Native New Zealand coffee alternative

Public Summary

Principal investigator: Dr Ali Rashidinejad, The Riddet Institute, Massey University
Industry partner: Zoffee Limited
High-Value Nutrition funding: $54,905


Native New Zealand coffee alternative

This project explores the potential to develop an exciting, environmentally-restorative export industry using native New Zealand plants as a healthy coffee-alternative. 

Research into the target species shows promising health benefits, including various medicinal compounds relating to immunity and cardiovascular health. 

The targeted plants are in the same family as Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora. Early testing of their fruit indicates they’re the first native species found to contain  caffeine content and/or caffeine analogues known as human stimulants (such as theobromine and theophylline). 

The project is a collaboration between Zoffee Ltd and the Riddet Institute and will combine Mātauranga and unique native plant species with modern business and scientific analysis. Together they will explore the development of a new industry for New Zealand, strongly aligned with the country’s natural ecosystem. 

Tapping into a profitable industry

This project will include foundational research towards the development of a disruptive product targeted at the premium end of the world’s largest beverage industry (coffee). 

The coffee industry is valued at over USD$100 billion with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) forecast of 4.28 per cent to 2026. It’s currently dominated by just two species – Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora which comprise roughly 70 per cent of the industry respectively. 


Integrating indigenous knowledge

This project will explore the exciting compositional properties of  unique, high yielding native plants to fill a research gap in this area.

There is considerable (often unrecorded) indigenous knowledge held by iwi project partners which will be integrated into all aspects of the project, including:

  • the species and plant material analysed
  • synthesis of traditional uses
  • the structure of scientific research conducted
  • co-development of the complementary seedling planting (which will include participation of local iwi, schools and farms).

A new, eco-friendly industry for Aotearoa

This truly collaborative project is a key stepping-stone towards the development of a new industry for New Zealand. The propagation of these native plants as a horticultural practice will help restore more natural ecosystems through complementary planting and the harvesting of more native species.

Other ecological benefits of farming these plants include:

  • no mechanical harvesting
  • methods to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • support of native fauna (particularly birdlife).

The main aim of this proposed High-Value Nutrition project is to provide critical research in support of the next phase of the product development pathway. This includes the following objectives:

  • General compositional testing (nutritional and antinutritional profiles) of the fruit and seeds
  • Targeted bioactive analysis of the fruit and seeds to confirm the presence/concentration of caffeine, other stimulants and other targeted medicinal compounds
  • A novel food assessment, New Zealand/Australian food standard regulatory assessment and export market food standards review.


We intend to integrate ancestral wisdom with modern science to unlock the potential for globally relevant, innovative products that are good for people, and good for the planet.

Research Team

Jack Keeys

Jack graduated with a Bachelor of Business Management (Hons) and Bachelor of Science from the University of Waikato.

He began working on the Zoffee research and business opportunity in 2019, merging his background in business and science.

In his ‘day-job’, Jack is an agri-food specialist at KPMG, where his role includes co-ordinating KPMG’s Global Agri-food Network, co-authoring KPMG’s annual agribusiness agenda report, the weekly Fieldnotes newsletter and managing multiple national and international consulting projects.

Jack’s career and volunteer experience has taken him from research institutes in Edinburgh to the Amazon rainforest and Galapagos islands of Ecuador, across to Kentucky, Hangzhou, Dublin, Kuala Lumpur, Botswana and hundreds of pastoral farms across the UK and New Zealand.

Dr Ali Rashidinejad

Dr. Rashidinejad is a research scientist/officer at the Riddet Institute, a National Centre of Research Excellence in food science and nutrition.

Ali’s current main research focuses on the oral delivery of bioactive compounds (in particular, polyphenols) via functional foods.

While this generally lies in the development of methods/technologies that protect/encapsulate bioactives, Ali is specifically interested in the behaviour of bioactive compounds in the food matrix and gastrointestinal tract, with a focus on polyphenol-enriched functional food products.