New Zealand: Ministry supports breeding of “unique super-premium hops” with US$3.5 million

New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries has launched a new joint craft beer and hop breeding programme aimed to develop “unique super-premium hops for exceptional craft brewers” in order to put New Zealand’s craft beer on the map “for top-tier markets.”

The ministry hopes to replicate New Zealand’s success with wines. Until recently, wine connoisseurs did not think of the country in the South-West Pacific when considering a good wine. Nowadays sauvignon blanc and pinot noir wines from New Zealand are conquering the international markets and the island down under is the fastest-growing wine-exporting country to the US.

Hāpi Research, a joint venture between Garage Project, a leading Wellington craft brewer, and Freestyle Farms, a leading Nelson hop farm has partnered with the Ministry for Primary Industries in a NZ$13.25 million (US$8.7m), seven-year Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme. The ministry is contributing 40% (NZ$5.3m = US$3.5m) to the project and the rest of 60% (NZ$7.95m = US$5.2m) comes from the other two partners.

Tom Greally, chief executive officer for Garage Project, says the programme intends to support entry into new markets for New Zealand craft brewers and enable new grower and brewer business models.

"We want to create a sustainable point of difference for New Zealand grown hops and craft beer," says Mr Greally.  "Through the programme, we want to understand the unique chemical compounds of our hops that produce New Zealand flavours, and how to best accentuate them in finished beer."

Garage Project co-founder Jos Ruffell adds, "Our aspiration is to develop the resources and tools for domestic and export success along the lines of what our wine industry has achieved – elevating New Zealand craft beer to a sustainable global brand that commands premium pricing across all markets."

"Our programme will pursue research to enhance and differentiate super-premium hop and craft beer markets and boost the growth of both industries," says Freestyle Farms director David Dunbar.  "By collaborating across industries we'll accelerate development of unique Kiwi hops, promote uniquely New Zealand craft beer, and open up new areas to hop growing."

Hop growing will be supported by research on new precision agriculture practices and processing methods, and licensing for the hops will be limited to New Zealand growers.

MPI director-general Martyn Dunne says: "The  PGP programme will create a cross-industry research and development programme that's commercially viable, sustainable in the long-term, with strong commercialisation pathways driven by the market.

"The collaborative efforts will strongly support development of high-value, premium products from regional businesses. The Hāpi – Brewing Success PGP programme will help growers and brewers to explore new possibilities for our hop growing and craft beer industries."

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