Contestable Research

The High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge has invested $7million in research funding for projects that build the science required to develop innovative new foods. These investments enable research teams working across New Zealand to focus their unique expertise to build the scientific knowledge and substantiation that is required to bridge the gaps between complex health needs and the development of new innovative foods that will make a difference. Combining science with industry, the research outcomes will allow New Zealand food and beverage businesses to promote validated health benefits and subsequently increase exports. The applied nature of the science and focus on provable health values of NZ food will deliver value add for New Zealand. 

The 7 Contestable Research projects include:

 

 

a2 Milk™ for gut comfort

The fast-growing countries of South-East Asia and China present strong export opportunities for the New Zealand dairy industry. However, there is a high incidence of perceived dairy intolerance in these markets. This research project aims to deliver conclusive evidence that milk containing only the A2 form of b-casein aids digestive wellbeing by preventing intestinal inflammation. This collaborative project will combine expertise in gastrointestinal function from AgResearch with human clinical capability from The University of Auckland, and will work closely with industry partners to ensure the benefits are captured for the New Zealand dairy industry.

 

 

HVN investment: $1m

Research organisation: AgResearch

Principal Investigator: Dr Matthew Barnett

Businesses involved: a2 Milk Company

Duration: 3 years

 

AgResearch
The a2 Milk Company

 

Public Summary:

There is emerging evidence that milk containing only the A2 form of β-casein aids digestive wellbeing, thereby being suitable for those who perceive themselves to be intolerant to cows’ milk. However, the health benefits of consuming A2 milk are scientifically inconclusive. The objective of this proposal is to deliver conclusive scientific evidence for validated benefits of A2 β-casein dairy products on increased gut comfort through prevention of intestinal inflammation.

This research, in the form of human clinical studies focusing on small intestinal inflammation and associated symptoms, will enable the NZ industry to capture the most rapidly growing dairy export markets (China and South-East Asia) in which there is a high incidence of perceived dairy intolerance. We aim to demonstrate that differentiated A2 β-casein dairy products can deliver the health benefits of dairy to these consumers, including reluctant dairy avoiders, mindful of problematic dairy digestion. If successful, the research will provide a strong platform for market diversification in both developed and developing markets with the potential to significantly grow demand and revenue for the NZ dairy sector in general.

This collaborative project will combine expertise in gastrointestinal function from AgResearch with human clinical capability from The University of Auckland, and will work closely with industry partners to ensure the benefits are captured for the NZ dairy industry.

 

 

Musseling-up: high-value Greenshell™ musselfoods

While New Zealand’s Greenshell mussels are already worth $280 million in exports every year, there is the opportunity to unlock even more value from these iconic shellfish. The key is to develop their potential as functional foods. This will be achieved by understanding and proving the mussels’ health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects, improved joint and bone health, and increased mobility.

This project will generate scientific evidence of the health benefits of Greenshell mussels and assist industry to identify and develop functional food products that appeal to the emerging market of wealthy, aging, health-conscious consumers – predominantly in China. The project team will include researchers from Massey University, Lincoln University and the Christchurch Clinical Studies Trust (CCST).

 

 

HVN investment: $999,955

Research organisation: Cawthron Institute

Principal Investigator: Dr Matthew Miller

Businesses involved: Sanford Ltd

Duration: 3 years

 

Cawthron Institute
Sanford - New Zealand

 

Public Summary:

New Zealand’s Greenshell™ mussels (GSM) are the heavyweights of our aquaculture export sector, attracting $280m in export earnings each year for their highly desirable taste and plate appeal. While GSM are currently primarily promoted as a whole product, this iconic delicacy has many hidden talents waiting to be realised.

The long-term aim of the research is to assist the transition of GSM from a market concentrated on relatively low price “commodity protein” products to a market position based on high-value nutrition and health products.

This research programme partners with Sanford Limited, New Zealand’s leading GSM exporter, to add even more value to this gourmet delicacy by fully understanding and proving its health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects, improved joint and bone health and increased mobility. Sanford is a large and long-established fishing company devoted entirely to the harvesting, farming, processing, storage and marketing of quality seafood and aquaculture products.

