Opportunity in functional foods market

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 14:58 31/10/2012

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The health benefits of Marlborough salmon, mussels and seaweed could be valuable in the high value functional food market, a visiting scientist says.

Riddet Institute general manager Mark Ward said in Blenheim yesterday the market, which includes dietary supplements and nutraceuticals, is worth US$80 billion (NZ$97b) a year and growing 8 to 10 per cent annually.

With expertise in forestry, dairy, meat, seafood and arable foods, and innovative ideas and scientific research, New Zealand had the ability to substantially grow its economy, he said.

"We need more diversity and variety and a synergy between industries.

"We have the capability and a proven history in lamb, dairy, kiwifruit, deer, wine and - believe it or not - carrot and radish seeds."

Mr Ward was joined by Grow Wellington science and technology general manager Adrian Gregory and Marlborough District Council strategic planning and economic development manager Neil Henry to talk at the Marlborough Research Centre about New Zealand's economic opportunities.

The value of agri-food exports was $20b in 2009, and the Government wanted to increase it to $58b by 2025 as part of its growth agenda, he said.

The emerging economies of China, Indonesia, India, Brazil and Turkey held opportunities for innovative high-value functional foods.

The wine industry was New Zealand's leader at tapping into many of these markets, he said.

"New Zealand's wine industry has a lot to teach other industries about breaking into emerging markets, marketing, branding and adding value to their products."

Challenges included a lack of investment in the research and development industry, access to capital, rising energy costs and volatile economic factors.

The Riddet Institute is a food science and health research centre whose science underpins the development of foods promoting health and wellness.

Its research reflected world- wide trends, with gut health and immunity in high demand, he said.

Functional foods were also going to be key for addressing the growing worldwide demand for protein products.

"We may not sell it as a leg of lamb or a steak in the future - it may be a seaweed, fungi, algae or even insects.

"It may be a bit off beam but it will be a case of making sure the world will have a supply of food."

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- The Marlborough Express

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