Development of NZ Native Species for New Bioactive Beverage

In collaboration with industry partners Wakatū Incorporation and Chia Sisters, the High-Value Nutrition (HVN) National Science Challenge has awarded $1,297,299 in funding for research that will explore the potential health benefits of incorporating the 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, which will be led by Dr Chris Pook at the Liggins Institute, 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 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 will collaborate.

“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,” noted 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.

Wakatū Incorporation is a values and purpose-driven Māori organisation based in Te Tauihu (top of the South Island) and represents 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.

For these industry partners, the project will enable the development of a high-value, functional product range that is unique to Aotearoa and relevant globally. By design, it supports a combined mātauranga Māori and Western science approach to research.

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.

The HVN Contestable Fund Request for Proposals remains open for applications, you can find more information here.