Māori manufacturers and researchers unite to develop anti-diabetes functional foods for Asia

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

The products will aim to reduce type 2 diabetes risk in Asia. ©iStock
The products will aim to reduce type 2 diabetes risk in Asia. ©iStock
A new $1m project aims to join some of New Zealand's Māori-owned food and beverage businesses with leading researchers to develop new functional products for export to Asia.

Nuku ki te Puku, which connects Māori food and beverage businesses across the supply chain, will partner with New Zealand's High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge to develop high-value food-for-health products.

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 (GI) 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.

These trials build on the existing Challenge Metabolic Health priority research known as TOFI Asia, (Thin Outside, Fat Inside).

Researchers have already begun 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 Challenge Metabolic Health research is producing the scientific evidence to create opportunities for food and beverage companies in New Zealand to develop products for export to Asia, so as to help manage risk factors which could lead to diabetes.

Mutual benefit

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

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 that 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.

She said: "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 goal is to produce a prototype food product ready for commercialisation. Equally 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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