New Zealand's economy is built on primary produce, but increasingly it is bolstering its core industries with resourceful uses for by-products as bioactive ingredients. In a recent report, the country's Food & Beverage Taskforce promoted the pairing of industry and government in order to match funding research into functional foods.
New Zealand industry representatives say the country is missing out on the functional foods market - which they say is one of the fastest growing segments of the global food industry.
"New Zealand is well-equipped to move into this space but it will require focus, a coordinated effort and some support from the government," said Paul Tocker, a member of the Food & Beverage Taskforce.
Getting functional foods to market has been a challenge because New Zealand lacks an effective broad base product commercialisation, according to the Taskforce.
The solution is not only better cooperation between industry and government, said Tocker, but also the creation of high-value, differentiated, functional foods with scientifically supported claims.
"In this segment increasingly; consumers want, and are owed, proof of health benefits," said Tocker. "Food developments are expected to be science-based and the efficacy of products proven."
Nationally, the Taskforce also sees potential to make savings to New Zealand health spending by developing diets and products that will be effective in critical areas such as obesity, diabetes and energy management.
In order to get closer to this goal though, the group says industry and government need to map a science capability towards new, high value product pathways where food, nutrition, health and wellness intersect.
Examples of companies that have tapped into resources at hand are Keratec, which found a way to extract keratin from sheep's wool, and The Grape Seed Extract Company, which puts high-antioxidant waste from the country's wine industry to use.
Both of these have been amongst the New Zealand contingent at international ingredients trade shows in the past two years.
The Taskforce report supports the development of a National Innovative Food Research Strategy and for the government to reinforce this strategy with new basic research funds, as well as matching dollar for dollar new industry funds supporting it.