New Zealand's small but mighty natural products industry targets US

The green-lipped mussel is one of several species found nowhere in the world outside of New Zealand.With a natural products industry considered to be worth more than $534 million ($760 million NZ), New Zealand has a long track record exporting bioactives to Europe. Now, though, the tiny island nation has its sights set on America, its second-largest trading partner.

"In the past year, we saw increasing activity in terms of companies and products entering the US market," said Jennifer Barclay, business development associate - biotechnology of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, a governmental business and export development agency.

"What many people don't realize is that New Zealand has about 2,450 native plant species, about 80 per cent of which are found nowhere else in the world. More than 200 plants were used medicinally by New Zealand's indigenous people, the Maori."

The New Zealand natural products industry is made up of approximately 150 stand-alone companies. A few examples of the companies and products to recently enter the US market include:

  • Cassis seed oil supplements. Its combination of fatty acids has nutraceutical and cosmeceutical product applications.
  • Cherr-x sweet cherry powders. With antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities comparable to over-the-counter drugs, the powders have been introduced to the US by Intenza Ltd.
  • Immune Defense Proteins. Developed by Quantec, IDP is a complex of milk-derived bioactive proteins providing protection from inflammation and infection.
  • New Zealand Extracts Co. Its new product, Oxifend Plus, is a blend of four fruits and berries, with 25 percent higher antioxidant levels than the sum of the individual fruits.

New Zealand is active in researching its unique plant species. Much of this work is being done at the Crown Research Institute for plant and food research. The institute employs 900 staff based at sites across New Zealand as well as in Europe, the US and Australia. The website compiles the research coming out from all of the country's Crown Research Institutes.

Other New Zealand companies have made news in the past year as well.

Fruit-Sweetness, a zero-calorie concentrate from the monk fruit, received GRAS status by the Food and Drug Administration in February 2010. Made by BioVittoria, the world's largest producer of monk fruit, the concentrate is 300 times sweeter than sugar. It is the first and only all-natural, zero-calorie fruit concentrate sweetener to receive GRAS status. The company also recently announced that its product would be used in a new reduced-calorie protein shake to be launched by California-based Maverick Brands, the maker of Sunkist juices and smoothies.

The Meracol Corp has developed and patented a platform technology consisting of a proprietary plant-derived long chain fatty acid ester complex, MERACOLTM. The manufacturing components and metabolites of MERACOLTM have also been recognized as GRAS, and it has proven effective in treating eczema and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as alleviating symptoms of multiple sclerosis and viral conditions. There are also encouraging indications that topical application of MERACOLTM promotes wound healing.

In January, Quantec signed a distribution agreement with US-based ET Horn to market and distribute its novel milk fraction comprised of immune defense proteins (IDP). IDP has proven antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties, which help fight skin ailments from acne and tinea to gum disease.

Finally, Blis Technologies signed a 50-store trial of its anti-sore throat probiotic BLIS K12 with the warehouse club chain Costco. The product is named for probiotics that produce an anti-bacterial substance called Bacteriocin-Like Inhibitory Substance (or BLIS). The organism has been clinically shown to defend against Strep sore throat and halitosis.

What are the top 5 ingredients unique to New Zealand? Learn more here.

To learn more about the companies mentioned in this feature, visit

Top 5 New Zealand natural products companies
Vitaco —
Fonterra Ingredients —
Comvita —
Honey New Zealand —
Good Health Ltd —

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