Top 5 ingredients from New Zealand

What are some of the most common ingredients unique to New Zealand being used today? Among the top are totarol, green-lipped mussel, red leaf horopito, tanekaha and kawakawa.

"One thing we wish people knew about New Zealand's ingredients market is how innovate and diverse it really is," said Jennifer Barclay, business development associate — biotechnology, of the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

"By virtue of its clean atmospheric conditions, New Zealand grows some of the world's most nutritionally superior bioactives. In addition, more than 80 percent of New Zealand's plants are found nowhere else in the world. The country provides truly unique extracts and ingredients to the industry."

Totarol is a naturally occurring extract from the totara tree, with potent antibacterial activity against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. Its applications include acne and tooth decay products, and it is one of the rare phytochemicals active against penicillin and methicillin-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus. It may be used in a variety of cosmetic formulas to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Totarol also has potent antioxidant properties, strongly inhibiting peroxidation and scavenging reactive oxygen species. Suppliers: Essentially New Zealand, Mende Biotech


Green-lipped mussel
The green-lipped mussel, Perna canaliculus, differs from other mussel species in that it has a dark brown/green shell, a green lip around the edge of the shells and only one adductor muscle.

The mussels contain five kinds of omega-3s and its extract contains a rich blend of natural proteins, minerals and mucopolysaccharides, used to help joint mobility and cartilage maintenance. Green-lipped mussel also inhibits inflammation, which can benefit such inflammatory conditions as arthritis, asthma, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.)

Suppliers: Vitaco, Waitaki Bioscience, Mountain Red, Lovely Health, Aroma New Zealand.


Red leaf horopito
Horopito, Pseudowintera colorata, is a member of the Winteraceae family and is one of the oldest surviving flowering plants — 65 million years old. Its natural chemical defence system is in its antioxidant-rich leaves, which have enabled it to survive the millennia of climate changes. Horopito is so ancient, it lacks the specialist water conducting vessels of most flowering plants, making it susceptible to drought; thus it only grows in swampy or high-rainfall areas.

The chemical composition of Active Horopito™ oleoresin is a rich source of the sesquiterpene dialdehyde polygodial. Other constituents include essential oils such as pinenes, limones, humulene and eugenol, and the flavonoids quercetin, luteolin and proanthocyanidins.

Applications include functional ingredients, natural antimicrobials, flavour enhancers, natural preservatives and preservative synergists.

Supplier: Forest Herbs.


Tanekaha, or celery pine, was used medicinally as an astringent and antimicrobial agent by Maori people and early European settlers. Decoctions of the inner bark were used in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery and internal haemorrhage. Externally, it was used as a healing remedy for burns, as well as for boils, abscesses and septic infections.

The antimicrobial action of tannic acid has been well documented, and it has been shown to be effective against a range of bacteria, yeasts and viruses. It is currently being used in Manuka Mouthwash.

Supplier: PhytoMed.


Kawakawa, or the New Zealand peppertree, was one of the most important healing herbs in traditional Maori herbal medicine; the leaves were widely used as treatments for stomach pains and indigestion. Topically, leaf applications were used for bruises and rheumatism, the pain of neuralgia and nettle stings, as well as for eczema.

Hot kawakawa infusions and decoctions have long been a popular treatment for winter ailments; this probably relates to its diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) effect. Like other plants in the pepper family, stimulation of the circulation make it useful in conditions such as chilblains, varicose veins and poor circulation.

Popular products being sold today include Ginger & Kawakawa Tonic, Herbal Digestive Aid, Herbal Throat Spray, WinterGuard and Energiser.

Supplier: PhytoMed.

Get an overview of the New Zealand ingredients market here.

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

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