Cawthron Institute is a world leader in aquaculture research with a proven track record of turning science into commercial reality. The research will build on our longstanding, successful collaboration with Sanford, our 20 years of research towards transforming the GSM aquaculture industry, and Sanford’s food processing knowledge base. The team will include researchers from Massey University, Lincoln University and the Christchurch Clinical Studies Trust (CCST).

This project will generate scientific evidence of the health benefits of GSM and assist industry to identify and develop optimal GSM-based functional food products that will appeal to the emerging market of wealthy, aging, health conscious consumers – predominantly in China.

Proven health claims for GSM-based ‘functional foods’ will, generate a cumulative $44m in new export earnings for Sanford in the Chinese market by 2025, growing to at least $36m p.a. in 2030, with potentially ten times this when rolled out in other markets, future-proofing New Zealand’s important GSM industry.

 

 

Complex lipids for enhanced metabolic health

Many consumers in North America and Asia enjoy eating beef but worry about the risk of cardiovascular disease caused by dietary cholesterol. Complex bioactive lipids extracted milk and eggs have been shown to reduce cholesterol absorption, but there is no validated research that can confirm the same effects when these same bioactive lipids are extracted from grass-fed beef. A new research project, conducted by Firstlight Foods, AgResearch and Auckland University, aims to provide robust scientific evidence that consuming complex lipids from New Zealand grass-fed red meat will lead to reduced cholesterol levels in health-conscious consumers. 

 

 

HVN investment: $974,000

Research organisation: AgResearch

Principal Investigator: Dr Emma Bermingham

Businesses involved: Firstlight Foods

Duration: 3 years

 

AgResearch
Firstlight Foods

 

Public Summary:

Consumers are increasingly aware of the risks of metabolic disease and the importance of diet in its prevention. Meat from grass-fed animals contains many bioactive complex lipids that have unexploited potential to improve metabolic health. Cardiovascular disease (CVD), to which metabolic disease can contribute, is a leading cause of death in the US and Asia, both of which are key target markets for NZ ultra-premium meat products. Complex bioactive lipids, when extracted from alternate sources including milk and eggs, are effective in reducing cholesterol absorption. However, the effect of these same complex lipids extracted from a grass-fed bovine source (Wagyu beef) on cholesterol absorption is yet to be validated. This research project aims to provide robust scientific evidence that consuming complex lipids extracted from NZ grass-fed red meat will lead to reduced cholesterol levels in health-conscious consumers. The NZ meat industry is uniquely placed to differentiate its meat products based on these potential health benefits of grass-fed meat.

Firstlight Foods is a leading NZ food company that aspires to be the “home of the best grass-fed meat in the world”. They focus on ethically producing 100% grass-fed Wagyu beef that targets the high-end of the market where customers have high expectations and are prepared to pay a premium price for ultra-premium indulgence. This differentiated and niche product category can expect growth with the demonstration of both specific and comparative health benefits. Firstlight Foods is therefore the ideal partner to take advantage of the research outcomes of this project and help reduce NZ’s reliance on ‘volume exports’.

This project has been co-designed by the project partners Firstlight Foods, AgResearch and Auckland University. Our aim is to provide scientific evidence of the health benefits of lipids extracted from high-value NZ red meat, that could support a range of products appealing to high-end “Worried Well” North American and Asian consumers who are health-conscious and enjoy consuming meat. Marketed appropriately, beef-based products that reduced cholesterol will be viewed as both “indulgent” and “healthy”, and so could benefit from the strong growth in both categories in our target markets. Ultimately, this will increase the contribution of the NZ red meat industry to the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge goal of an additional $1B in export revenues from NZ by 2025. This project brings together expertise in meat exporting and marketing, meat science, lipidomics and human clinical studies from Firstlight Foods, AgResearch and the University of Auckland.

 

 

Kiwi, fruity and friendly

Over 400 million people in Asia are projected to suffer from diabetes by 2030. Demand is growing for foods that produce only a relatively small effect on blood glucose concentrations, reduce the glycaemic impact of other carbohydrates, and counteract the damage caused by high blood glucose concentrations. This project will aim to demonstrate that New Zealand kiwifruit and kiwifruit-based products can offer protection against the threat of diabetes. A project team comprising Plant & Food Research and Zespri will clinically assess the effects of whole kiwifruit on a range of biochemical pathways and processes that link high blood glucose concentrations with diminishing wellness. This will create a platform for business-led research on combining and optimising functional attributes through new cultivars, formulations, and food processes.

