Raw honey, with its renowned anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant and prebiotic qualities, is already one of nature's best superfoods.
A Western Australian company is taking raw honey's health benefits a step further by developing new products using the relatively rare jarrah honey infused with other superfoods, such as Kakadu plum, truffle, ginseng, cacao, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and chilli.
Bentley-based Forest Fresh Australia has been working on its infused honey superfood for the past eight months in response to strong consumer demand in international markets for increasingly sophisticated healthy food options that also tell a story from forest to plate.
The company only uses jarrah honey for the superfood blends.
Jarrah is a rare variety produced by bees foraging on the nectar of jarrah trees (Eucalyptus marginata), which are very slow growing and only found in the forests of WA's South West.
Forest Fresh co-owner Matthew Fewster said jarrah honey was a relatively rare honey for several reasons.
"Firstly, individual trees only produce flowers for a few months every four years," Mr Fewster said.
"The trees don't all flower at the same time.
"Some trees flower every year, but bushfires and other factors restrict commercial harvests to every two or three years."
Mr Fewster said prescribed burning was probably the biggest factor reducing honey production.
"It can take four or five years for the burnt trees to recover and recommence flowering, but often they are burnt again not long after," he said.
"This limits the amount of potential jarrah honey that can be collected.
"Also, we know climate change has reduced rainfall in the forest.
"So, this has likely reduced the amount of nectar production of all trees growing in the forest."
The Fewster name has been associated with commercial beekeeping and honey production in WA for more than 100 years.
"I am the fifth generation of my family to be involved in the honey business in WA," Mr Fewster said.
"My uncle and several cousins are commercial beekeepers producing some of the best quality jarrah honey owing to their access to premium forest sites and very healthy bees."
Mr Fewster, his parents Mike and Suzy and two sisters Katie and Samantha, work with the other members of the extended family - and some other long-term beekeepers - to source their jarrah honey.
"My father worked in the family apiary business when he was young, but then left to become a geoscientist," Mr Fewster said.
"But after a successful career of 35 years in the resources industry, he decided to return to the honey industry and worked with my mother to help my uncle expand his export business.
"We decided to launch the Forest Fresh brand in 2019 to export jarrah honey and sell locally online and in select retail outlets."
More than 95 per cent of production is now exported to countries around the world, with a small amount being sold locally to premium food retailers and online.
The family expects local sales to increase when the superfood-infused jarrah honey products are released.
Mr Fewster said when they started Forest Fresh there was not much quality information about jarrah honey.
He said the small amount of existing research showed that it was a medicinal honey with strong anti-microbial power, a low glycemic index and strong prebiotic and antioxidant strength compared to other honeys.
Jarrah honey has high hydrogen peroxide derived total activity, which means it has stronger antimicrobial power compared to other medicinal honeys.
It has antibacterial activity - which may be useful in healing wounds susceptible to bacterial infection.
It helps to maintain a moist wound, which accelerates healing and reduces scarring.
Jarrah honey also has strong anti-fungal activity and studies show it is very effective against candida species.
It is considered a good prebiotic.
Research has shown that it promotes production of a higher concentration of butyric acid (BTA) compared to other honey varieties.
BTA is a saturated, short-chain fatty acid which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
Consumption of foods which produce a high concentration of BTA is linked to a lowered risk of colon cancer, and can help with mouth ulcers and bad breath which are often associated with stomach bacteria, such as Helicobacter pylori.
Jarrah is also one of the very few honeys in the world that has a strong resistance to crystallisation.
However, when Forest Fresh was launched there was no useful method to measure and score the quality of jarrah honey.
"Jarrah trees grow in a wild forest with many other species of flowering plants that the bees can forage on while the jarrah is flowering," Mr Fewster said.
"So, each harvest of honey can range in quality depending on when and where in the forest it was gathered from.
"Some of the jarrah honey we were being offered in the early days was crystallising after a year or so, which told us the quality was low."
It was then that Mr Fewster's father decided to use his scientific skills to devise a method to grade jarrah honey and estimate the resistance to crystallisation.
"It has taken many years and a lot of expenditure, but my father has now devised a quality scoring system we have called the jarrah factor (JF)," Mr Fewster said.
"We get compositional analytical data from a laboratory in Germany on samples we send to them, then use a complex proprietary formula to calculate the JF from these results.
"We now grade all of the jarrah honey we pack based on the JF, and use the TA as a secondary grading tool - as the quality has a much greater impact on the beneficial properties than the activity.
"We call the superior product we pack Jarrah Platinum, and we regard this as the consistently highest quality jarrah honey in the market.
"The next category down we call Jarrah Gold and we regard this as being above-average quality."
Mr Fewster said another benefit of the Forest Fresh grading system was that the family could offer an industry-first crystallisation-free guarantee on Jarrah Platinum and Gold grades because of their confidence in the JF correctly measuring jarrah honey quality.
"We guarantee that this honey will not crystallise within the best before date, which is typically four years after the packing date" he said.
"We will be using Jarrah Gold as the base for our superfood infused products."
Mr Fewster said what differentiated Forest Fresh from other honey packers was its scientific expertise and ability and willingness to innovate.
"It is unusual for a small, multi-generational family honey company such as Forest Fresh to have such a depth of scientific expertise," Mr Fewster said.
"My father has a Masters of Science degree and my sister Samantha has a degree in food science.
"So, they are able to both understand the chemistry of honey and design the superfood-infused range.
"The infusing ingredients we are using have been carefully selected to boost the already substantial beneficial properties of the jarrah honey.
"For example, one of our infused products is cacao and Kakadu plum.
"Cacao is rich in iron and the very high vitamin C of the Kakadu plum will enhance iron absorption."
Another product is turmeric, pepper and ginger.
Turmeric is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories known, but pepper is required to allow absorption of curcumin in the stomach, and just enough is added to achieve this.
The ginger adds a spicy finish.
"All of the other superfood-infused jarrah honey products we will be launching are based on scientific principles to boost the already substantial beneficial properties of our Jarrah Gold honey," Mr Fewster said.
He said the new products would be marketed in jars, sachets, private labels and bulk - as was the case with their existing pure jarrah honey range.
These will be available to buy early in 2024.
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