The French took Champagne, and now Aussie Manuka honey is under threat from the Kiwis with a terroir branding issue.
A group of New Zealand honey producers and the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association have been fighting for exclusive rights to the word mānuka, arguing it is a Māori name tied to New Zealand, just as ‘Champagne’ is to a region in France. They ask that Australian beekeepers call their product ‘Tea Tree honey’ instead.
However for Australian producers of Manuka honey—made from the nectar of the same species of plant as its Kiwi counterpart (Leptospermum trees, which are native to Australia and New Zealand)—this move, if successful, could devastate the industry and destroy thousands of jobs.
In a bid to resolve the issue before it goes to court, Trade Minister Dan Tehan has called for a high-level meeting with his NZ counterpart, Damien O’Connor.
In a statement to the ABC, Mr Tehan said: “I … propose that the Australian and New Zealand governments jointly facilitate a workshop with our respective manuka honey industries.
“Including in areas such as industry development, research, joint marketing, technology sharing and addressing fraudulent honey products.”
Demand for Manuka honey has surged in recent years due to its purported health and beauty benefits, and is promoted by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow. The market is forecast to be worth $1.27 billion globally by 2027.