New bioactive beverage to be developed using kawakawa, a NZ native species

High-Value Nutrition (HVN) Ko Ngā Kai Whai Painga National Science Challenge has awarded $1,297,299 in funding for research to explore the potential health benefits of incorporating the Aotearoa New Zealand native species kawakawa (Piper excelsum), as part of a novel functional beverage for markets in Japan and South East Asia. The research will explore if such a functional beverage can impact metabolic and immune health in human intervention studies, while it also includes the exploration of regulatory considerations and consumer studies.

The project is a collaboration with industry partners Wakatū Incorporation and Chia Sisters. The research will be led by the Liggins Institute, along with the main collaborators from the University of Auckland’s Human Nutrition Unit and the Riddet Institute. Other collaborators include the Food Experience and Sensory Testing (FEAST) Laboratory at Massey University, Smart Regulatory Solutions, and Edible Research.

Riddet Institute scientist Dr Ali Rashidinejad will be leading the first stage of this project to establish a procedure for the standardisation and manufacture of a dry kawakawa ingredient. Researchers will then produce a series of functional food products with this ingredient. The Riddet Institute and FEAST will work on exploring consumer responses to these products. The Institute will also investigate regulatory approvals with Smart Regulatory Solutions; obtain a detailed nutritional profile and undertake shelf life assessments of the novel products with the Massey Food Pilot.

“The novelty of this project lies in the capacity of an Aotearoa New Zealand native species to have additive or synergistic effects with other components within a functional beverage,” says Joanne Todd, High-Value Nutrition Director. Kawakawa shows promise due to its history of traditional use by Māori over generations and its phytochemical profile that, like other members of the family Piperaceae, is rich in biologically active compounds.

For the industry partners, this project will enable the development of a high-value, functional product range, which is unique to Aotearoa New Zealand and relevant globally. By design, it supports a combined mātauranga (traditional knowledge) and Western science approach to research. Wakatū Incorporation is a values and purpose driven Māori organisation based in Te Tauihu (top of the South Island) and representing over 4,000 whānau owners. In developing the functional beverage, Wakatū Incorporation has partnered with the Chia Sisters, Nelson-based innovators in the beverage industry who have a strong focus on health and environmental sustainability.

The HVN National Science Challenge is a mission-led programme of innovative research into the health attributes of New Zealand-produced foods for our major export markets.

This post originally appeared on the High-Value Nutrition (HVN) Ko Ngā Kai Whai Painga National Science Challenge website and is reproduced with the permission of HVN and Wakatū Inc.

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