Prime Minister gets taste of food innovation

The power of science to deliver innovative, sustainable food products was on full display when FoodHQ Partners hosted Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson in Palmerston North last week. Manawatū based, FoodHQ is a national collaboration involving most of New Zealand’s leading food science and innovation organisations**.

Riddet Institute scientists Dr Alejandra Acevedo-Fani and Dr Anant Dave showcased some of our food research that addresses the challenge of protein transition from animal protein to more sustainable plant and other alternative proteins. We have a team of scientists developing innovative combinatorial or hybrid protein foods that bring together the best attributes of both plant and animal materials.  One category of these foods, named “hybrid meats”, combines New Zealand produced animal-based protein with plant proteins. These are the second generation meat analogues, which are a step up compared to those currently in the market. Our demonstration was part of the ‘taste of kiwi innovation’ tour, put together by Food HQ and to give the Prime Minister a flavour of what’s possible with the power of collaboration between scientists, innovators and food businesses.

Prime Minister Hon Jacinda Ardern visits Massey University, Riddet Institute  and CRI’s.

The hybrid meats, created by a PhD student Akashdeep Beniwal and Dr Lovedeep Kaur, are alternative meat-like structures that are superior in flavour and nutritionally more balanced compared to pure plant proteins. Animal proteins are superior nutritionally, as they have a perfect balance of essential amino acids whereas plant proteins can lack some of the amino acids, which must be found elsewhere in the diet. Environmental impacts of animal protein production are a great concern for many, with consumer awareness and interest in non-meat protein options increasing globally.  Our new processing technology enables combining plant and animal proteins in the same product, and this cannot be achieved through conventional processes. The product itself could appeal to both flexitarians and vegetarians, balancing both nutrition and providing consumers more options in their diet.

The innovation tour that started at The Factory and concluded with a visit to Massey University’s FoodPilot – the largest collection of pilot-scale food processing equipment in the southern hemisphere. Here, the visitors met with our scientists and tasted pure hemp ice cream that is dairy free and suitable for those following a vegan diet. During the tour, other students and researchers demonstrated a range of ground-breaking food projects underway within Massey University.

The hemp ice cream, created by Dr Anant Dave and his team, is another example of how innovation can add more value to plant-based offerings to consumers. The hemp ice cream has a smooth texture with a slight nutty flavour.

Prime Minister Hon Jacinda Ardern visits Massey University Food Pilot (Dr Anant Dave, right).

 Hemp seed tick all the boxes for an alternate source of proteins. They have a good amino acid profile, are easily digestible and have low allergenicity. Hemp oil is highly nutritious with the right balance of omega 6: omega 3 fats for beneficial effects on human health. The hemp seeds can be grown sustainably in New Zealand in rotation with other crops during summer. The Riddet Institute research team is also collaborating with a group of Māori and non-Māori businesses (MIHI) who work in the area, to help them develop distinctive, value-added products made from New Zealand-grown hemp.

Riddet Institute Director, Distinguished Professor Harjinder Singh was delighted to showcase recent innovation from the CoRE science programme during the visit. “It was an honour to present some recent innovations to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. The primary industries are a key focus for New Zealand and this sector will continue to provide economic stability in the changing landscape caused by the recent pandemic. Our food research and development will continue to help support growth in this area by providing new products to global consumers of our exports, and developing highly skilled workforce.”

 Dr Abby Thompson, CEO Food HQ says the visitors enjoyed getting a glimpse into some exciting new developments “Between our partners there are some amazing new product and technological developments underway. And there’s no doubt that by working closer together we can accelerate the transformation of low value commodities into high value exports.” 

 The Riddet Institute Centre of Research Excellence is one the world’s leading institutes in discovery-led research in food science and nutrition. The Institute brings together the best scientists across New Zealand to solve complex scientific issues in food and health, food security and sustainability. It supports the New Zealand food industry by catalysing innovations and by providing a highly skilled workforce. The Institute has an enviable track record in facilitating knowledge transfer to stakeholders and commercial outcomes.

 **FoodHQ Partners include The Riddet Institute, AgResearch, Massey University, Plant & Food Research, The Factory, Cawthron, ESR the New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre and B.linc Innovation (formerly Lincoln Hub).

 

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