Manuka: New Zealand moves to trademark the word, alarming Australian honey producers

23401651200_e7d8d3afcf_mKnown by aficionados as “the champagne of honeys,” Manuka honey, or rather the name for the bewitching elixir, has become the center of an increasingly nasty onomastic battle Down Under.

On the one side of the wrangle is New Zealand, who claim that the name “Manuka” by rights is theirs because the one and only plant used by bees to produce this exclusive honey, the Leptospermum scoparium, is native to New Zealand and the name “Manuka” comes from the Maori language. According to John Rawcliffe, head of New Zealand’s Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association, this is reason enough for his country to own the trademark on this name.

Trevor White, however, from the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, told ABC news in an interview this past August that this campaign is ridiculous because the plant also grows in Australia and ”the name has been used in Australia for many years going back into the 1800’s.”

While some observers might dismiss both arguments as petty, there is more at stake here than onomastic bragging rights. Thanks in part to the reputed anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-mircrobial benefits of the natural sweetener, the combined Manuka market in Australia and New Zealand is worth ca. three hundred million dollars.