The health trend that encouraged companies to produce adulterated Australian honey

Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • Demand for honey is soaring as consumers seek a healthy alternative to cane sugar.
  • This has increased the likelihood of manufacturers bulking out production with non-honey sweeteners.
  • Industry analyst IBISWorld says demand shows no sign of letting up and this will drive growth in honey production.

Concern about healthy eating may have contributed to Australian honey being adulterated, says industry analyst IBISWorld.

A study by Macquarie University researchers found that almost one in five of 38 Australian honey samples tested had been mixed with other substances.

The honey was sourced from Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania. Samples from South Australia and Western Australia tested pure.

This latest research follows a Fairfax Media-ABC investigation into Australia’s honey industry, which revealed that many honey products on our supermarket shelves are not 100% pure.

IBISWorld Senior Industry Analyst Nathan Cloutman says manufacturers have been bulking up honey with sugar syrup or other products to boost production.

According to IBISWorld, global demand for honey is expanding rapidly as consumers are increasingly looking for natural alternatives to cane sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Rising health consciousness has encouraged consumers to carefully consider the food they purchase, driving demand for honey.

“Australian honey production has grown significantly over the past five years. Rising demand for honey has led agriculture companies to increase their output and encouraged new independent beekeepers to enter the market,” says Cloutman.

“Domestic honey producers are also benefiting from Australia’s reputation for producing high-quality agricultural products, with natural honey exports expected to grow at an annualised 8.8% over the five years through 2018-19.”

Demand for Australian produce in Asian markets has grown strongly on the back of rising incomes in the region. China, Hong Kong and Singapore are now key export markets.

Imports into the Australian market are also rising. New Zealand is a key source of imports, with demand for Manuka honey growing strongly on the back of reported medicinal properties.

Manuka honey has been one of the New Zealand’s star exports over the past five years.

“Manuka honey is produced from the nectar of the Manuka tree, which grows uncultivated throughout New Zealand,” says Cloutman.

“However, the lucrative nature of Manuka honey has attracted controversy. There have been several instances of counterfeit Manuka honey being sold globally, and reports of people destroying the hives of their rivals to lessen competition.”

According to IBISWorld, global demand for honey, in particular Manuka honey, shows no sign of letting up. This will support Australian and Kiwi beekeepers, driving growth in honey production.

“However, high demand for honey is likely to continue incentivising companies to produce adulterated or counterfeit honey to increase output volumes,” says Cloutman.