 

 

HVN investment: $1m

Research organisation: Plant & Food Research

Principal Investigator: John Monro

Businesses involved: Zespri

Duration: 3 years

 

Plant & Food Research
Zespri

 

Public Summary:

Glucose intolerance, in the form of prediabetes and diabetes, is affecting hundreds of millions of people in our Asian markets. Over 400 million people in Asia are projected to suffer from diabetes by 2030. As glucose intolerance increases steadily, awareness of the progressive loss of well-being that it causes is leading to an increased demand for foods that:

1. Produce only a relatively small effect on blood glucose concentrations

2. Reduce the glycaemic impact of other carbohydrate foods

3. Counteract the damage caused by high blood glucose concentrations which leads to the spectrum of serious medical disorders that are typical of long-term untreated diabetes.

New Zealand kiwifruit and kiwifruit products have the potential to reduce blood glucose responses and blood glucose effects within a healthy diet by all three of the above mechanisms. Fruit sugars are less glycaemic than starch-based sugars, fruits provide components that physically reduce the rate of sugar absorption, and kiwifruit contain a wide range of phytochemicals that potentially counteract the harm done by elevated blood glucose. Kiwifruit may thus act along multiple dimensions of functionality to bring about a net change in wellness.

The research that we propose aims to demonstrate that New Zealand kiwifruit may afford protection against glycaemia and its effects by all three of the above mechanisms – by reducing glycaemic response, by maintaining healthy energy metabolism and by retarding the systemic long-term effects of glycaemia. Armed with a set of relevant and valid biomarkers we will clinically assess the effects of whole kiwifruit and kiwifruit products on a range of biochemical pathways and processes that link high blood glucose concentrations with diminishing wellness. Such research will build a platform for later business-led research on combining and optimising functional attributes through new cultivars, formulations, and food process. The research platform may be extended beyond kiwifruit to other fruit, and it will allow diverse and dispersed attributes of fruits to be drawn together in novel, proprietary, high efficacy and high value fruits and fruit products to meet the health-driven demands and preferences of the Asian market.

 

 

Natural protection of milk

The incidence of allergy has increased worldwide in recent decades, and parents of young children are naturally concerned. Epidemiological studies have shown a clear association between the consumption of raw, unprocessed farm milk and reduced incidence of allergy. However, consumption of raw milk is not safe and to-date no ‘safe’ milk product has been available to fill this market need. The Māori-owned dairy processing and exporting company Miraka, in partnership with AgResearch, will develop a Growing Up Milk product that has the natural traits of unprocessed milk and, as such, delivers added health benefits to toddlers.

 

 

HVN investment: $1m

Research organisation: AgResearch

Principal Investigator: Dr Alison Hodgkinson

Businesses involved: Miraka

Duration: 3 years

 

AgResearch
Miraka

 

Public Summary:

The goal of this High Value Nutrition project, in partnership with Miraka, is to unlock the natural health benefits of milk and address the strong desire of parents to minimise allergy in their children. Miraka is an innovative Māori-owned dairy processing and exporting company, who is looking to expand their business by diversifying into higher-value dairy products. They have identified a business opportunity for Growing Up Milk powder that preserves sensitive milk components and has demonstrated ability to reduce the risk of allergy development. The incidence of allergy has markedly increased worldwide in recent decades. Parents are concerned about allergy development in their children and there is a consumer demand for food products that reduce this risk. Combined with this is a consumer-pull away from processed foods, following the premise that less processed foods are healthier. Epidemiological studies have shown a clear association between the consumption of raw, unprocessed farm milk and reduced incidence of allergy. However, consumption of raw milk is not safe and to-date no ‘safe’ milk product is available to fill this market-need. With Miraka, we will develop a Growing Up Milk product that has the natural traits of unprocessed milk and, thereby, delivers added health benefits to toddlers. This value-added New Zealand product will meet demand from parents for natural foods, with validated health claims, that reduce allergy risk in their children. The outcome will be substantially increased economic returns from New Zealand high-value food and beverage exports, in line with the mission of the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.

