Tū Ora

Public Summary

Principal Investigator: Professor Sally Poppitt, University of Auckland
Industry partners: Capital and Coast DHB, AgResearch, University of Otago, NUKU ki te Puku™ Ltd

This project focuses on supporting innovation within the food and beverage (F&B) industry through science excellence in the area of diabetes prevention. It is a collaboration between the High-Value Nutrition Metabolic Health priority research programme and the NUKU ki te Puku™ Māori business cluster.

The science programme is led by Professor Sally Poppitt from the University of Auckland Human Nutrition Unit (science director) and Dr Meika Foster (programme director for NUKU ki te Puku™). They are working with A/Prof Jeremy Krebs from the University of Otago Wellington Medical School in a diabetes prevention study.

Tū Ora evaluates a healthy snack/meal replacement in a group of overweight Asian Chinese consumers with pre-diabetes.

Chinese adults are at high risk of developing diabetes even when young and outwardly lean. This may be due to the adverse deposition of fat into key organs such as the pancreas and liver.

Tū Ora is researching a higher protein/lower carbohydrate/unsaturated fat plant-based product which may help to achieve better glucose control.

The clinical study conducted throughout 2018 and into 2019 is expected to have an immediate impact on New Zealand industry, with the successful product targeted for commercialisation by NUKU ki te Puku™ in Asia in 2019-20.

Tū Ora has four interlinking sub-projects:

Science programme

Aligned to the umbrella HVN PANaMAH Metabolic Health programme, where phenotyping of a large Asian Chinese cohort of lean/overweight, healthy/pre-diabetic adults took part in the TOFI_Asia study.

Tū Ora is now investigating the response to a nutrition intervention targeting better glucose control. This study is evaluating a new product based on the well-known Mediterranean heart-healthy diet, hypothesised to also help in the prevention of diabetes.

Product formulation and development

In collaboration with the Riddet Institute – informed by scientific literature and regulations in New Zealand and China related to nutrient content and health claims.

Stage 1  focused on the development of a pilot, small-scale product, while stage 2 addressed the NUKU™ scale-up and commercialisation requirements, such as long shelf-life & food safety, palatability of the new product for Asian consumers, and branding position for a uniquely New Zealand product.


Focused on Asia,  including market research, consumer preferences  and motivation to purchase healthy foods; identifying and assessing the viability of opportunities for regional development.


Aims to address knowledge gaps that may currently inhibit Māori businesses from engaging in science, technology, high growth IP development, and commercialisation.

The education experience respects Māori values and aspirations and is designed to ‘lift and shift’ Māori businesses and boards so they are inspired to get involved in the development of new food products for export with validated health benefits.

The F&B intervention began at the end of May 2018.

Eligible overweight Asian Chinese participants completed a 12-week intervention comparing the new higher protein, a higher good fat product with a conventional higher carbohydrate, lower fat cereal-based product; assessing both post meal and longer term responses. Study outcomes are expected later in 2019.

Research team

Professor Sally Poppitt

Professor Sally Poppitt

Sally is the founding director of the Human Nutrition Unit at the University of Auckland, the Fonterra Chair in Human Nutrition and the principal investigator of the Metabolic Health programme.

Sally’s research focuses on preventing and treating conditions caused by poor nutrition. These conditions include weight issues and obesity, metabolic dysregulation, and diabetic and cardiovascular risk.

Sally has extensive experience in conducting nutrition intervention trials in developed and developing countries.