The two companies announced their collaboration at the beginning of this year. Running for an initial five years, its aim is to develop the next generation of fruit flavors and natural fruit-based ingredients.
Against this timeframe, it hasn't taken long for the first 'fruits' to come to market. This week's IFT expo in New Orleans sees the launch of the first hortRealfruit flavors, Oceania Pacifica apple and Gold Kiwi.
Oceania Pacifica has a flavor like that of the Jazz apple variety, to which Enza Ltd owns the trademark. It is described as "crisp, tangy, sweet apple flavor". The Golden Kiwi flavor, on the other hand, is described as a "silky sweet" fruit flavor.
Both are being showcased at Blue Pacific's booth (#1138), in the form of beverage prototypes.
The agreement between Blue Pacific, a US flavor firm, and HortResearch, a New Zealand fruit science company, hinges on access to HortResearch's database. This contains all information on the fruit's biochemical make-up, acid, starches and volatiles, as well as how the varieties were developed through the breeding process.
"The database provides an understanding of why fruit tastes the way it does," Kieran Elborough, business leader-industrial biotech at HortResearch, told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
The primary use of this resource by HortResearch was to help breeders in developing fruit varieties. The Blue Pacific deal is the first time HortResearch has opened up this resource to a commercial enterprise, for the development of ingredients for the market.
For its part, Blue Pacific uses the data to inform its flavor technologies on two main platforms.
The first, called Taste Nanology, involves investigating how dividing molecules into smaller sizes (though not necessarily down to nano size) changes the taste as a result of a greater surface area.
It involves "understanding what the profile of that taste is at that size," said Donald Wilkes, Blue Pacific's president and CEO.
The second involves different applications, such as beverages and confectionery, and the need to give smoothness, avoid bitterness - not just a matter of the flavor.
HortResearch also conducts research into trends and taste preferences among consumers from different countries; the database contains information on optimal conditions for the fruit to yield the best possible flavor to meet those preferences.
Thus, for Wilkes, this enables Blue Pacific to "capture the flavors as nature was meant to supply them," Wilkes said.
He explained that Golden kiwi in the US has a riper flavor, the same fruit in its native New Zealand will have a fresher, more intense taste. This is due to the rigours of the transportation process, pressurisation and other methods used by transporters to prevent the fruit from ripening during travel.
"Nature didn't intend to send fruit in ships for a couple of weeks."
HortResearch will now aim to dramatically grow its database from the 1,000 or so fruits it currently contains, to include different fruits from around the world and not just those of interest to New Zealand breeders.
The initial focus for the new flavors is in the US, followed by Asia (Japan is already the biggest market for golden kiwi fruit).
The third market, and one into which the companies expect to launch in around six months, is Europe - "a very important market", and one in which they have a point of differentiation compared to multinational flavor firms.