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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

Mānuka Health Ads Draw Ire

The Manuka Health ads appeared, at a minimum, as sponsored posts on both Facebook and Instagram.

A social media advertising campaign from major mānuka honey producer, packer and exporter Mānuka Health which unfavourably compares “regular” honey to mānuka honey has provoked the ire of several other honey sellers who are questioning the legality of some of the claims.

Details of the extent of Mānuka Health’s advertising campaign could not be confirmed, with the honey exporter not answering questions regarding the advertisements which were, at a minimum, hosted on both Facebook and Instagram in February. They included a slide-show of images, one with honey falling from a spoon and titled “regular honey” and another with honey holding to a spoon and a glowing “mānuka honey” alongside. The words superfood, raw and unpasteurized, rare New Zealand origin and uniquely potent accompanied the mānuka slide, whereas the terms mass produced, processed, sweetener and basic accompanied the “regular” honey falling from the spoon.

“What is concerning about this ad are the words used to describe and infer the non-mānuka honey is inferior quality, adulterated and less nutritious than mānuka honey, then go on to make a number of heath claims which fall outside the New Zealand Food Safety Act label claims for New Zealand honey,” says John Smart, general manager sales for Airborne Honey.

He says the ad shows a lack of knowledge on Mānuka Health’s part in regard to the composition of honey.

This slide of the advertisement extolled the virtues of mānuka honey, while another placed trigger words alongside “regular” honey.

“It is possible to make the same batch of honey display high or low viscosity characteristics depending on the temperature, including multi-floral or mono-floral mānuka, and therefore misleading. The challenge to Mānuka Health is to submit the batches of honey in the ad to independent analysis.”

The social-media ads did not go unnoticed by another Canterbury honey packer, and producer. Hantz Honey director Carolyn McMahon says a better definition of what was meant by “regular honey” was required.

“Mānuka Health are trying to up peoples’ consumption of mānuka honey versus non-mānuka honey. That’s fine, but they shouldn’t imply things that simply are not true regarding New Zealand honey, such as that sweetener is added, which is totally illegal in New Zealand,” McMahon says.

Honey adulteration by adding artificial sweeteners, most commonly rice, corn or sugar cane syrups, is a huge problem the world-over for beekeepers as it devalues honey. The Honey Authenticity Network estimates a third of all honey in the world is adulterated.

“The challenge to Mānuka Health is to submit the batches of honey in the ad to independent analysis,” says Airborne Honey’s John Smart as he throws down the gauntlet.

The Mānuka Health promotions do not elaborate on the term ‘sweetener’ and what is meant by it in the context of their advertisements.

“In my opinion this is a matter for the Ministry for Primary Industries and Apiculture New Zealand, as the guardians of the honey industry and the primary products produced in New Zealand,” Smart says, adding, “individuals who view the ad can also file a complaint via Facebook or Instagram”.

That might be difficult to achieve though, with the advertisement appearing to have only been published as a temporary paid post and potentially no-longer active.


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