The company, based in Blenheim, has developed the means to a stable extract that looks likely to make grape seed extract a more common candidate for use in functional food and cosmetic products.
Director of research Glenn Vile, PhD, told NutraIngredients.com at the Vitafoods show in Geneva: "Functional foods and cosmetics are the way things are going," said Glenn. "The days are gone when you just add vitamin E to a product for antioxidant properties. People want specifics."
The point of differentiation between the new extract, called Vinanza Gold, and others on the market (including the company's own regular Vinanza) is that it uses water rather than ethanol in the extraction process.
Vinanza Gold has a mixture of low and high molecular weight antioxidant compounds, in the same proportion as found naturally in grape seeds. It is standardised to contain at least 63 per cent polyphenolics, of which 80 per cent are oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs) and 20 per cent low molecular weight catechins.
The regular Vinanza, meanwhile, is contains at least 45 per cent polyphenolocs of which around 95 per cent are OPCs and 5 per cent catechins.
Vile believes that the natural assurance of the product will give the company the marketing edge, at a time when consumers and industry are seeking to use or make products that are as natural as can be.
The 18 month-old company has contracts to take the marc (the left over parts of the fruit after the juice has been extracted for wine) from large New Zealand wine companies and is mostly owned by Waigra Hills. It uses only sauvignon blanc grapes from the X of Marlborough; in a sampling of the antioxidant content of a number of different seed this sauvignon blanc was found to have twice the antioxidant content of others.
Vile explained that the conditions in Marlborough make it a unique wine growing area. The air is very clean, and there is a high level of ultra violet radiation due to the hole in the ozone layer.
Although it has not been proven, the Grape Seed Extract Company's theory is that the vines become stressed by the radiation and adapt to protect themselves - a measure that results in the grape's unique flavour and antioxidant content.
Tests have shown that seven to nine percent of the grape seed is made up of antioxidant compounds. Published literature on the subject suggests that other grape varieties and fruit grown in other locations have an average of only three to four per cent.
Both Vinanza Gold and Vinanza are also subject to the principles of sustainability and traceability. New Zealand wine is grown under a sustainable horticultural programme, which involves considered waste disposal and irrigation systems.
The country's clean environment means that the extracts are claimed to be GM-, heavy metal-, arsenic- and pesticide-free - the company screens for the residue of 180 different pesticides in the grapes. It also prides itself on being able to trace the end product back to the very vineyard where it was grown.
The Grape Seed Extract Company has tested the ORAC value (standard antioxidant measure) of its extracts before and after extrusion into breakfast cereal or baking into bread at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Antioxidant activity remained at 95 and 90 per cent respectively.
Vile said that the stability makes the extracts especially suitable for use in food products. It is also water-soluble, so can be used in beverages and bakery products.
In partnership with a cereal company, Vile's team is currently developing a muesli using the natural extract, with the aim of delivering the same antioxidant punch in one serving as in a bunch (75g) of grapes.
The consumer product is expected to make its debut in October in New Zealand.
Other trials are also underway with a beverage company, a biscuit manufacturer and a baking company.
In addition to Europe - where half of the world's grape seed extract is said to end up - Japan holds major opportunities for the young company; there is already a strong association between New Zealand ingredient suppliers and the country that pioneered the concept of functional food in the 1980s.
The company recently received a government research grant that will allow it to assess the precise health benefits of its grape seed extract - for example, for heart health or sports health. The study protocol is currently being designed.
There is evidence on the benefits of grape seed extract in general. The National Cancer Institute is currently conducting a trial on grape seed extract and women who are disposed to have a higher risk of breast cancer.