Innovations in food and beverages

The phrase “We are what we eat” reflects the important role food and beverage play in our lives. This area of research covers food and beverage properties, agricultural and production practices, and food safety.

Food researcher holding feijoas

Our research covers a wide range of products, including fruits and vegetables, seafood, meat products, dairy, and wine.

Using a fundamental approach, we investigate food structure, macromolecular interactions and their properties functionalities and digestive attributes, and the biosynthesis of bioactive molecules.

Our applied research with New Zealand companies focuses on the stabilisation of functional ingredients and their application in functional foods. We are investigating quality parameters in wine, and differences in wine styles, including the impacts of winemaking processes involved in yeast fermentation. Our wine research maintains close links to the New Zealand wine industry and the export success of sauvignon blanc and pinot noir wines in particular.

Research topics

Structure and functionality of food macro-components

The macro-components of food, including carbohydrates, proteins and lipids, are important ingredients in the human diet. One of our current research topics focuses on the chemistry of starch, including the physicochemical properties, the effect of processing and their applications. We also study the structure and functionality of food protein, the composition and oxidative stability of fats, oils and emulsion systems, and the formation of structure lipids and their functions.

Bioactives and functional food

Bioactives are associated with many human health benefits. Our current research examines the extraction and functionality evaluation of bioactives, such as antioxidants from food sources and food byproducts using chemical and biological assays. We study the stabilisation of bioactives via microencapsulation methods and the development of functional foods. We also have an interest in selenium-rich functional foods.

Food processing, quality and safety

Food processing is important for ensuring longer shelf life and better food safety. Our research covers the physicochemical, nutritional and sensory qualities, as well as microbiological safety of foods affected by food processing methods.

We also investigate thermal processing, non-thermal processing and post-harvest treatments. We are working on novel antimicrobial solutions to address microbial food safety and spoilage based on the synergistic action of naturally inspired compounds combined with sub-lethal processing technologies. The impact of processing and maturity on food flavour is also a focus. 

Sustainability in agricultural and food systems

Our researchers are developing nature-inspired nanoscale coatings to improve the stability of biologic and natural extract-based pesticides for agricultural practices. We are also utilising food processing byproducts for use in food packaging and bioactive, or antimicrobial edible coating.

Wine analysis

Wine aroma and taste compounds are critical for wine quality and wine styles. Researchers are developing new methods including using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and Gas chromatography ion mobility spectrometry (GC-IMS) for wine aromas, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and spectroscopic methods for polyphenols, and electrochemical analyses of wine antioxidants. We also use sensory methods to profile wines and to establish links with aroma chemical composition.

Yeast metabolism

The role of yeast is critical to the formation of wine aroma and taste compounds. We are considering the effects of temperature on fermentation, the pathways involved in the formation of sulfur-containing compounds, and the impacts of different yeast strains, both through inoculation and with wild ferments.

Winemaking factors

In addition to the key contributions of viticulture and yeasts to wine quality, the handling of grapes post-harvest and the maturation of wines are critical to wine production. Our researchers are examining the effects of harvesting methods (hand-picked versus machine harvesting) and antioxidant additions at harvest on a range of wines. We are also examining fining of wines, along with maturation using micro-oxygenation of finished wines.

Our researchers

Dr Rebecca Deed

  • Wine microbiology
  • Aroma chemistry  

Professor Bruno Fedrizzi

  • Analytical and bioanalytical mass spectrometry
  • Wine and food chemistry and biochemistry
  • Adding value to horticultural waste

Dr Kang Huang

  • Food process innovation
  • Novel food packaging
  • Biocontrol systems for agricultural and aquaculture industry

Professor Paul Kilmartin

  • Wine science
  • Antioxidants
  • Active packaging

Dr Danae Larsen

Dr Davide Mercadante

  • Multiscale simulations of polysaccharide networks
  • Simulations of protein-based colloidal systems
  • Effect of pulsed-electric fields on food components

Professor Duncan McGillivray

  • Nanomaterials
  • Surfaces
  • Biophysical chemistry

Dr Michel Nieuwoudt

  • Spectroscopic methods and chemometric algorithms
  • Rapid, point-of-care technologies
  • Vibrational spectroscopy and chemometrics  

Professor Siew Young Quek

  • Bioactives, microencapsulation and functional foods
  • Food/byproduct processing - quality, safety and application
  • Lipid science and technology

Associate Professor Viji Sarojini

  • Food-safe antibacterial technologies

Dr Fan Zhu