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National Science Challenge invests $1.7M in Riddet Institute

The High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge has announced a $1.75 million research investment to continue the Science of Food programme through the Riddet Institute. This programme involves the design and manufacture of food products that deliver scientifically proven health benefits, to meet consumer and industry needs.

This ongoing programme has already delivered new products on a semi-commercial scale for further testing in clinical trials. The products include low-fat yoghurts fortified with a plant bioactive and a plant-based nutrition bar for the management of pre-diabetes (co-developed with NUKU ki te PukuTM, a cluster of innovative Māori businesses) and a high-fibre kūmara powder to stimulate healthy gut bacteria in weaning infants. The programme also developed a novel, patented technology for incorporating healthy plant biactives into food products.

The design of these new products included significant collaboration between nutrition and biomedical researchers, and food scientists within the National Science Challenge. Dr Alejandra Acevedo-Fani, who led the work on new product development, had to overcome significant scientific and technological challenges to deliver the identified health-promoting compounds in a suitable food. ‘‘It was an incredibly challenging project, but we are very pleased with all the outstanding results obtained. This has been a unique experience and great opportunity for a young scientist. I was able to collaborate with colleagues and food industry personnel across New Zealand, in a multidisciplinary environment. It is very satisfying to be able to perform meaningful and comprehensive research in this way’’.

The HVN supported and Riddet Institute-led research will continue into fortified foods, examining health-promoting compounds from food sources. Strong science and business collaborations will be utilised over the next five years as part of the second phase of the Challenge. In this phase, the research team will focus on the development of foods with validated health benefits that industry can take to an export market. The Riddet Institute will work with all partner organisations on various aspects of the research programme.

The Riddet Institute is ideally positioned to deliver and co-ordinate food research of this kind with strong connections to both New Zealand and international food companies for commercialisation of products. The Institute has well-established mechanisms for technology transfer, and has cross collaboration of scientific expertise to maximise transfer of knowledge for the benefit the New Zealand primary and food sector.

“The Science of Food platform continues to develop critical research capabilities in food science that are at the leading edge of food developments internationally and which are critical to complete the mission of the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge,” says Principal Investigator, and Riddet Institute Director Distinguished Professor Harjinder Singh.

Ms Joanne Todd, Challenge Director supports embedding food science within each of the Challenge’s health platforms. “Health scientists and food scientists are empowered to work together to achieve the common goals of the Challenge and deliver the most relevant, impactful results to support Aotearoa New Zealand’s long-term, sustainable, agri-food success,” she says.

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