Report brings facts for the fluffy functional foods and nutraceuticals industries

By Peter Kerr 22/11/2011 6

You have to give Coriolis top marks for what it has come up with in its food report for the Ministry of Economic Development on ‘Nutraceuticals & Foods for Health’.

This paper hovers between information and knowledge, with enough observations and learnings thrown in that it immediately is (partly in the absence of anything else) THE go to document for the whole area. (Find it here).

Given Coriolis have produced it from a standing start, with pretty short notice compared to the dairy, meat, seafood, produce, processed foods and beverages sector reports that are also up on the MED website, the Auckland research, consulting and strategy company has pulled together an impressive 129 page document.

For the first time ever, instead of anecdote and guesswork, the often nebulous, sometimes snake-oil masquerading as cures, industry has facts pulled together in one document.

In fact, Coriolis, led by Tim Morris, found that as the MED-initiated project rumbled into life, various other government players also came on board — with money! Thus, the Ministry of Science and Innovation, MAF, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NZ Trade & Enterprise, Ministry of Fisheries and Dept of Labour all have their monikers on the front as well.

Not that those organisations were much help in collecting the raw data — there’s precious little of that, no universally accepted definition and its difficult to quantify.

As a CEO of one NZ company they interviewed says, ‘all natural product areas are tricky to define, they have such huge scope, and lots of small players.’

But Coriolis has managed to corral this ‘scope’, kicking off with its methodology and definitions, and following an upfront summary and conclusions, segwaying into the separate nutraceuticals and functional foods global and NZ situation reports. There’s a hefty appendices section profiling firms and products.

What this is though is a damn good resource. What Coriolis has called observations is also useful — an intelligent and well-argued 25 pages built around three central themes:

 Legitimate & credible
 Collaborate and consolidate
 Industry & science alignment

For longtime observers of New Zealand primary industry, some of these observations (much of it the same ‘stuff you, stuff you’ mutual fingers to each other by NZ competitors who should be collaborators) will be distressingly familiar.

Morris and the Coriolis team also wrote the Seafood Information Project, and reckon that industry has a much more coherent view, and most participants reached the same conclusions on what is required for future success.

As befits what is a much more ‘fluffy’ industry, there is nowhere near the same level of coherence of view by the nutraceutical and functional foods players — but at least some of this divergent opinion is out in the open and there is a definite place from which to move forward.

Coriolis’ summary is best shown in its SWOT analysis of the nutraceuticals market. The entire document will be required reading for anyone in, or contemplating a sector that has arguably the best potential to add significant value to New Zealand’s biological resources.

Here’s the SWOT.

 Unique flora and fauna due to NZ’s geographic isolation
 Unique products proven success (e.g. manuka honey)
 NZ trusted country and products with secure food source
 Able to leverage favourable opinion of NZ in key markets, (e.g. China, Korea, Japan)
 Cheaper to manufacture than Australia

 High cost of robust scientific validation of claims (e.g. clinical trials)
 Fickle markets often fad products with inconsistent consumption
 Narrow consumer market
 Regulatory environment in export markets challenging to understand and frequently changing; no global standards or agreements
 Most NZ firms have low/no economies of scale
 Lack of capital for research and capital investment

 Large waste streams from existing food and beverage manufacturing
 Expansion into high-demand nutraceuticals market (e.g. East Asia)
 Native, unique plants
 Research into key high potential products with proven track record (e.g. manuka honey, blackcurrants)
 Marketing NZ’s unique environment and products
 Marketing to tourists in NZ
 Online shopping
 ‘Country of Origin’ labelling supporting NZ products
 Special dietary requirements (e.g. for use in retirement homes, hospitals, etc)

 Counterfeiting of NZ products, particularly in China
 False claims bring disrepute on the industry
 Increasing amount of regulatory restrictions
 Backlash, negative publicity in sector with products with unproven claims
 Companies repacking imported ingredients as produced from NZ
 Scare/contaminations/disease damaging consumer image of NZ

However, the document is much more comprehensive than this SWOT alone — as already said, it’s a great resource.

6 Responses to “Report brings facts for the fluffy functional foods and nutraceuticals industries”

  • There is an awful lot of woo being sold around the place……..

    It staggers me that it is so easy to set up a small company to sell prepackaged oils and powders as long as you call them supplements or nutraceuticals.

  • So – having had a quick flick through the 129 pages myself – we find statements such as A nutraceutical is demonstrated to have a physiological benefit or provide protection against ills or assist with general health and wellbeing. [my emphasis]. Such statements are, effectively, meaningless. Phrases such as ‘assist with [insert X here] are much beloved by woo-meisters but don’t actually tell us anything about what the substance/supplement does.

  • Points taken. But, as far as I’m aware, this is the first time something, anything, has been pulled together about this industry. It’s a start, not necessarily perfect, on which the next iterations can be built

  • It’s a start, not necessarily perfect, on which the next iterations can be built

    I don’t think that it’s there was the point, but rather what it is.

    Isn’t this a market report, not a science/health/safety/etc. analysis?

    I haven’t time to read it—far too much on my plate—but it looks to be targeted at business/investors/etc.; not surprising given your saying that the report was prepared for the MED. (I would have thought their interest is mostly in the economics, business, etc, rather than whatever science might be involved, or not, or even if the products are ‘sound’ from that perspective.)

    The brief for the report reads,

    The objective of this report is to provide a factual source of high quality information on the current situation in the New Zealand nutraceuticals & food for health/functional foods sector for four audiences:
    ‐ Investors (domestic or international)
    ‐ Industry participants (firms & individuals)
    ‐ Government (across all roles and responsibilities)
    ‐ Scientific researchers (academic, government & firm)

    While ‘Scientific researchers’ are mentioned as part of the target audience, I would think the information for their eyes is not the science (or not) behind the products as such, but the presence of the companies and what they are (intending to) deliver. Can you clarify this?

    Unfortunately the wording of the brief is empty, it doesn’t say precisely what it is that they are reporting on, i.e. ”current situation” – of what? is the missing/assumed ‘what’, ‘the market’ ?

  • I agree with Grant – it’s not a report about the science, but one that looks at market opportunities. The lack of science in it is exemplified by statements like the one I quoted above.

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