Good afternoon “friends of the most beautiful berry, the best berry for life!”

Last weekend a top New Zealand science programme broadcast an article on public television: “Spotlight on Science and Technology”. The programme is being run under the auspices of the Royal Society of New Zealand: it represents some of the finest scientific minds in New Zealand: it is highly respected.

Last Saturday’s programme featured a section on the work of Plant and Food Research New Zealand and the work of two scientists: Dr Arjan Scheepens and his work on mood foods, including blackcurrants; Dr Roger Hurst and his work on blackcurrant and sport. (Some of you will remember Dr Hurst who gave a very good presentation at the first IBA Conference in New Zealand in 2008.)

Dr Scheepens has established that some foods allow a person to undertake challenging mental tasks and perform better and feel less mentally fatigued. The details of that research and the actual foods used are still to be announced so we can’t assume it was only about blackcurrants. But I like the way it seems to have a scientific synergy with the work being done by Dr Derek Stewart. Delegates at Beaune will remember Dr Stewart tabling research showing that dark berry polyphenols helped make better quicker decisions under stress.

But the most exciting part of the programme, for me, in that it showed results that are ready to promote right now, was Dr Hurst’s section on blackcurrant and sport!

If you want a wonderful positive boost to how you feel as a member of the blackcurrant industry you really MUST visit the website and enjoy for yourself what he says. (It starts with a brief advertisement for a TV programme but then the ‘Ever Wondered’ programme starts.)

The programme looks at how effective Blackcurrants are at preventing muscle damage and oxidative cell damage.

To quote Dr Hurst: “we were surprised…quite exciting…we got a very positive result from the study we did with blackcurrants…the evidence indicates that consuming the blackcurrants in those situations gave a two-pronged benefit. One was controlling the oxidative stress mediated by the exercise….the other was reducing the minor muscle damage that was produced (by the exercise). The other was assisting the natural immune inflammation response that occurs through exercise.”

This is wonderful research and wonderful timing.

For decades blackcurrants have been positioned as a premium source for of Vitamin C and for their antioxidant values. And those values are real and significant BUT we’ve also seen new fad food fruits (especially new berries) appearing with almost monotonous regularity claiming to be bigger and better with their own antioxidant values. But are these values simply test tube lab results: what research has been done to show how relevant they are to the human physiology.

But with Blackcurrants what we are now seeing is research based on the body: on the physiological, real effect. And in the case of blackcurrants and sport the effect is beautifully real and proven!

We all know that we are in a time of economic hardship: the consumer is being more selective and responsible in their purchasing decisions. Silly spin and unsubstantiated marketing hype is going to be less effective. The consumer is looking for real benefits that are RELEVENT to them and their lifestyles.

Positioning blackcurrants as the ultimate food supplement for sports recovery is a wonderful and unique opportunity to provide a real benefit to consumers. And it means manufacturers will need to create products that use real amounts of pure fruit in their consumer goods. (That is good for the grower and the consumer!)

What I also like is that this research is synergistic with the research being done in Japan and France and the UK and elsewhere. At the Conference in Beaune we discussed how research seemed to be about what are otherwise are quite disparate research topics: eyesight, brain health, muscle health, blood flow to extremities, asthma and others. But if we don’t think of the body parts separately, but instead think of the bundled value for a specific purpose, eg reduction of oxidative stress, and if we think of a universal application for good, for example for sport recovery: then the result is stunning. It brings everything together and we see blackcurrant having the potential to create:

– Better sports rifle sharpshooting
– Better visual acuity trout fishing and sports hunting and the like at the like at dawn and dusk
– Better body extremity protection in extreme weather conditions: yachting snow-skiing etc
– Better recovery from physical exertion post training and post event
– Reduced inflammation post bruising in physical contact sports.
and even
– Better visual acuity for sustained computer gamers (it’s a very competitive sport!)

I’m aware of much more good news to come over the next few weeks from innovative researchers and marketers and we’ll post them for you as they happen.

If you know of good news in your territory, send me the information so we can share it!

We need to promote our “champions of cassis”: they will take us into the future.

If just a tiny fraction of the world’s sports people take real blackcurrant concentrates, juices, or powders to improve their physical condition the potential is still quite phenomenal. At a time when many horticultural industries are under economic attack this could be the best decade ever for the beautiful blackcurrant.

Our agreed slogan is “the best berry for life” and to be more specific perhaps: “the best berry for a sporting life”.

Fond regards to all.

Bill Floyd
Secretary/International Blackcurrant Association

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