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Developing novel foods from taewa

Researchers at the Riddet Institute are developing prototypes of novel food products from taewa that have market appeal as indigenous New Zealand foods.

After testing the physical and chemical properties of 4 types of taewa, researchers found that each taewa cultivar was suitable for industrial processing. They were able to apply knowledge of the taewa properties to design novel food products. The first 2 prototype products – expanded taewa snacks and chef-ready taewa products – are ready for marketing. They already have ideas for other products.

Developing the idea for taewa snacks

Potato flour is ideal for making snacks. If taewa flour is used instead, the final product has unique colour and nutritional benefits, cultural significance and a point of difference for marketing. Air New Zealand was interested in lightweight, in-flight snacks, so researchers at the Riddet Institute made some prototypes.

Value and market appeal could be increased by including a story on the packet about the history of taewa and its significance to Māori.

Making taewa snacks

Taewa snacks are made by an extrusion process like many breakfast cereals and snack foods such as Cheezels® and Twisties®. Taewa flour is blended with cornflour and fed into an extruder where it is moistened, mixed and cooked under pressure as it is moved along by a system of screws. The hot mixture is forced out through a die – a shaped opening. It suddenly loses heat and pressure, causing it to expand and become porous.

Developing the formulation

Developing new snacks involved trialling different formulations of ingredients and variations of temperature and speed of processing for each taewa cultivar. By testing the texture, crispness, toughness and colour of the snacks from the trials, they could decide which cultivars produced the best product.

Air New Zealand has already approved the concept of taewa snacks for their onboard passengers. Air New Zealand’s contract food supplier – Health Pak Ltd. and Riddet Institute are planning the commercial production of Taewa snacks.

Developing chef-ready taewa products

Chef-ready taewa products are partially cooked, minimally processed and specially packaged so they can be cooked by microwave in minutes. They have a 21-day shelf life without refrigeration, chemicals or other preservatives. This makes them suitable for the export market.

The unique colour and shape of taewa, as well as their nutritional and indigenous value, provide excellent marketing opportunities for these chef-ready products particularly at the high end of the market. Turners and Growers will help in the marketing of chef-ready products, as they already have links overseas with the specialty food market.

Cultural constraints

Anyone can grow taewa and market them at a fresh produce stall. However, if you are producing a processed product with packaging, and marketing it as an indigenous product, it is important that the language and information are correct and appropriate.

Food labelling regulations

Most food labels have a nutrition information panel (NIP), and food labelling regulations require these to have information about 7 key nutrients: energy, protein, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars and sodium.

If a claim is made about specific nutrients in the food, the NIP must also show the average level of the nutrient present. Because the high nutritional value of taewa is a key feature in marketing the products it is likely that some nutrient claims will be made.

Foods with a limited shelf life require a ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date, and product developers need to test the shelf life of new products to determine this. They test for changes in things like texture, taste and colour over time at the recommended storage temperature.

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