A Talk with Elena Brambilla, CEO of Manuka Royale about brand identity and the difference between MGO and UMF grading system

Former professional athletes launch a new sustainable Manuka Honey business

A talk with Elena Brambilla, CEO of Manuka Royale, on the authenticity of her brand

Elena Brambilla, 38 years old, was a successful professional high jumper for over 14 years, competing in several international events and winning the Italian National Championships in 2014, with a best height of 1.87m. 

At the end of her sporting career, Elena decided to sail around the world with her husband, Wojtek Czyz. Wojtek is a 4-time Paralympic Champion in track and field over 3 Paralympic Games, and world record holder in five free diving disciplines.  

Elena and Wojtek funded a not-for-profit association called sailing4handicaps ( www.sailing4handicaps.de ), whose aim was to support amputees in less fortunate countries, by donating prosthetic legs. To enable them to do this, the couple transformed their sailing catamaran “Imagine” into a sailing workshop, and built and donated 90 prosthetic legs over a 5 year period.

After sailing to New Zealand, the pair decided to settle down, and use their knowledge and experience to set up their own new Mānuka Honey brand, called Manuka Royale.

Elena, who has a Masters in Biotechnology (University of Milano Bicocca) and Bachelor in Herbal Science (University of Milano Statale), has always been fascinated by the world of bees and honey. During her studies in Milan, she had the opportunity to dive into the topic of Mānuka Honey and all of the scientific research around it. The world-famous honey from New Zealand is, in fact, well known in Europe because of numerous studies conducted to prove its health benefits and medicinal properties.

After her arrival in New Zealand and passing on the love for beekeeping to her husband, it was clear for Elena and Wojtek that they would like to be involved in the Mānuka Honey sector.

As a first step Elena and Wojtek sought to learn more about this unique type of honey. They toured around New Zealand and visited apiaries and beekeepers. On their journey they discussed various beekeeping techniques and field strategies, and learned the best ways to obtain high-grade honey, while maintaining the high quality and ethical aspects, connected with the crafting of this liquid gold.

These discussions around field practices evidenced not only the peculiarity of cultivation of Mānuka plants, but also the importance of protecting our honey bees. They in fact, play a fundamental role in pollinating not only the Mānuka flowers but also in preserving native plants in an increasingly unbalanced environment.

As a result of this work, Elena wrote her university thesis about field techniques to improve the content of Methylglyoxal (MGO) in Mānuka Honey. She is currently involved in further scientific studies relating to how Mānuka Honey could support top athletes in their daily diet. 

Mānuka Honey, like other types of honey, is rich in vitamins, minerals, probiotics and hydrogen peroxide, which all contribute to the peroxide activity of honey - responsible for its antibacterial properties. What sets  Mānuka Honey apart is that it is the only honey in the world with additional non-peroxide activity, carried out by MGO. MGO takes this particular type of honey’s antibacterial properties to the next level.

Interestingly, although sometimes confusing for the customer, is the presence of Mānuka Honey with different levels of MGO content. There are two main globally accepted grading systems, which are the MGO measurement and/or the UMF grading.

The MGO content is measured by an independent laboratory and gives an indication of the quantity of Methylglyoxal in the honey. Despite being a good grading indication for this compound, the MGO testing alone cannot provide the security that the Mānuka Honey is not blended with other types of honey or is not contaminated.

The UMF rating, which tests three signature compounds, Leptosperin, DHA and Methylglyoxal, provides an accurate indication of high quality and the purity of New Zealand Mānuka Honey. This is why the UMF certification system has been chosen by the couple to represent the quality of their honey. After undergoing an intense review from the UMF association, Manuka Royale was officially UMF certified at the beginning of this year.

The benefits of Mānuka Honey have been embraced in Māori culture for a long time, and used for topical application in wound healing and skin diseases. Scientific research has evidenced antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, New Zealand law does not allow for Mānuka Honey to be openly declared as an immune system support, making difficult for the sector to prove the authenticity of this honey to the rest of the world.

In order to provide the purest honey to their customers, Manuka Royale focus on collaborating with experienced and ethical beekeepers, testing the honey and providing an efficient tracing system. This allows the customer to know where their honey was sourced and see its test results. 

But it is not only the beautiful honey that makes this brand so unique. 

While sailing around the world, Elena and Wojtek were shocked by the massive amount and extent of ocean pollution due to plastic rubbish. Manuka Royale honey jars are made of recycled, BPA-free plastic, sourced in the Indian Ocean, and all packaging materials used are recyclable and / or biodegradable.

Manuka Royale aims in the near future to have a neutral carbon footprint, and the choice of using recycled plastic over new plastic or glass jars is a step in the right direction.

The attractive packaging has been designed and painted by Elena, who is also a watercolour artist.

Close to Elena and Wojtek’s hearts is not only the production of a high quality honey, but also the support of the local community. During the first Covid-19 lockdown in New Zealand, Elena and Wojtek contacted the Child Cancer Foundation, committed to helping Kiwi families with children affected by cancer, and decided to support them. 

For every Manuka Royale 250gr. or  500gr. jar sold, Manuka Royale donates $1 to the Child Cancer Foundation and echoes their motto - even a small drop can make a big difference in the ocean.  

We are looking forward in the future to hearing more about this unique brand, which is already collaborating with customers all around the globe.

For more information please visit www.manukaroyale.nz