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Food of the future on its way


Food of the future on its way

Healthy snacks that actually taste good and new and distinct varieties of New Zealand wine represent the food of the future that is now on its way, thanks to investment from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Sixteen research programmes that will create high value food and beverage export products for New Zealand will share investment of $22.2m per annum as part of the Innovative Foods re-investment research process.

The new research in this area includes studies into wine, health foods, kiwifruit development and mass-customisation of food but it all has a similar goal - to create valuable export products that will generate wealth for New Zealand.

The Foundation's Group Manager of Portfolio Management, John Smart, says the new research programmes exhibit excellent science with strong commercial considerations.

"These programmes will create innovative and interesting products that will increase the economic competitiveness of the New Zealand food and beverage industry on the global market.

"The research also demonstrates strong partnerships with industry - the level of co-funding in this area has increased to 48% since the last investment round. This relationship is crucial to ensuring the research is well-targeted in a commercial sense. "š

In addition, many of the new programmes place emphasis on providing consumer benefits in the areas of wellness and lifestyle, for example the creation of healthy, easy to eat, snack foods.

* Creating food products that release energy in a way that benefits the human metabolism is the aim of a new programme by the New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research Ltd, which will receive $18.4m over six years from the Foundation.

The key to managing the energy balance of foods and their effects on human body is the rate at which carbohydrate is converted to blood glucose. The aim of the programme is to enable New Zealand's arable-based food industry to create 'lifestyle' food products with targeted blood sugar impact.š The research will help set up the industry to deliver these products € initially in the form of snack foods with 'fresh baked' sensory appeal (mouth feel, taste and aroma), extended shelf life € to export markets. Industry estimates that the sector's export value will exceed NZ$200m by 2012, through exports to Australia, Asia and USA. The overall programme will be governed and managed under a consortium-like structure, with representatives nominated by stakeholder companies.

* A University of Auckland-led programme to develop new and distinctive New Zealand styles of sauvignon blanc wines will receive $11.5m over six years from the Foundation.

The researchers will use modern biotechnology at the yeast fermentation stage to create improved sauvignon blanc wines with new aroma profiles.š The new styles will be specifically targeted to allow expansion of New Zealand wine exports into new markets.

Integration of these advances into the winemaking industry will produce an expanded export market and a higher overall price per bottle for premium wines; wine exports are currently predicted to exceed $600m per annum by 2006.

The research programme will bring together a number of key researchers: the new Wine Science Programme at University of Auckland, the Marlborough Wine Research Centre of Excellence and the sensory unit at HortResearch.

There will also be strong wine industry participation and co-funding, including the contribution of five established commercial blocks of sauvignon blanc grapes.

* A team of researchers led by Fonterra, and including the Riddet Centre, will receive $6 million over four years to develop an innovative food delivery system able to personalise convenience foods according to a consumer's individual nutritional requirements and taste preferences.š The project will be co-funded by Fonterra and BASF.

The unique system will make it possible to deliver foods customised to the individual and manufactured at the point of sale to a mass global market.

The researchers are looking to meet the growing consumer trend towards foods that offer a lifestyle, convenience or wellness benefit, while boosting returns for a significant proportion of New Zealand's dairy, fruit and cereal exports.

For a full list of programmes funded in this investment round go to http://www.frst.govt.nz/research/index.cfm after 10.30am today.

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