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Seafood Innovations To Drive Export Growth

16 February 2005
Media Release

Seafood Innovations to drive export growth, product diversification and processing efficiencies

A new joint venture company has been launched to support export growth and gain efficiencies and competitive advantage in the world's marketplaces for New Zealand seafood and marine products.

Seafood Innovations Ltd, as the company name suggests, aims to underpin growth of the $1.2 billion dollar export industry by optimising the current seafood harvest through developing and commercialising innovative, consumer appealing, value added seafood and marine products.

The new company is 80 percent owned by SeaFIC (the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council Ltd) with Crop & Food Research holding 20 percent of the shares. The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FoRST), on behalf of the New Zealand Government, is providing significant financial backing through its research consortia initiative. "We see a world of opportunity opening for us," SeaFIC Chief Executive, Owen Symmans, said at the official launch of the company.

"Innovation is one of the keys to building a sustainable industry and increasing not only the dollar value earned from exports but also in creating new opportunities and investments from developing a wider range of premium products and presentations to please the consumer and encourage repeat purchase.

"This joint venture is a shining example of how government, industry and science can work in partnership for the benefit of the seafood industry and the nation. It represents a significant investment and milestone for this industry in making this new commitment to research and development. 90 percent of production is exported and we believe that there is huge opportunity to accelerate growth by optimising the current harvest through value adding innovation rather than increased volumes." Crop & Food Research Chief Executive, Paul Tocker said that while the initial focus of the innovation company would be on process improvement and development, there would also be investment in more strategic research into understanding the intrinsic, natural properties of this "wonderful raw material", including economically important species like hoki, squid and mussels.

Projects will range from identifying the scientific basis for measuring the sustainability of organically certified marine farms, novel food flavourings, upgrading lower-valued species, improving the genetic stock of farmed species, improving the product quality of existing species, and handling, processing and packaging innovations.

"A major spin-off will be the knowledge transfer and practical industry implementation of the innovation. It is foreseeable that universities working with research institutes will help take the industry from a simple "catch, pack and ship" value-added approach to utilisation of well-characterised fish components for food, health and industrial applications," Mr Tocker said. "Now with Seafood Innovations Ltd in place we have a real prospect of the New Zealand seafood industry growing more vibrant and profitable into the future."

The New Zealand seafood industry is seen globally as a beacon for pioneering excellence in sustainable fisheries management through its Quota Management System, environmental practice, safe food production and innovation.

On a world scale New Zealand accounts for less than one percent of world production and two percent of the world seafood trade by value, but for New Zealand seafood exports are the fifth largest goods export behind dairy, meat, horticulture and forestry, providing employment for some 26,000 people.

"The industry has a new mindset that goes beyond valuing only a fillet to one which sees the possibilities of adding value by utilising every part of the fish and developing new products that are appealing to customers and consumers around the world," Mr Symmans said.

"Hoki, squid, Greenshell(tm) mussels, rock lobster, orange roughy and paua are our main exports today, but tomorrow you could see New Zealand seafood as a key ingredient in benefit plus foods, nutraceuticals and new pre-prepared meal offerings for consumers around the world." Ends


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