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Bio Products Tackles Age-Old Health Problems

Bio Products Tackles Age-Old Health Problems And Sports Injuries With Velvet Extracts

Christchurch, May 2, 2002 -- South Island company Bio Products (NZ) Ltd is showing the added-value way for New Zealand agriculture by utilising special properties contained in deer velvet.

It hopes to build a business worth $10 million in the next two to three years using botanical and animal extracts in a number of natural health products that focus on age and related health concerns.

Research has shown that deer antler is the only mammalian organ that renews itself each year, growing at up to two centimetres a day to eventually form the hard antler normally associated with male deer. It is unique in being cast in late winter and replaced the following spring by the same natural process. Due to this rapid growth scientists have recently researched the presence of growth factors in the velvet antler tissue to determine whether the growth factors have any relationship to those found in the human body that decline as the body ages.

Bio Products General Manager Ross Keeley says interest from the anti-ageing and longevity market in the US for its products is being closely followed by interest from the sports nutrient field.

“Sports nutritionists are attracted to velvet due to its anti-inflammatory properties, performance and recovery enhancement from physical activity, and treatment for injuries,” he says.

Bio Products was incorporated in October 1996, based at Invermay out of Dunedin, to extract bio-actives from deer velvet antlers and deer parts. It has three velvet extracts: an aqueous extract, an acidic extract and an ethanolic extract. The extracts from deer parts tend to be specific to different groups of customers.

The company also sells over $1 million worth of products into the Asian market in tonic or drink concentrate forms. A concentrate from deer parts is added to flavouring and drunk as a tonic, which looks and tastes like beef tea. The Chinese are particularly fond of this type of tonic, seeing it as a fortifier that restores the balance between the body’s yin and yang.

Today, Bio Products’ extracts are sold into Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, as well as North America. New Zealand’s largest raw velvet market, Korea, is restricted because of the high duty charged on imports of a value-added nature.

But the company has plans to expand into Japan and Europe, particularly Germany, with a range of its botanical extracts tailored to local manufacturers’ and market needs.

Mr Keeley says the company would also like to expand its plant-based extracts range and is looking for opportunities for investment both internationally and domestically, as well as forming new strategic relationships. Bio Products would again target the natural products market, and would like to specialise in using plants grown in the South Island as the source of the active ingredients.

“Botanical extracts could well be used with velvet extracts as they tend to be complementary and address different areas of age related health concerns,” Mr Keeley says.

Bio Products, whose single shareholder is AgResearch, leverages off scientific resources within the Crown Research Institute to give it a strategic competitive advantage based on innovative, robust and ethical science, Mr Keeley says. This scientific backing and credibility is essential to gain a presence in this highly competitive market.

“We believe we could grow sales to in excess of $10 million annually in two or three years time through generic growth, new product innovation and targeted investment,” he says.

As the company currently deals in a narrow niche market he says the help it has received from Trade New Zealand has been invaluable.

“We have to knock on a lot of doors, and attend a lot of trade shows to increase the awareness of our company and the products available,” he says. “We would not achieve this without the assistance of Trade New Zealand.”

With only three full time staff, and a number of casual employees, it’s difficult to create the impact and awareness required to interest people overseas, Mr Keeley says. This is where he says Trade New Zealand’s overseas offices have been “incredible” and the company has also been able to take full advantage of presence at trade shows as well as being participants in overseas trade missions.

Mark Hazeldine, Trade New Zealand’s Regional Account Manager based in Christchurch, says Bio Products is a good example of the changing face of New Zealand’s rural landscape.

“Not only is attention being focused on the high value-end of the market, it’s the feel good factor that the consumer is increasingly looking for,” he says.

Mr Hazeldine says Trade New Zealand research estimates the life sciences sector (which covers biology-based products, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and R & D products in the horticulture area) earns around $200 million in foreign exchange earnings. This is estimated to grow to $2 billion by 2010, he says.


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