What is UMF, MGO, And KFactor?

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. Manuka honey produced in New Zealand can be eligible to receive a UMF certificate. That is how UMF Manuka honey is born.

If you ever wondered “what is UMF”, in this article we answer all your questions related to UMF. Now let’s talk about real Manuka honey from a real Manuka honey bush.

But first, what is genuine Manuka honey? Unlike most honey that grows all over the world, Manuka honey comes from the Manuka bush that grows only in New Zealand.

That is also where Manuka honey is produced. Manuka flowers bloom mid-year with intense fragrance and flavor.

The UMF Honey Association grants UMF licenses to Manuka honey manufacturers who meet their rigorous standards. The UMF license is what makes genuine Manuka honey.

Every batch of honey is tested by the UMF Honey Association to identify authentic Manuka honey produced in New Zealand.

In order to better understand what is UMF, it is worth learning more about the key UMF signature markers. UMF tracks key signature markers: LeptosperinMethyglyoxal, and DHA as well as HMF in Manuka honey.

Leptosperin is chemical compound found in Manuka honey nectar that has anti-inflammatory properties.

The higher the content, the more powerful anti-inflammatory effects it has. The most powerful Manuka honeys exceed 200mg/kg of leptosperin.

Numerous controlled trials on Manuka honey (leptospermum scoparium species) demonstrated antimicrobial effects of different types of honey on Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Methyglyoxal, also known as MGO is responsible for antibacterial effects. The level of MGO determines the UMF grade.

Research is clear on this chemical’s effectiveness in fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well as for wound healing.

Not only does it promote wound healing, it also prevents wound infections.

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

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

  • Superior Rare High Grade: UMF 24+
  • Ultra Premium Grade: UMF 15+ to UMF 20+ and above
  • Premium Grade: UMF 10+ to UMF 15+
  • Certified Authentic: UMF 5+ to UMF 9+

Every Manuka manufacturer is required to hold a valid UMF license to obtain a UMF trademark on the label. Look for “UMF Certified” or “UMF Certificate” on the side of a Manuka honey jar.

Below is a UMF certificate granted to Comvita by the UMF Honey Association.

Comvita UMF Certificate

What is MGO?

The MGO grading system has been developed by Professor Thomas Henle for MGO Manuka honey in 2008. It is quite different from Unique Manuka Factor.

It is primarily used by the company Manuka Health for their own Manuka honey.

Manuka Health is the most popular Manuka honey 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). To this day, research study this chemical in order to determine its antibacterial activity.

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.

The Health Benefits of Methylglyoxal

The MGO rating on a side of jar Manuka honey shows the methylglyoxal content. That means a MGO 100+ Manuka honey will have at least 100mg of methylglyoxal per kilogram.

What separates Manuka honey from regular honey is that the MGO levels can go up to 100 times. This is the reason many call it superfood. Research that the most potent variety of Manuka honey can have antibiotic properties.

Recently there have been successful studies on the efficacy of Manuka honey against skin bacteria and viruses. This can greatly help with acne. It is also a natural antioxidant with a very powerful effect on wrinkles which makes it anti-aging solution.

As honey is known to be extremely nourishing it is also a great moisturiser. Hence many like to use as a face mask or face cream.

The higher the MGO content, the higher the antibacterial activity. This makes MGO Manuka honey perfect for soothing conditions such eczema or psoriasis.

Wedderspoon KFactor

What is KFactor?

KFactor is a grading system created by the New Zealand company Wedderspoon. KFactor is used in the Wedderspoon Manuka honey. It is another Manuka honey grading system that is different than Unique Manuka Factor.

The label follows New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries guidelines. MPI develops standards for Manuka honey in New Zealand.

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 honey, that is more of a “blend” of Manuka nectars and other floral types.


Manuka Markers

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

It is a natural 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 an NPA of 18 then it will be UMF 18+.

Leptosperin is naturally found in Manuka honey and is also measured in UMF. Leptosperin uniquely identifies Manuka. If it doesn’t have Leptosperin, it’s not Manuka.

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.

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)
  • Leptospermin
  • DHA
  • Purity
  • 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 it 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.

10 10+ 256+
15 15+ 514
18 18+ 696+
20 20+ 829+

What are different grades of Mānuka honey for?

The UMF values start at UMF5+ and can go as high as UMF30+ in rare Manuka honeys.

Grades between UMF 5 and UMF 10 are low grade Manuka honey. Honeys in this lower range are safe for daily supplementation.

Mid-grades of UMF 10 to UMF 15 are therapeutic. They fight bacteria and have anti-inflammatory features. They can be very helpful in fighting with many illnesses.

High-grade of UMF 20+ (going up to 25 and 30 in rare cases) is considered medical grade.

Manuka honey with UMF24+ has very high peroxide activity, MGO over 1200mg/kg and leptosperin over 200mg/kg. This kind of Manuka honey has the highest antibacterial properties.

They can fight serious bacterial infections.

Any honeys from UMF15 to UMF20 are Medicinal Grade for serious health conditions.

The are rare cases of UMF30+. Those are hard to find and can get very pricey.

That being said, Manuka honey with UMF over 25+ has shown to fight staphylococcus aureus killing bacteria in the biofilm.

Manuka honey of this magnitude can have unmatched antibacterial effects in skin therapy.

What Makes The UMF Grading System

The minimum requirement for a UMF 5+ Manuka honey is

  • MGO 83mg/kg
  • Leptosperin 100mg/kg

UMF is tested in independent laboratories in order to verify that the product is genuine Manuka honey from New Zealand.

Only the UMFHA can grant the UMF quality mark. The UMF quality trademark is issued only for products tested, packed and labelled in New Zealand.

It is also guaranteed to meet the rigorous New Zealand Government’s MPI standards. Which is essentially an extra layer of quality control.

After all, that Manuka bush grows only in New Zealand.

Manuka Honey Grade Levels

Lastly, let’s look at the final comparison chart to get an idea of the uses for Manuka honey at different grade levels. Please refer to the chart below on how to choose Manuka honey.


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.

Here is a bonus infographic illustrating different potencies and levels of Manuka Honey.

Manuka Honey Grade Levels Strength Chart Info

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