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Published: 13 Nov 2020

Katharina Schmidt

A Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) student has found compounds known to be bioactive in Tasmanian Leatherwood honey, which could boost the honey’s value for industry and increase appeal for health-conscious customers.

The project is part of a nationwide Honey Assurance initiative led by the Cooperative Research Centre for Honey Bee Products in partnership with the Tasmanian Beekeepers Association and the University of Tasmania.

TIA PhD candidate Katharina Schmidt is investigating the unique properties and compounds in leatherwood honey to help industry better define its value.

“I analysed the chemical profile of the leatherwood honeys, specifically the volatile compounds and found some compounds which have bioactivity,” she said.

Ms Schmidt has also found that Tasmanian leatherwood honey has high production of hydrogen peroxide, the active ingredient for bioactivity that is produced from enzymes added to the honey by the bee.

“The more hydrogen peroxide that is in the honey, the more antibacterial quality it has,” Ms Schmidt explained.

Honey can be bioactive by having antibacterial, antioxidant or prebiotic activity. Certified bioactive honey is rare and fetches a premium as consumers seek it out for use as a topical treatment or to improve their digestive health.

Ms Schmidt’s supervisor, Dr Sandra Garland, said that identifying the source of the bioactivity in Tasmanian Leatherwood honey is an important step in creating higher value for the industry.

“Bioactive honey is a cocktail with many beneficial properties and can have a high healing capacity. If leatherwood honey is certified as bioactive, the honey could be placed in the health food aisle and get a higher price,” Dr Garland said.

“This project would like to create a bioactive label that can be used on genuine Leatherwood honey so its true value is appreciated in the market place.”

Nicola Charles, Tasmanian Beekeepers Association executive and Tasmanian honey producer, said that linking the bioactivity of Leatherwood honey to its authenticity could allow the industry to expand into new markets.

“If they find bioactive potential, we can then market that to other industries, whether it’s a cosmetic application or a food ingredient, it would broaden the industry through greater value adding here in Tasmania and Australia, which would essentially increase the bottom dollar for beekeepers in Tasmania,” she said.

“Bioactivity will provide a point of difference to other honeys on the shelves and show that Leatherwood honey is not only a great tasting honey, but also has a lot of functional attributes that include health benefits.”

Certification for Leatherwood honey will allow Tasmanian producers to label their honey as a genuine product, which will add value, create security for the industry and provide accurate information to customers.

The project is on target to be completed by mid-2022.

TIA is a joint venture between the University of Tasmania & the Tasmanian Government.