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Research Helps Healthy Outlook

27 July 2002

The search for new products for the fast- growing natural health market has been given a boost with a research grant from Technology New Zealand.

The $26,000 grant has enabled Comvita, a Bay of Plenty-based natural health product manufacturer, to look for new ways to expand its natural health solutions, which are based primarily on bee products including manuka honey, propolis and bee pollen.

The research supported by Technology New Zealand's Grants for Private Sector Research and Development (GPSRD) scheme, involves several projects and early results indicate that the company has now developed a firm base on which to build further research.

Drew Chadwick (Product Development Manager) of Comvita says as a result of the research the company has increased its knowledge surrounding the extraction of bioactive materials that are critical to the growth of Comvita.

"In addition, we have been able to extend our search for natural therapeutics to include emerging botanical species that have not yet been introduced to the Natural Health market," he says. " Comvita is constantly striving to learn more about the natural materials already used in our products, and looking at ways to maximise the benefits delivered to consumers. At the same time it is essential to be at the forefront of emerging technologies that impact on Natural Health strategies."

Mr Chadwick says the research is still at an early stage, and although it has already yielded some novel formulations, ultimate success will depend as much on the marketing strategies employed as on the science behind the products.

Comvita worked predominantly with Crop & Food, IRL and Waikato University, building on long standing relationships with these and other research organisations.

Comvita, which was formed 27 years ago, is based in Paengaroa in the Bay of Plenty, and employs 70 staff. The New Zealand market accounts for two thirds of its business; with key export markets being Australia, Japan and the UK.

Mr Chadwick says the GPSRD funding enabled the company to extend its research plans into areas that will not be of immediate benefit, but will yield returns further down the line. "We recognise that growth will be very dependent upon our efforts in long term research, but the demands on the budget all too often get focused on short term returns," he says.

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