The Science

Coordinated investment in integrated multidisciplinary science will position New Zealand as an international leader in the design, production and marketing of foods with validated health benefits.

At the heart of our research programme are the needs of consumers in New Zealand’s export markets. Rather than the business-as-usual approach of isolating a food ingredient, testing its potential bioactivity and looking for a product to create with it, we will be directed by the drivers and needs of consumers in Asia, and globally.

This will enable us to leverage New Zealand’s natural advantages and focus on health food targets that are well aligned with consumer trends and known demographic demands for evidence-based health foods.  The new knowledge we create will achieve a step change for industry, enabling businesses and organisations to invest in product design and development, confident that their innovations will be in demand in the marketplace and able to achieve regulatory approval of the health claim as a consumer benefit.



Priority Research Programmes

Metabolic health

Asian countries are experiencing a rising epidemic of metabolic diseases, a term that covers heart disease, diabetes and stroke risk. There is a demand to generate effective food solutions to reduce disease risk.

High-Value Nutrition’s research aims to develop foods in New Zealand that will help to regulate insulin, glucose and associated metabolic health, improve body weight control and help the consumer to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Click here to learn more about the Metabolic Health programme

Digestive health

Gut health is central to wellbeing and particularly important to Asian consumers. Both stress, ageing and underlying disease negatively affect gut health, adversely impacting on both physical and mental wellbeing. 

High-Value Nutrition research programme in gastrointestinal health aims to increase the knowledge of how healthy gastrointestinal tract function is maintained. This will improve the knowledge of what foods can restore and maintain a healthy gut.

Click here to learn more about the Gastrointestinal health programme

Immune health

Frequent colds, flus and respiratory tract infections are one of the top health issues in Asian countries. In large, densely populated cities, with low air quality and high pollution, finding foods to boost the immune protection is vital. 

The adult gut, with its vast surface area hosts 70 percent of the body’s immune cells. This High-Value Nutrition research programme aims to better understand how food can influence the immune system to develop products to boost immune function and provide protection.

Click here to learn more about the Immune health programme

Infant health


Baby holding a plate

Weaning is a period of marked physiological change. The introduction of solid foods and the changes in milk consumption are accompanied by significant gastrointestinal tract (GI), immune and developmental adaptations. It is especially in this period of weaning that there are opportunities for the development of complementary F&B products that aid in the maintenance of optimal health.

Nutrition does not only feed the host but also the microbes in the gut. This gut microbiome influences host immune health. Complementary feeding around and after weaning is key for sustained immune health in infancy, childhood and later life. The research will take a “seeding through feeding” approach. Embracing the complexity of the developing gut ecosystem in infants, we will identify health-beneficial gut bacteria (probiotics), understand what they feed on (prebiotics), so that we can nourish the “good bugs” that build strong immune systems in infants.

 “Good Bacteria for Healthy Babies” has strong links to industry. The area of ‘weaning foods for health’ is a global consumer purchasing megatrend, and in our main trading market China, immune protection for babies is one of the top three health concerns of Chinese mothers.



Science of Food

While the Gut Health, Metabolic Health and Immune Defence teams are identifying promising nutritional approaches, the Food Science team will assess their potential to meet needs within Asian markets. They will then leverage New Zealand’s world-leading capability in food structure design to explore innovative options for nutrient and bioactive bioavailability in model food projects.

The overall goal is to provide strategic scientific guidance that identifies research avenues which are both technologically feasible and likely to lead to food and beverage products with demonstrable health benefits. A key focus is protecting health-promoting compounds (the ‘bioactives’) in foods during their journey from raw ingredients to finished food products. The team will identify bioactives that promote optimal health. The next step is to design food ingredients and processes that keep those bioactives in top condition within food products, and then release them to the body once eaten.

Click here to learn more about the Science of Food programme

Consumer Insights

An insight into the needs of real people can be the difference between a product that achieves hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and one that disappears without trace. By truly understanding the priorities of Asian consumers, we will empower New Zealand food and beverage providers to address real market needs.

To ensure this outcome, the Consumer Insights team will collate and analyse knowledge from a range of sources including NZ Trade & Enterprise, the Ministry for Primary Industry, the private sector and Asian academic organisations. Targeted research projects will explore the consumer beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that affect Asian consumers’ choices in food and beverage products.

Click here to learn more about the Consumer Insights programme



Contestable Research Projects

In December 2015, High-Value Nutrition expanded its research funding portfolio to include 7 industry-focussed research projects. These exciting projects will look into validating the health benefits of key New Zealand produce such as milk, greenshell mussels, kiwifruit and wagyu beef, along with developing new food for health products for the young and old. Aligning with High-Value Nutrition's target, the research will contribute towards increasing international exports for the New Zealand food and beverage sector.

These programmes will see researchers working closely with industry partners to develop ready for market health food products:

  • a2 Milk™ for gut comfort
  • Musseling-up: high-value Greenshell™ musselfoods
  • Complex lipids for enhanced metabolic health
  • Kiwi, fruity and friendly
  • Natural protection of milk
  • MultiProMo
  • A good night's sleep

Click here to learn more about these Contestable Research programmes


Contestable Research Projects



Aligned Research

Aligned Research

The High-Value Nutrition Challenge is just one part of a New Zealand-wide approach to food for health research. Many of New Zealand's Crown Research Insitutes, Universities, and independant research agencies are currently undertaking research which contribute to the Challenge goals. High-Value Nutrition is capturing and tracking the range of food for health research currently underway in NZ and providing a network for these researchers to collaborate and work on a national scale to find solutions.




Find out more

To find out more about the target areas for High-Value Nutrition’s research funding, read our Business and Science plans.