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Food giant set to steer kiwifruit innovation


Friday 15th July 2011

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A subsidiary of global food giant Nestle says it is taking a minority stake in Vital Foods, a New Zealand company that specialises in developing kiwifruit-based "functional foods" solutions for gastrointestinal conditions.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but Nestle Health Science said in a statement that it would take a seat on the board of Vital Foods "to help steer future product development as well as commercial strategy".

Vital Foods has two established products on the market -- Kiwi Crush and Phloe -- both of which use a natural kiwifruit extract shown in clinical trials to be effective against constipation, which affects about 15 percent of the general adult population in Oceania, Europe and the US.

Nestle Health Science chief executive Luis Cantarell said the Vital Foods products aligned strongly with his own company's commitment to science-based nutritional solutions for gastrointestinal health.

Vital Foods chief executive Gursh Bindra, said he was excited to have Nestle Health Science as a strategic investor and looked forward to working with it to further develop the product range.

Established in 1991, Vital Foods created a blend of green kiwifruit pulp as Kiwi Crush, sold as a frozen concentrate, then found that it could help the bowel problems of hospital patients as well as geriatric patients and pregnant women.

The drink has since been widely used in hospitals and nursing homes to aid digestion and relieve constipation. Vital Foods then patented a kiwifruit extract powder trademarked as Zyactinase, and used an improved version in Phloe liquids and chewable tablets for bowel health.

Inventages, a Bahamas-based company which manages Nestle Venture Funds, had been an investor in Vital Foods for a number of years. About 7.8 million of Vital Foods' 9.8 million shares are held in the Bahamas or by Nestle in Switzerland. Companies Officer records show the remaining two million shares are divided between 26 shareholders in New Zealand, including 489,000 held by BioPacific Ventures in Auckland and 178,000 held by Seeka Kiwifruit Industries in Te Puke.

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