 

 

MultiProMo

Many countries, especially in New Zealand’s major export markets in East Asia, are faced with ageing populations and skyrocketing healthcare costs. As people age they lose muscle mass and function, and many older individuals find that muscle weakness limits their ability to stay physically mobile and remain independent. Protein and the amino acid leucine are the major nutrients required for muscle maintenance, and this project will research how to combine proteins to improve digestibility and protein uptake for older people. Using this research, the project team from Massey University and Goodman Fielder will develop scientifically validated high-protein foods that help support muscle maintenance in seniors while also meeting their flavour and texture preferences.

 

 

HVN investment: $990,852

Research organisation: Massey University

Principal Investigator: Dr Simon Loveday

Businesses involved: Goodman Fielder

Duration: 3 years

 

Massey University
Goodman Fielder

 

Public Summary:

As we age we lose muscle mass and function, and many older people find that muscle weakness limits their ability to stay physically mobile and remain independent. Protein and the amino acid leucine are the major nutrients required for muscle maintenance, and in this project we will research how to combine proteins together to improve digestibility and protein uptake for older people. Using this research, we will develop scientifically validated high-protein foods that help to support muscle maintenance in seniors while also meeting their flavour and texture preferences.

Many countries, especially in New Zealand’s major export markets in East Asia, are faced with ageing populations and skyrocketing healthcare costs. The high-protein muscle maintenance foods that we develop will be targeted towards seniors in China, and will contribute to improving the wellbeing of older Chinese as well as providing substantial export revenue to a New Zealand food manufacturer.

 

 

A good night's sleep

When infants wake in the night they are often simply be hungry. This may be because the bacteria in their colons have dealt with all the easily digested carbohydrates that provide most human energy needs. New weaning foods with optimal amounts of slowly digested dietary fibre may provide an answer. This project will define optimal mixtures of dietary fibres through laboratory experiments based on the researchers’ knowledge of new complex polysaccharides and the bacterial species present in the bowel of children during weaning. The University of Otago has assembled a team of scientists, with expertise in microbiology, nutrition, carbohydrate chemistry, food science, sleep, energetics and food formulation  (including associated health claims) to carry out the research.

 

 

HVN investment: $1m

Research organisation: University of Otago

Principal Investigator: Prof Gerald Tannock

Businesses involved: None with financial involvement; potential end‐users Green Monkey & Heinz Watties

Duration: 3 years

 

University of Otago

 

Public Summary:

Food contains complex carbohydrates (dietary fibre) that are not digested by humans. The large bowel (colon), however, is home to a multitude of bacteria that degrade and ferment these carbohydrates. The fermentation products that are produced are organic acids that are absorbed from the bowel and provide energy for the human.  The  degradation  and  fermentation  of  complex  carbohydrates  takes  time  and  provides  a slower,  sustained  energy  harvest  compared  to  the  easily  digested  food  components  that provide most of human energy requirements. The amount of energy required by the body is less during periods of sleep, but infant waking in the night is commonly believed by parents to be due to hunger. A good  night’s  sleep  could  be  achieved  by  providing  baby  food  (weaning  food)  with  optimal  mixtures  of  dietary fibres that would enable a sustained energy harvest by bowel bacteria during the night so as to satisfy  the  body’s  needs.  Optimal  mixtures  of  dietary  fibres  will  be  defined  through  laboratory  experiments based on the applicants’ knowledge of the bacterial species present in the bowel of children during  weaning  as  well  as  of  new  complex  polysaccharides.  Asia  provides  excellent  opportunities  to  market new weaning foods: there are 50 million children aged 0‐3 years and 40 million aged 3‐5 years in China where there is consumer-driven preference for “a good night’s sleep” for baby. An eclectic team of scientists,  with  expertise  in  microbiology,  nutrition,  carbohydrate  chemistry,  food  science,  sleep,  energetics,  and  food  formulation  (including  associated  health  claims)  has  been  assembled  to  carry  out the research. The aim is to produce a premium weaning food for evening consumption that will sustain energy harvest in the bowel through the night.