Food science students on track to develop bottled turmeric latte

Tuesday 2 October was D-Day for two teams of final year students at Otago University’s Food Science faculty.

PTI NZ Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade and The Spice Girls, Kristy Jeddo, Megan Millar, Isabella Clere, Iris Wang and Supervisor, Dr Biniam Kebede.

Karma Cocoa and The Spice Girls had been working on Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand-sponsored Deal by Science projects throughout the year as part of their degree qualification and the live presentation to the faculty academics mentors and sponsors, which is a major part of their annual grade.

As part of PTI NZ’s Path to Market programme, the Deal by Science project is designed to apply scientific rigour to Pacific Island product development, filling gaps in manufacturers’ pathway to launching their products in markets like New Zealand.

Dr Fiona Nyhof has supervised PTI NZ projects for three years now and the Pacific culture is a growing part of this faculty.

This year’s projects involved  E Life owned by Etu and Elena Tusitala and was based upon adding further value to the already established E Life Wild Turmeric Juice.

The second project was generic in nature and was based upon defining an effective process of manufacturing a commercial Cocoa drink from Cocoa Nibs.

Left to right , PTI Trade & Investment Commissioner Michael Greenslade, Team Karma Cocoa: Mitchell Finnie, Tihana Tresnjak-Smith, Claire Greenlaw, Natalie Hanson, Caitlyn Hayes, Supervisor, Dr Dominic Agyei and Tutor, Ryan High.

Karma Cocoa presented first and took us through the formal steps they had followed building a target market; building a philosophy about the source of raw materials; developing and testing a recipe including lab testing to get the right proportions; developing options and undertaking formal tastings to get market preference and benchmarking against existing commercial products; shelf life testing and finally identifying a process that could be affordably replicated in Island communities to build a small sustainable business.

The Spice Girls had quite a job to compete with this thorough presentation. Their project had wider scope and after an idea generation exercise they settled on building a commercial pre-bottled ready to drink cold turmeric latte. The recipe was tested using only organic components such as almond milk and organic spices. The value proposition to the buyer is strongly linked to existing science and health benefits associated with turmeric. Consumer research by taste panels settled the balance of flavours.

The invited guests enjoyed a first-class hot chocolate and a very refreshing chilled turmeric latte.

It is hoped that both projects have a next stage, PTI NZ will commission a Digital Resource for Pacific growers of cocoa nibs to take them through a process to make their own cocoa powder which may also have local flavours such as chilli and ginger.

Otago University is working hard to produce a commercial sample of the latte for Etu and Elena to sample at Caffe Culture in London later in October.

PTI NZ also met with the academic team including Dr Nyhof and Dr Pat Silcock to plan the 2019 PTI NZ Deal by Science programme.

For more information email PTI NZ Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong at

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