The Secret to a Sustainable Kiwi Hops Industry

Brewers around the world will be able to access exciting and unique New Zealand hops well into the future thanks to a new hop breeding partnership.

An agreement signed earlier this month will see NZ Hops Ltd, formally partner with Plant & Food Research to ensure a comprehensive strategy is carefully designed to support a sustainable future for the industry.

NZ Hops Ltd, a cooperative of 27 growers, is the market leader in the New Zealand hops industry and supplies New Zealand grown hops to 20 countries around the world.

"This new agreement is a fundamental part of our growth strategy. To secure a strong and sustainable future we must have confidence in our pipeline of new hop varieties, and we must continue our focus on innovation to maximise potential in the industry," said Chief Executive Craig Orr.

Plant & Food Research, a Crown Research Institute, has held a long-standing relationship with the hops industry (dating back to the late 1950s), through its dedicated hop breeding programme led by Dr Ron Beatson, based in Riwaka, Tasman. Breeder, Kerry Templeton has been working alongside Ron since 2017.

"New Zealand produces what are known as 'New World Hops'. They offer unique flavours and aromas which are becoming increasingly popular with brewers of craft beer around the world," noted Beatson.

"The cultivation of a new hop variety is a labour of love. It takes 10 years or more. Seeing them come through successful grower trials and then commercialised is extremely rewarding."

This new agreement has a strong focus on a full pipeline of new varieties with unique flavour and aroma profiles. The programme will look at both breeding new cultivars using parents from the Plant & Food Research collection and assessing existing selections. Plant & Food Research will also be more involved with grower trials as both parties aim to speed up the commercialisation of new varieties, with each organisation sharing in the ongoing financial returns.

For NZ Hops, the agreement ensures they hold ownership of intellectual property in relation to new varieties and enables the co-op to be eligible for R&D tax credits. It also provides the excitement of launching a brand-new hop to the world each or every other year.

A further focus of the agreement is innovation. Value-add hop products are emerging globally and showing great promise. Hops are becoming more accessible through extracts for the brewing industry, but applications could go wider, into health and beauty products and potentially back on the farm in textile form.

"We have a world of opportunity at our feet right now" expressed Orr. "This new agreement sets a clear pathway of research, clarifies ownership, and enables both parties to move forward together with a shared long-term view."