Everything You Need To Know About Different Manuka Honey Grading Systems

What is UMF?

UMF stands for “Unique Manuka Factor” and is a grading system developed by the UMF Honey Association in New Zealand.

The UMF Honey Association grants UMF licenses to Manuka honey manufacturers who meet their rigorous standards.

The UMF rating system is used by a number of brands such as New Zealand Honey Co., Manukora, Kiva, and Happy Valley.

Every batch of honey is tested by the UMF Association for authentic Manuka honey from New Zealand.

UMF tracks key signature markers: Leptosperin, Methyglyoxal, and DHA as well as HMF.

All of these chemicals must be present in Manuka honey for it to be authentic and receive the Unique Manuka Factor.

The final UMF number is based on all of the chemicals combined. Here are some examples of UMF potencies:

  • Low Grade: UMF 5+ to UMF 9+
  • Medium Grade: UMF 10+ to UMF 15+
  • High Grade: UMF 15+ to UMF 20+
  • Superior Rare High Grade: UMF 24+

Every Manuka manufacturer is required to hold a valid UMF license to obtain a UMF trademark on the label.

Below is the Official UMF Certificate verifying the authenticity of New Zealand Honey Co., UMF25+ Manuka honey

Once the UMF certificate is issued, it means the Manuka honey meets the following requirements:


  • Produced, Packed and Labelled in New Zealand.  All honey labelled with the quality trademark UMF must be packed and labelled in New Zealand. Manuka honey cannot be imported into New Zealand.
  • Tested. After Manuka honey has been packed, it must undergo a number of tests to identify its source and purity.
  • Audited.  UMF Manuka Honey is regularly audited so you can be sure you are getting real Manuka honey with the correct UMF number.
  • Proof of Authenticity – The Official UMF Certificate is issued once Manuka honey has successfully passes all test criteria.

What is MGO?

The MGO grading system has been developed by Professor Thomas Henle in 2008.

It is primarily used by the company Manuka Health.

Manuka Health is the most popular company that uses the MGO grading system. In addition, Manuka Health conducts independent research on Manuka honey to bring new standards to the Manuka world.

MGO stands for methylglyoxal which is a chemical that naturally occurs in Manuka honey.

According to Manuka Healthy, it is the “magic ingredient” in Manuka honey that was discovered by one of their research partners – Professor Thomas Henle (University of Dresden).

Here’s a comparison between different levels of MGO and UMF:

It’s worth noting that Manuka Health is also a member of the UMF Honey Association.

Each jar of MHO Manuka Honey is tested for potency and traced from hive to home, keeping up with high standards of Manuka honey.

The higher the MGO content, the higher the grade of Manuka honey.

What is KFactor?

KFactor is also an independent grading system and is used by the company Wedderspoon.

It has been approved by New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries which develops standards for Manuka honey in the country.

Wedderspoon’s ongoing scientific research contributes many innovations to Manuka honey products.

Wedderspoon KFactor

The KFactor standard ensures you are getting the following:

– raw and unpausterized honey

– free of antibiotics, glyphosate and pesticides


– traceability from hive to home

– comes from New Zealand

On top of that, there are two main varieties of Wedderspoon’s Manuka honey; KFactor 16 and KFactor 12.

KFactor 16 is a monofloral honey that is “wholly or mostly” made from the Leptospermum scoparium (Manuka) plant.

This means this honey is more of a single-plant extract.

KFactor 12 is a multifloral Manuka, that is more of a “blend” of more than one Manuka plant.

Manuka Markers

The most common marker for Manuka honey is MGO (methylglyoxal).

It is a toxic compound with antibacterial properties and is measured in the UMF and MGO grading systems.

However, the UMF grading system also measures NPA (non-peroxide activity) which represents the industry’s standard phenol disinfectant.

The NPA marker relates directly to the overall UMF rating. If a Manuka honey has a NPA of 18 then it will be UMF 18+. 

Leptosperin is naturally found in Manuka honey and is also measured in UMF.

DHA (dihydroxyacetone) is also present in the UMF grading system. It is the precursor for methylglyoxal and determines the overall MGO levels.

The KFactor grading system is quite different than UMF and MGO. It measures markers such as purity, live enzymes, over 250 chemical compounds, DHA, pollen count, pH levels, antioxidant levels and phenolic compounds.

Interestingly, it does not measure MGO, NPA or leptosperin levels.

Please find the chart below for a comparison of UMF, MGO and KFactor systems and the markers they measure.

  • MGO (methylglyoxal)
  • NPA (non-peroxide activity)
  • Leptospermum
  • DHA
  • MGO (methylglyoxal)
  • purity
  • live enzymes
  • pollen count (70% and higher)
  • DHA
  • PH levels
  • antioxidant levels
  • phenolic compounds

So how to compare the quality of the different Manuka honeys if they use different grading systems?

Well, the UMF and MGO grading systems measure one common marker which is MGO.

The concentration of MGO (methylglyoxal) ranges from 0mg/1kg to 1000mg/1kg. Anything above 100mg/1kg is considered antibacterial.

In turn, this makes easy for consumers to understand that a MGO 100+ Manuka honey contains at least 100mg of methylglyoxal.

The UMF rating corresponds directly to the NPA levels.

Please go to the table for a comparison of NPA, UMF and MGO.


Grade Levels

Lastly, let’s look at the final comparison chart to get an idea for the uses for Manuka honey at different grade levels.

Very high antibacterial activity. Superior healing properties.
High antibacterial activity. Good healing properties.
Medium level activity. Suitable for maintaining good health.
Low level activity. Comparable to normal honey.

We hope this guide was helpful in understanding What is UMF, as well as the differences between UMF, KFactor and MGO grading systems.