Greenshell mussel supply gains strength but issues remain

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New zealand green-lipped mussel Mussel

New Zealand supplier Waitaki Biosciences says the quality of the greenshell mussel supply has never been better, but a failure to implement and monitor quality standards is holding the industry back.

There remains a prevalence of what is known as “defatted” ​green mussel, which Waitaki notes is inferior in delivering joint health benefits the omega-3 containing antioxidant is best known for, as it has had crucial lipid content removed.

In this way, while the Perna canaliculus​ mussel species are the common source, not all green-lipped mussel extracts can be considered the same although they are often marketed and perceived as similar, leading to product dissatisfaction in some cases.

This fact has led to a lacklustre performance in the US market to date, said Waitaki chief executive officer, Craig McIntosh.

“Because Greenshell Mussel is effectively a generic ingredient there is little or no industry monitoring of quality standards,”​ he told “Over recent years we have seen the market decimated by large quantities of ‘defatted’ powder coming onto the market.”

McIntosh said much of this material came from Greenshell Mussel oil as a by-product, and which was necessarily nutritionally inferior.

“The target market is predominantly the half-shell food market,”​ he said. “What this means is that the priority for selecting mussels for harvest is different to what we as processors might look for.”

The speed at which different regions are taking to the ingredient varied greatly, he said.

“Europe understands it and it used extensively throughout the animal and human markets. Asia is definitely picking up on it and there is good growth there. North America is probably the slowest at this stage – I put a lot of that down to the damage done by the inferior product that was dumped there. It will take some time to rebuild.”


Green-lipped muscle extracts have traditionally suffered oxidation problems, something Waitaki said is being overcome, in its case via a blend of plant extracts.

Eschewing vitamin E or food grade acids, Waitaki said extensive testing had led it to incorporate a “proprietary combination of natural plant derived anti-oxidant compounds.”

Its greenshell mussel extract, PernaTec, demonstrated 42 per cent improved stability at a temperature of 80oC for 16 hours.

Green-lipped, or green shell mussel extracts, are derived almost exclusively from the North Island of New Zealand, where conditions are most favourable for growing them.

Their joint benefits are thought to derive from the combination of omega-3 fatty acids, Glycosaminoglycans and phosphorylated glycogen.

The quality issue is one that has run for some time in the greenshell mussel industry and schemes have been instigated with the New Zealand Mussel Industry Council (NZMIC) to mark products with quality logos. But they have not really taken off and there remains no formal definition of a greenshell mussel extract save its Perna canaliculus​ source.

Typically, non-defatted greenshell mussel extracts sell for about €30 pre kilogram.

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