HVN has awarded $1,297,299 in funding for research which, in collaboration with industry partners Wakatū Incorporation and Chia Sisters, will explore the potential health benefits of incorporating the Aotearoa New Zealand native species kawakawa (Piper excelsum) as part of a functional beverage for markets in Japan and South East Asia. The main objective of the project is to explore whether such a beverage can impact metabolic and immune health in human intervention studies, with secondary objectives related to regulatory considerations and consumer studies.

The research will be led by Dr Chris Pook at the Liggins Institute, along with collaborators from the University of Auckland’s Human Nutrition Unit, the Riddet Institute, the Food Experience and Sensory Testing (FEAST) Laboratory at Massey University, Smart Regulatory Solutions, and Edible Research.

“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 that is unique to Aotearoa New Zealand and relevant globally. By design, it supports a combined mātauranga Māori 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 Challenge is a mission-led programme of innovative research into the health attributes of New Zealand-produced foods for our major export markets.

The Challenge will, over the next four years, fund a number of projects through a competitive contestable funding process, and has recently approved other contestable funding projects that will be completed together with business partners.