Hort Research aims to calm mothers with its fruit

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Marketing Urinary tract infection

Hort Research has identified the stress reduction market as a
target consumer segment for its fruit research and development, and
aims to design product concepts specifically for mothers.

The New Zealander company contracted a global market survey from the UK's Centre for Food and Health Studies. Hort Research specializes in breeding new varieties of fruit with enhanced nutritional attributes. The commercially focused research institute is owned by the government of New Zealand and it expects to commercialize the yields of its research through industry collaborations. Through Hort's market research, the company has unearthed the niche segment of calming products for women who have children still at home as having potential. "These women feel incredibly stressed,"​ Karl Crawford, food business leader with Hort, told NutraIngredients-USA. "And they either give themselves a reward or remove themselves from the situation."​ In terms of purchasing power, women are an important group because they are said to buy more than 80 percent of consumer goods. Through its own research, the company found that four product concepts relating fruit to stress reduction resonate with consumers: chocolate, fruit-based beverages, supplements and sprays. "The target is to have a product that acts quite quickly and that you can take when you are feeling stressed,"​ said Crawford. To isolate the effects of fruit-derived compounds on mood and mental state, Hort has simultaneously been doing scientific research on neurotransmitter binding and managing the body's stress response. "We have to identify what in fruit has this effect, then possibly breed for these things,"​ said Crawford. However, he underscored that Hort's short term goal is to find existing fruits that have such compounds. The stress-reduction market for foods is still not very developed, according to Crawford, except in Japan, where so-called 'mood food' makes up a $100mn market. Hort Research intends to make its mark through the use of whole fruits. The company does not deal in extracts, and instead underscores the value of using the entire fruit. "Our philosophy as an organization is that you get the best health effect from fruit if you eat as close as possible to the whole fruit,"​ said Crawford. However, since this is not always possible, he explained, a consumer can derive benefits from the fruit by moving up the convenience chain - for example, from whole fruit, to a beverage derived from whole fruit. "… we believe that everything in a fruit works together synergistically, even the sugars,"​ said Crawford. With over 500 staff in ten sites across New Zealand, the institute funds its research partly through royalties on its international plant variety patents. As well, Hort tries to work with fruits grown in the country so as to give the company a supply advantage. The company already does have one advantage though - that it works particularly with super fruits, which have been identified as a functional food category that is here to stay. Mintel Global New Products Database placed super fruits among the top ten trends for 2007. Crawford says consumers are drawn to super fruits depending on the variety of attributes they can derive from them. As with all foods, consumers require first and foremost that the fruit looks different and tastes different. It also optimal if a company can build up literature in the market on the healthy attributes surrounding a fruit. For instance, this is what happened with cranberries and their capacity to support urinary tract infections. While there is no health claim or labels on cranberry juice, consumers are aware of the link thanks to indirect marketing. Consumers are also drawn to fruits if they are available in convenient formats - meaning they are either easy to eat on the go, or are found in a product that is convenient.

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