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$1 million research partnership with Māori business cluster

High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge has partnered with Nuku ki te Puku, a cluster of Māori-owned food and beverage businesses, in a $1m project to prototype how Māori businesses and some of the country’s top researchers can share science and cultural expertise to collaborate on the development of new food for health products for export.

Challenge Director Joanne Todd said, “This is very much a partnership with mutual benefit. The Nuku ki te Puku business cluster will build experience in translating research into high-value food products for commercialisation. For Challenge-funded researchers, it is an opportunity to gain insight into mātauranga, the Māori worldview, and learn from Māori businesses who already have a presence in the key markets the Challenge is focusing on.”

On behalf of Nuku ki te Puku, the project is led by Dr Meika Foster, a member of the High-Value Nutrition Science leadership team. Meika Foster said the project was a key action arising from the Challenge’s Vision Mātauranga strategy. “This pilot will integrate science, education, and commercialisation, emphasise Māori values, and facilitate collaboration between Māori-owned food and beverage businesses and a cross-disciplinary science team supported by international collaborators.”

The prototype food will be a new plant-based product that meets nutrient content regulations within New Zealand and China for higher protein, lower carbohydrate and lower glycaemic index snack foods. The ingredients will be grown and produced in New Zealand and selected based on in-depth research to identify their positive effects on known and new markers of Type 2 diabetes risk in clinical trials to be carried out in Auckland.

The trials build on the existing Challenge Metabolic Health priority research known as TOFI_Asia, (Thin on the Outside, Fat Inside). The research has already been recruiting local members of Asian communities for clinical trials that will help to identify early predictive markers of diabetes for people with this profile. The Metabolic Health research is producing the scientific evidence base to create opportunities for food and beverage companies in New Zealand to develop products for export to Asia to help manage risk factors which could lead to diabetes.

The Challenge will invest $750,000, with the Nuku ki te Puku businesses collectively contributing a further $240,000.

Dr Foster said, “The goal is to produce a prototype food product ready for commercialisation. Equally as important will be the knowledge that is transferred through collaboration. The pilot will build on the expertise Māori businesses need to apply science to guide innovation, but also develop best practice guidance for how New Zealand science can engage with the burgeoning Māori economy.”


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