Show me the honey: ManukaLife’s big ambitions

Apr 19, 2022

Western Australian company ManukaLife has a vision to go global. We spoke to the company's managing director, Paul Callander, to see what that looks like.

In the world of sweet spreads, there’s honey and then there’s manuka honey. Produced by bees from the flowers of the Leptospermum tree – known by many other names, including manuka trees – manuka honey contains an antibacterial component called methylglyoxal (MGO) that doesn’t appear in regular honey.

It means manuka honey is considered much more a therapeutic agent than a bread spread, with research showing it not only stimulates wound healing, it’s also effective against antibiotic-resistant bugs known as superbugs.

“Unlike antibiotics, a lot of which are only bacteriostatic – which means they halt the continued replication of bacteria – manuka honey is bactericidal,” says ManukaLife’s managing director Paul Callander. “So it actually kills bacteria.”

Callander co-founded ManukaLife seven years ago, when he realised the honey had regulatory approval for use in intensive-care units in the United States to fight those superbugs – and that Australia is home to more than 80 of the 87 known Leptospermum species worldwide.

“So we took 18 of the top-producing species to Western Australia and began hybridising them to produce elite genetics for a plant-breeding program,” he says.

“It was supported by Federal Government funding on the basis that we could create national plantations for the development of high-grade products, because that’s what large pharmaceutical and medical industries want to see – a supply chain that shows you the fingerprint of the honey, guaranteeing exactly where it came from and that it’s high grade.”

In a nutshell, Callander says it’s all about getting the flowering periods of the plants to go from six weeks to six months, and to have much larger flowering sizes, higher nectar production and an increase in the strength of MGO. “Because when you do that, you increase the medical capacity and capabilities of the honey.”

The importance of home grown

With a vision to be the global leader in Australian-grown manuka plantations destined for products developed by the medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and nutraceutical industries, fittingly, ManukaLife has an impressive range of own-brand products, too. There’s everything from honey and wound gel to acne wash, eczema wash and 100% Australian manuka oil.

“The intention was always to do both,” says Callander. “I’m a firm believer in the fact that Australia has to produce value-added goods rather than simply exporting commodities to other countries to do it. There’s no reason why we can’t create high-value, natural, science-based products here for export globally, so that was always our goal.”

Importantly, all of ManukaLife’s products carry the Australian Manuka Honey Association’s Mark of Authenticity. “That’s the thing to look for in any Australian manuka honey product that you’re buying or stocking – the sign that says it’s been approved and is authentic.”

As for ManukaLife’s future, Callander says the company has big plans. “Western Australia has been a great place to start growing our trees, but it’s never been our intention to keep them solely here. We’d like to see them grown nationally and we’re starting on that now.

“We’ve also just signed an agreement with the University of Western Australia’s pharmacology department to produce a manuka prebiotic for gut health, because we know that manuka honey has huge immune benefits for the gut.

“People are more concerned than ever about what they’re putting into their bodies and what they’re taking [medically], so if we can continue to develop natural, synthetic-free, science-based products that have real benefits, while putting trees back in the ground that are regenerative and sustainable at the same time, how good is that?”

Interested in stocking ManukaLife on your shelves? The team will be exhibiting their products at Naturally Good 2022. Take this opportunity to meet the team and find out more about their range. 

Register free to attend here.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now