Produced by bees that pollinate the flowers of Leptospermum scoparium (also called mānuka mānuka myrtle), manuka honey is a popular natural sweetener and health food. Known for improving everything from skin health to immune system function, manuka honey has gained global popularity in recent years. Jars of it even ended up on the shelves of Trader Joe’s.
But is Trader Joe’s Manuka Honey real? And, more importantly, can you even buy manuka honey at Trader Joe’s in 2023? We’ll answer these questions and more below.
Trader Joe’s Sued Over “Fake” Manuka Honey
In 2018, Trader Joe’s was sued for allegedly falsely advertising their Manuka Honey, which was marketed as containing 100% New Zealand honey derived from manuka flowers. The suit’s plaintiff had paid to have tests conducted that determined that the origins of the honey were not pure, with only about 60% of the product registering as manuka derived while the rest of the honey had come from other floral origins.
However, the proposed class-action lawsuit was repeatedly denied by the US Court of Appeals because, as the courts decided, Trader Joe’s didn’t actually violate any false advertising laws.
As the court emphasized, it is impossible for any one type of honey to be derived exclusively from one type of flower because bees are free-range creatures. So, even if the bees producing the honey fed primarily on manuka flowers, it’s inevitable that they had been visiting other types of flowers, too. In fact, bees rely on biodiversity for survival.
FDA food-labeling regulations allow producers to label honey based on its primary derivation source, which Trader Joe’s did. So, the proposed suit was denied and Trader Joe’s was vindicated.
Despite the relative victory, Trader Joe’s opted to discontinue their Manuka Honey product and replace it with a more broadly labeled “Creamed Multi-Floral New Zealand Honey.” To avoid controversy, Trader Joe’s does not make claims about what kind of flowers are used in the production of this honey. In fact, the ingredients label only lists one word… Honey.
What more do you need to know?
Was TJ’s Manuka Honey Low Grade?
Despite avoiding legal trouble, Trader Joe’s now-discontinued Manuka Honey was called out as “low grade” during the upset.
The higher the grade of manuka honey, the more antibacterial activity it contains, which is one of the main reasons people buy this type of honey.
Manuka honey is rated by a system called the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). You might also see the acronym MGO thrown around, which refers to the measurement of methylglyoxal in the honey, the active constituent which gives it its germ-fighting capacity.
When in production, Trader Joe’s Manuka Honey was marketed as UMF 10+, which is considered a low grade of manuka honey. High-quality manuka honey varieties are typically rated at 20+, while rare varieties might be rated as high as 30+.
To put it all in simpler terms–Trader Joe’s Manuka Honey was definitely real, but it was of a lower grade than other options on the market, and it didn’t contain quite as much pure manuka content as some customers thought.
Benefits of Authentic Manuka Honey
If you’re intrigued by the fanfare around this special New Zealand-derived honey, we have some info to help you understand why it’s so special.
Manuka honey has been shown to be antioxidant, antibacterial, and antimicrobial. It can be used both internally and externally to boost your health and healing naturally.
Here are some of the things manuka honey might be able to do for you…
- Help fight off germs when you’re sick
- Soothe sore throats and coughs
- Soothe ulcers
- Improve dental health and hygiene
- Aid digestive issues and promote gut health
When applied topically, manuka honey might help with the following…
- Skin health
- Wound healing
To read more about the health benefits of manuka honey, check out this article from Healthline.
Other Kinds of Honey at Trader Joe’s
After discontinuing their Manuka Honey, Trader Joe’s replaced it with their Creamed Multi-Floral New Zealand Honey which is currently sold for $3.99 for a 16-oz jar. Oddly, this product is currently marked as “unavailable” on TraderJoes.com, so it’s unclear what the future of this honey might be.
If you want to stick to something a little more basic and reliable, you can pick up a 12-ounce squeeze bottle of Multi-Floral & Clover Honey from Trader Joe’s anytime.
Trader Joe’s also sells jars of Raw Organic Honey at some locations. These 16-ounce jars are priced at $5.99, which is a great deal when compared to the price of raw honey at other retailers.