NZ Blackcurrant harvest improves
Despite a difficult growing season, 2019 has delivered a high-quality blackcurrant harvest, signalling positive signs for the industry as research and international science point to the unique health boosting properties found naturally in New Zealand blackcurrants.
BCNZ chairman and grower, Geoff Heslop, says this season’s high-quality harvest has come at a good time for blackcurrant growers.
“The popularity of NZ blackcurrants is on the rise, particularly as consumers become more aware of how good they are for you. At the same time, we’re seeing a ground swell of interest from the scientific community, nationally and internationally, regarding the health promoting properties of our blackcurrants.”
Heslop says the industry is in the process of transitioning the blackcurrant crop from a commodity product to a high value functional ingredient of the future, with brands already using them in supplements, powders and drinks.
“New Zealand blackcurrants are particularly high in two health promoting nutrients - anthocyanins and polyphenols. This is a result of our unique climate and the varieties we grow. Over the past five years, most of the research undertaken about the health benefits has related to this high anthocyanin and polyphenol content, focussing on its positive effect on muscle recovery, physical endurance and inflammation reduction.
“Further research indicates New Zealand blackcurrants are beneficial for supporting improved mental performance and health, improved blood circulation as well as eye health.”
To build on the science and take advantage of its unique story, Blackcurrants NZ is working alongside a variety of stakeholders – including growers, marketers and manufacturers – as well as harnessing the science and skills of the team at Plant & Food Research in New Zealand, and research institutes and universities around the world.
Traditionally the bulk of New Zealand blackcurrants has been processed into concentrate and then exported around the world. Increasingly, a greater proportion of the crop is making its way into supplements, frozen and freeze-dried berries. There is also growing demand from companies wanting to use it as an ingredient in contemporary functional foods like yoghurt, breakfast foods and drinks.
Heslop says making sure new product lines are in accord with shifting consumer demands and trends is vital to the industry’s success.
“There are huge opportunities for our industry overseas, with exciting commercial developments currently in play in the UK, Japan, China, Australia and the USA.
“As an industry we may be small – but in terms of the credible science, we are punching well above our weight. With a quality harvest, and more New Zealand brands looking at promising export opportunities, we’re off to a good start.”