From gin to nutrition: New Zealand’s plum-gin maker receives cash tonic to fund nutrition research

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Damson plums are traditionally made into jams and sauces.   © Getty Images
Damson plums are traditionally made into jams and sauces. © Getty Images

Related tags New zealand Research science

A New Zealand firm producing gin from Damson plums is expanding into the functional health foods space and has received funding to research and develop nutrition products based on its high amounts of anthocyanins.

Hawke’s Bay-based company Foot Steps Limited recently received a development grant of NZ$50k (US$35k) from the High-Value Nutrition (HVN) National Science Challenge to study the bioactive components of the plums.

The company currently owns a Damson plum orchard consisting of 400 plum trees.

Just this year, it commercialised its first consumer product, which is a gin product made using the plums.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​the company’s director Shayne Walker said Damson plums were traditionally used for making jams and sauces. With its pigment, it is also used as a purple dye for cloths.

However, the company hopes to develop non-commodity products which led to the idea of exploring Damson plum’s nutritional value.

“We are interested to explore whether Damson plums, as a potential high-value food, may have any health benefits beyond their basic nutritional value by decreasing the risk of chronic diseases,”​ he said.

“Similar to blueberries, Damson plums are also in dark purple-blue colour and we believe the plums would also possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits,” ​added Dr Rachel Walker, who is part of the research team. 

With the grant, the company is partnering the Riddet Institute Centre of Research Excellence at Massey University in conducting a six-month research on the bioactive compounds present in the plums.

Dr Walker said the team has begun systematic review and further down the road, there would be plans to apply for more grants to support product development and research on the medicinal properties of the plums.

Other than anthocyanins, plums contain high concentration of phytochemicals, such as vitamins A, C, and E, fiber, magnesium, and calcium.

According to Dr Ali Rashidinejad, project leader at the Riddet Institute, preliminary results showed that Damson plum is a source of vital nutrients and potent bioactive compounds.

“This six-month project will provide scientific data on the biochemical composition and functionality of compounds in Damson plums and determine the nutrient content and bioactive compounds present at different stages of ripening and harvest.

“It will also map out regulatory considerations for exporting functional products based on Damson plums,”​ says Joanne Todd, HVN Challenge Director.

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