‘Food innovation key to feeding global population’
With a rapidly growing world population, ensuring food security and safety for future generations is a crucial challenge. New Zealand has a key role in meeting the task, according to the general manager of a renowned food science institute and an official from the country’s economic development agency.
“Riddet Institute is really interested in understanding how nature assembles the lowest energy foods ― lowest energy in terms of cost of input in nature ― so that manufactures can replicate that, still producing high nutritious foods,” said Mark Ward, general manager of New Zealand-based The Riddet Institute, which specializes in research on food innovation and nutrition.
General Manager of the Riddet Institute Mark Ward (left) and Adrian Bosher, investment manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)
As fossil fuel prices rise, driving up the cost for agriculture, such research could be one answer to future global food security, according to Ward, who was in Seoul last month for New Zealand and Asia F&B Forum.
“One of our projects is called PROTEOS and that’s working with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and that’s looking at how we can extend the current protein supply chain with less expensive forms of protein that are still nutritious,” he said.
Ward noted that China’s demand for meat has doubled in the last two decades, and demand for dairy has risen by the same amount in the last five.
“As animals feed costs go up, as fertilizer costs go up, all related to scarcity around fossils fuels; through technology, through policy it’s going to be critical that we work on just that very question: How do we keep the price of food under control by looking at these import costs and the demand?”
But he warned that Asia would ultimately have to produce its own food, new technologies or not.
“Asia is going to have to produce more food, it’s not going to come from New Zealand, there won’t be enough production,” he said.
Increased trade is also important, both for New Zealand and Korea, according to Adrian Bosher, investment manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, who also attended the food and beverage forum.
“The model for New Zealand historically has been exporting of commodities. Yes, we will always be a significant exporter of food, but we also need to start to try to add a lot more value to products, try to be more tailored and customized in our approach to markets,” Bosher said.
“When you are right down there at the bottom of the world, and it’s a long way away … we don’t have the footprint out in the world to capture all the intellectual property we need around consumers and trends and products. So this is where we look for partners,” he added, referring to Korea.
But tariffs are a major obstacle to trade between the two countries, according to Ward.
“You can walk into supermarkets now in Shanghai and you will see New Zealand products on the selves that you do not see here. So Korean consumers are missing out,” he said.
He added that food and beverages would have to be included in any future FTA between the countries, being as vital as they are to the New Zealand economy.
Ward noted that food science research had much to add in determining the health properties of food ― something Koreans are particularly concerned with.
“We are very, very science-driven nations and, in particular, we question, we never take things at face value. And this is one of the reasons we invest so much in science and Korea is exactly the same,” he said.
“So just to say that some food is efficacious, is really healthy for you, it just wouldn’t wash in New Zealand and I know that doesn’t wash in Korea.”
He added that ensuring the veracity of such health claims could be one promising source of cooperation between the countries.
“If you are making a claim that’s it’s functional well then you have to have some kind of science behind it to back it up, and that’s where, I think, the real opportunities are for Korea and New Zealand to continue to collaborate in the science,” he said.
By John Power and Yoav Cerralbo (email@example.com