Page 16 - Food & Drink Magazine May 2021
P. 16

                 BY ASSOCIATION
What’s in a name?
Collaboration across the Tasman has a long and proud history, but current legal action by New Zealand manuka honey producers is putting that friendship and an entire industry at risk. Australian Manuka Honey Association chair Paul Callander explains.
AUSTRALIA’S manuka honey sector is a thriving and growing industry that employs thousands of Australians and builds on Australia’s reputation as a source of quality produce that promotes healthy living.
The industry has invested heavily in research and marketing in recent years, and this is translating directly to greater awareness and booming sales. But this success is now
at stake, with producers drawn into a costly and potentially damaging trademark
dispute by New Zealand counterparts. At the heart of the dispute is the right to use the term “manuka honey”.
The suggestion that only honey from New Zealand can be described as “manuka honey” is strongly refuted by the Australian industry, which has prepared thousands of pages of evidence in its defence.
Manuka honey originates from bees that collect the nectar of a particular kind of shrub of the Leptospermum genus.
Australia is home to 85 of the 87 known Leptospermum species worldwide, including the Leptospermum scoparium species, believed to have originated from Tasmania but now also common in
New Zealand. Australia has produced manuka honey since European honeybees were introduced in the 1820s.
Australian manuka honey, like New Zealand manuka honey, is valued for its scientifically proven health benefits and particular therapeutic qualities. In addition to “active honey in a jar”, manuka honey is the “hero” ingredient in a growing range of pharmaceutical, medicinal, health and cosmetic applications. With innovative product development and good underlying supporting science, our manuka honey industry has an exciting future.
The international manuka honey market is projected to be worth around $1.27 billion in annual trade by 2027, with
Australia has produced manuka honey since the 1820s, when European honeybees were introduced to the country.
Australia supplying around one third of this. The industry is seeing sharp rises in demand from the US and China and forecasting significant growth across the entire Asia Pacific region.
Manuka honey offers Australia unique opportunities in manufacturing, particularly for value-add products in the health sector, given limited sources of the honey and our specialist local expertise. Manuka beekeepers are at the centre of the industry, but employment extends beyond production to research, manufacturing and formulation, distribution, logistics, marketing and sales.
Australia has led the world in the research and commercialisation of therapeutic products using Australian manuka honey for over 20 years – this early work strongly underpinned the now global interest in manuka honey from both Australia and
New Zealand.
The domestic industry has
funded extensive research, with six different universities investigating the product’s health benefits and other attributes. As new clinical trials provide both evidence and safety to support health claims, there is enormous opportunity to develop, manufacture and take to global markets these high value products.
Last October, the federal government announced its Modern Manufacturing Strategy to invest in local manufacturing and innovation, particularly where there was an opportunity to commercialise new innovations that could be exported to drive scale.
“By playing to our strengths, strategically investing and harnessing our world-class science and research, we can open up new markets and take more of our quality products to the world, making us more prosperous,” the then industry minister Karen Andrews said in announcing the strategy.
Further details were released in March 2021, highlighting a vision to double the value of Australia’s food and beverage manufacturing by 2030, with a focus on smart food and beverage manufacturing; innovative foods and beverages; and food safety, origin and traceability systems. The roadmap defines innovative foods as products with higher nutritional value and the ability to improve health, a grouping that would clearly include manuka honey. There is no doubt manuka honey can play an important role in the government’s plans to reinvigorate the country’s manufacturing sector.
But a favourable outcome in the trademark dispute is crucial to the industry’s profitability
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