Liggins scientist investigates native plant Kawakawa as export drink

Dr Chris Pook, of the University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute, will research the health benefits of a drink made from the native plant Kawakawa.

Image: High-Value Nutrition

High-Value Nutrition awarded $1.3 million to explore the potential health benefits of kawakawa in a functional beverage for markets in Japan and South East Asia.

The project will be conducted in collaboration with Wakatū Incorporation and Chia Sisters, looking at topics including the drink's effects on metabolic and immune health.

Dr Pook’s collaborators will be from the University of Auckland’s Human Nutrition Unit, the Riddet Institute, the Food Experience and Sensory Testing (FEAST) Laboratory at Massey University, Smart Regulatory Solutions, and Edible Research.

“The novelty of this project lies in the capacity of an Aotearoa New Zealand native species to have additive or synergistic effects with other components within a functional beverage,” says Joanne Todd, High-Value Nutrition director.

Kawakawa shows promise due to its history of traditional use by Māori over generations and its phytochemical profile that, like other members of the family Piperaceae, is rich in biologically active compounds.

The project may enable the development of a high-value, functional product range unique to Aotearoa New Zealand and relevant globally, based on a combined mātauranga Māori and Western science approach to research.

Wakatū Incorporation is a Māori organisation based in Te Tauihu (top of the South Island) and representing over 4,000 whānau owners. To develop the functional beverage, Wakatū Incorporation has partnered with the Chia Sisters, Nelson-based innovators in the beverage industry with a focus on health and environmental sustainability.

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