Exploding science: CurraNZ on emerging body of evidence around NZ blackcurrants’ sports, metabolic benefits

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

CurraNZ won the sports nutrition product of the year at this year's NutraIngredients Asia awards. ©CurraNZ
CurraNZ won the sports nutrition product of the year at this year's NutraIngredients Asia awards. ©CurraNZ

Related tags New zealand blackcurrant

There is a burgeoning body of evidence on how New Zealand blackcurrants could improve sports performance, muscle recovery, and even metabolise fat, says CurraNZ, the firm which took home the NutraIngredients-Asia Sports Nutrition Product of the Year award.

The capsule product, also sold under the same name CurraNZ, was competing against fellow New Zealander firms – 2before Performance Nutrition’s blackcurrant powder and Sea to Me’s New Zealand Greenshell mussel whole food supplement.

There has been greater attention placed on the myriad of benefits that New Zealand blackcurrants offer, co-founder of CurraNZ Fleur Cushman told NutraIngredients-Asia.

“It is a really defining moment for our business and interesting to see the other blackcurrant brands all coming up now, which is fantastic for the industry.

“The blackcurrant industry in New Zealand is very much in its infancy and the functional food side of it is really where the future lies for New Zealand blackcurrants,” ​Cushman said.

At present, she observed that most people still associate blackcurrants for use in jams and juices and failed to grasp its benefits as functional foods.  

Having researched on blackcurrants for the past eight years, the company has found multiple evidence on its ability in improving sports performance.

Existing studies show that the product is effective in improving performance in running sports, such as rugby, football, basketball, and track and field.

One of the firm's latest studies showed that the product could affect muscle fibre-specific fatigue.

The full manuscript of the study results, which is published in the scientific journal Sports​, ​showed that CurraNZ can have different effects on different sports. 

“In endurance sports, it will increase the muscle’s resistance to fatigue, and increases explosive effects in power sports,”​ she said.

This builds on the earlier findings that the ingredient could enhance sports performance​, reduce oxidative stress from exercise, as well as preserve immune defences.

Most of the clinical trials were conducted in the UK, where the product has been a bestselling sports nutrition brand in Amazon UK. The majority of its studies were conducted with the University of Chichester.

The firm also works with Japanese universities such as the Nippon Sport Science University and Teikyo University of Science in conducting clinical trials. 

Another new finding published this year was how CurraNZ could increase the amount of fat burned during exercise.

“It is amazing to see the different health benefits spinning out from the blackcurrants. They never cease to amaze us, and we have seen it in our research just how much potential there is. 

The more we look, the more we find, and the more questions throw up, and its been exciting to see we make world's first discoveries around blackcurrant and it continues to surprise us,”​ she said.

Ingredient business

With a body of clinical evidence, the company hopes to expand the business of CurraNZ by selling it as an ingredient under license.

Cushman said the company was in talks with firms from the US and Australia in formulating the ingredient for high-end sports nutrition products.

At present, the company is only selling CurraNZ as a finished product consumed by both elite athletes and recreational athletes, with the latter being its core consumer group.

Its UK operations service the European, Middle East, and the US markets, while it also services the Asian market from its offices in New Zealand and Australia.

“Our focus is looking to increase the sales of the ingredient as a branded extract for formulators in both hemispheres,”​ Cushman said.

Aside from an ingredient business, she also hopes to diversify CurraNZ’s product portfolio to include general wellness next year, as there are clinical evidence and customer feedback on the product’s other benefits.

Glycaemic control

In fact, a recent publication showed that the ingredient could reduce glycaemic spikes and obesity.

The pilot study on blackcurrants and its effects on glycaemic control and obesity was conducted by the Liverpool John Moores University.

Published in the European Journal of Nutrition, ​it showed that overweight, sedentary individuals saw their insulin sensitivity improved by 22% after taking two capsules of CurraNZ daily for eight days.

Free-living postprandial glucose responses to breakfast and lunch were reduced by nine percent and eight percent respectively when compared to placebo.

Another RCT published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypertension ​also showed that the product has cardiovascular benefits.

Involving 14 Japanese elderly, the RCT showed that​ consuming two capsules of CurraNZ for seven days could reduce central arterial stiffness and central blood pressure.

The same formulation was used for the trials, although the dosage level differed depending on the condition that was addressed.

Cushman added that there were consumers who feedbacked that the product had helped to alleviate inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and even reducing hot flushes in women undergoing menopause.

She revealed that the firm was also starting to look at the potential of CurraNZ in enhancing the immune system.

Expanding APAC business

While the UK is the company’s biggest market and has both online and offline presence, it is also seeing good growth in New Zealand, and is launching in Japan next month.

In fact, the company has set up a Japanese language website and will be shipping products from Japan to better serve the market.

Asked the reasons for focusing on Japan, Cushman said this was partly because the market was already well-educated on the benefits of blackcurrants.

“There is greater awareness on blackcurrants’ benefits in Japan. Blackcurrants are already used in brain and eye health products.”

Whereas in New Zealand, the company had debuted in the offline space by working with pharmacies last month. 

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