Nelson-based Nutrizeal, a manufacturer of natural products, doesn’t have its own R&D department.
Instead it has a virtual R&D unit through its relationship with Industrial Research Ltd, which allows it to focus on being a manufacturing company.
Its chief scientific officer Dr Andy Herbert says the 65 person private company exports 95 percent of its products. Most of these are high quality extracts of active ingredients such as from green-lipped muscles or rosehip oil.
Nutrizeal uses carbon dioxide under high pressure and low temperatures as the extraction agent, and Herbert believes it is the largest nutriceutical manufacturer of this type in the world.
The use of super-critical CO2 is a technically challenging operation, but has the benefit of being a benign and kind method of getting hold of and concentrating the good bits of plants and animals – hops and sesame oil being other examples.
“For those companies wanting extracts, it is often a lot easier to user commercial solvent technologies,” Herbert says. “People around the world tend to know about those.”
And though its plant was relatively advanced when built 10 years ago, Nutrizeal has continued to add more capabilities to what it is able to produce for others.
The addition of co-solvents to CO2 can change its polarity, and along with that the ability to extract different compounds from its source material.
One recent venture alongside Norwegian company Olympic was to extract krill oil (from Olympus’s licenced harvest in Antarctica). Krill oil is the Omega 3 that is most in demand, and along with IRL Nutrizeal optimised an extraction method, Herbert says.
“What we really are is a technology provider, with high-tech manufacturing solutions,” he says.
Its customers range from North America, Asia, Europe and Australia, with a notable feature being the increase of imported raw material Nutrizeal now deals with. More than half of it now comes from offshore.
Nutrizeal is also looking to create new products under its own banner which have a degree of “embedded IP”, based on some fundamental new bioactive materials.
By their intensive R&D nature, this is a five to 10-year strategic programme, and the quest for high-value new products is only three years in development.
The 10-year goal for the company is a 10-fold expansion to $100 million turnover, which would also require a possible trebling of its current extraction plant.
“To maintain a competitive edge, we’ll have to stay in front through the use of R&D,” Herbert says.
“Our collaboration with IRL’s an important part of that.”
Peter Kerr blogs at sticknz.net