6 Feb 2018

Health benefits of NZ blackcurrants tapped into

10:11 am on 6 February 2018

A New Zealander living in the UK has found a way of tapping into the health benefits of New Zealand-grown blackcurrants, helping our struggling blackcurrant industry.

bush of black currant

(file photo) Photo: bondvit/123RF

Blackcurrant growers have finished a relatively poor season caused by adverse weather conditions and coupled with the withdrawal of its biggest client, the makers of the drink Ribena.

Fleur Cushman is founding director of Curranz, a company producing health supplements, primarily for athletes, using 100 percent New Zealand blackcurrant extract.

The supplements came about after a number of scientific studies into the New Zealand fruit, she said. One study, at the University of Chichester, looked into the effect of New Zealand blackcurrants on lactate (an organic compound the body produces in response to aerobic exercise) across all exercise intensities.

"And they were very excited about the findings."

The study found that blackcurrant dramatically reduced lactate and shifted the lactate curve, said Ms Cushman.

"Basically that means it (lactate) was having an effect on the fatigue mechanism in the body in athletes."

The company has had nine peer-review published studies, she said.

What makes the New Zealand blackcurrant better than others?

It's the ultra-violet sunlight that really benefits the New Zealand blackcurrant-growing environment, said Ms Cushman.

"That stimulates the berry fruit into producing very high concentrations of poly phenols, the bio-actives that give blackcurrants their physiological benefits.

"We are also blessed to have good varieties that thrive in the New Zealand conditions," she said.

Curranz launched the New Zealand blackcurrant product as a sports nutrition supplement, first in the UK, but now also in other countries, including New Zealand, Ms Cushman said.

The company will be supplying High Performance New Zealand Olympic athletes for the next Olympic cycle.

"It is a big breakthrough for the Kiwis because British athletes have been using the black currant supplements and winning and it was embarrassing that New Zealand sports people were missing out"

Supply of blackcurrants from New Zealand is assured, she said, highlighting how growers are responding to market trends.

"We are anticipating real growth in our business in the next three to five years and fortunately the Kiwi growers are savvy enough to be planting the varieties we need at the moment."

The company is watching the supply very carefully and are ready to scale up production and supply as company expansion happens, she said.