Innovative pet food research consortium launched

A research consortium that aims to make New Zealand globally recognised as the leader in innovative meat science for pet care, will be launched by AgResearch, Mars and Massey University in Wanganui, today (Friday 8 May).

Protein Innovation New Zealand (PINZ) will be dedicated to consolidating the important work carried out by Mars and AgResearch in 2008. A Memorandum of Understanding will be signed by the three parties in the presence of David Carter, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Biosecurity.

The project began in 2007 when the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology identified AgResearch as the solution to Mars’s challenge of delivering a premium pet food product to boost New Zealand’s export markets. The Foundation has provided initial project funding of $188,000 through its TechNZ business programme.

AgResearch has extensive knowledge and expertise in the field of added-value meat products. This collaborative project has assisted Mars in enhancing the aesthetics and palatability of WhiskasÃ’ cat food, manufactured at their Wanganui facility. The result is a new premium pet food range – WhiskasÃ’ Tasty Textures - which has been enthusiastically received over the Tasman. The range now includes seven different products, which are exported to Australia and look set to generate annual benefits of over $2 million for the New Zealand economy.

The success of this phase has secured internal funding from AgResearch and Mars to continue the project over a two-year period in conjunction with Massey University, which has the only independent Feline Nutrition Unit in the Southern Hemisphere.

The consortium’s mission is to better understand the protein interactions and nutritional contributions of raw meat materials and how this knowledge can contribute to the development of highly nutritious pet foods that are clearly differentiated and compete successfully in global markets.

Erica Nicholls, the Foundation’s Group Manager (Investments), says the Foundation’s decision to support the project was based both on Mars being able to commercialise unique New Zealand science quickly through its extensive channels to market, and on the significant economic and social benefits, particularly to the Wanganui community.

“The consortium is an excellent example of businesses working successfully alongside researchers from universities and research organisations, and the partnership promises further significant benefits in animal and human nutrition as well as in health sectors,” she says.

It is hoped that further funding from AgResearch and Mars will ensure that the PINZ group can make inroads into a more fundamental understanding of raw meat materials.

“And it is expected that the new group’s research will lead to more specific projects in the future with the goal of further developing export opportunities for New Zealand,” says Jonathan Coz, Product & Innovation Manager, Mars Petcare.


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