  

    Bye the way. The Russell Crowe debate. He is definitely a New Zealander. His family relatives are New Zealanders, he grew up in New Zealand, can’t be anything else.
    As the cousin of the late Martin Crowe he has to be a New Zealander.

    • Lynette Hein  

      Yes, who prefers living in Australia.

  9. Aidan Crabtree  

    The Russell Crowe debate you aussies can have him in exchange for the manuka it has more value.

  10. Tracy Barakat  

    I love Manuka Honey and when I was working I used it almost exclusively, this was before it became very popular overseas. And then,of course, I retired and now I can only look at Manuka Honey on the shelves at the supermarket and smile at what used to be.
    Why is it sooo expensive ?
    I can understand it being expensive if you have to export it butt…it’s produced here in Ao Tea Roa and the price is just so….outofthisworld !!!

  11. The reason we even have these debates is that the some Kiwis suffer from Napoleon Syndrome.
    They struggle to make a mark in the world. I like them and their country.

    Or it could pure greed on the part of the New Zealand honey producers who want a bigger cut of a very tasty pie and they don’t care if it damages anyone else in the process. It may be a Maori word it may be aboriginal. but by that argument “Cheddar” is an English word ” for a cheese made by a process they developed so only the English could call that style of cheese “Cheddar”.

    They should ask themselves a few questions about cooperation like “What if Australia refused to pay pensions and unemployment benefits to Kiwis and made them claim from their own government”. Who were the ANZACs. Who plays rugby and cricket with them? Are these the people we want to piss off?


      kiwis cant get unemployment benefits

    • Joy Raven  

      It does seem a little “silly” as we all know manuka grows in various locations around the world – vote with your purchase if you feel strongly – it is well labeled here in UK as to origin. As to the pensions & benefits in Australia – very definitely not available to Kiwis !

    • Dean  

      I moved here to Australia in 1986. Prior to that Manuka Honey was always on my toast as kid growing up in New Zealand. I never found it on the shelves in Australian supermarkets after I moved here and neither did I find any kind of honey as good as NZ – and when I think of it neither fruit or veggies. It was only when the health benefits of Manuka honey were discovered and thus $$$ that Manuka honey found its way onto Aussie supermarket shelves – first the Kiwi brands and then the Aussie brands followed later.

      As a final note the Kiwi fruit is known all around the world because of NZ and had it not have been it would be still languishing in China as a gooseberry.

    • Dean  

      Answer me this. If Australia grew and sold Kiwi fruit would they sell more by renaming them Aussie fruit or by selling them as Kiwi fruit? You’d be laughed out of the fruit and veggie section of the supermarket if u labelled them Aussie fruit and the growers would go bust. Now then to have the nerve to label your honey Manuka when it is a Maori name is just as slimy as passing Aussie fruit off as Kiwi fruit. Its the Aussies who are the greedy ones.

  12. Marlee  

    I used to buy Manuka honey from New Zealand as I couldn’t find it in Australia. It is wonderful for wounds that won’t heal properly and I think the Vets are recommending it for some dog problems.

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