New Investigation into Native Honey

Plant & Food Research will be leading a national team of researchers looking at native honey composition and the characteristics that appeal most to consumers, thanks to new funding from the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.

The new two-year project focuses on prominent native monofloral (single flower nectar) honey – predominantly from kānuka, rata, rewarewa and kamahi - produced by Te Pumautanga o Te Arawa (TPT) beekeeping activities on Department of Conservation areas in the Rotorua region. 

The project will analyse examples of honeys from across the different geographical regions of the TPT rohe (territory/boundary) to search for specific chemical signatures and potential unique biomarkers. It will also determine the consistency and flavours of honey that consumers prefer, as well as consumer perceptions of Māori values and provenance.

“Honey and honey-related products account for more than $400 million of New Zealand’s export earnings each year,” said project co-lead Aaron McCallion from Waka Digital.

“Mānuka honey is the primary honey export, valued for its unique bioactive properties. However, we believe that other native species may also produce honey with great taste and bioactives that will also appeal to consumers.”

Dr John van Klink, project co-lead from Plant & Food Research added that Mānuka honey has scientifically-validated bioactive properties that consumers will pay a premium for.

“In this project we will analyse different monofloral honeys with the aim of identifying scientifically-validated factors that will differentiate some of our other important, but lesser-known, native honeys.” 

Combined with advanced consumer insights, the new knowledge gleaned from the project will provide further awareness of the unique properties and consumer value of our lesser-known honeys, and support the development of new monofloral honeys.

“This investment of over $980,000 from the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge fits well with our objective of supporting industries with their growth aspirations through the application of science,” explained Joanne Todd, Challenge Director.

The project brings together a multidisciplinary team of experts and scientists from Te Arawa and other iwi/hapu entities, Plant & Food Research, AgResearch, Massey University and Apiculture NZ to employ a collaborative bicultural approach.

About High-Value Nutrition:

The HVN Challenge is a mission-led programme of innovative research into the health attributes of New Zealand-produced foods for our major export markets. High-Value Nutrition Ko Ngā Kai Whai Painga is one of the eleven National Science Challenges. The Challenge has $45 million of funding for 2019 - 2024.

The Challenge has through its contestable process recently approved a large number of innovative projects that will be completed together with industry and business partners.