Growing Futures

New flavours for beers

New flavours for beers

New hop cultivars with novel flavour and aroma characteristics can earn a premium on the global marketplace

The global beer market is worth around US$500 billion each year, and around 5% of this is captured by the fast-growing craft and specialty brewing sector. There is a global demand for new beers with novel flavours, and craft brewers are focused on identifying new varieties of hops that can deliver these desired flavour and aroma characteristics.

The New Zealand hops industry exports more than 90% of its hops, generating around $17 million per annum whilst supplying just 1% of the world hops market. The industry is aiming to double its global contribution by 2025 through the introduction of hops with new flavours that demand a premium on the global marketplace.

Hops with a difference

The New Zealand hop breeding programme focuses on developing new cultivars with the unique flavour characteristics desired by the specialty and craft brewing sector. Agronomic characteristics specifically tailored to the New Zealand environment are also important. A key characteristic is resistance to pests and diseases, allowing growers to reduce their use of chemical pesticides and allowing the industry to leverage the Pure New Zealand brand in marketing its products to premium markets.

New cultivars developed through the breeding programme have a variety of unique flavours characteristics, from citrus notes to herbaceous spicy aromas. Genomics tools are being increasingly used to support the breeding team in delivering new cultivars faster by identifying molecular markers for key traits. Selections from the programme are screened using new sensory tools and aroma and bittering properties are evaluated in pilot brewing trials.

More than 85% of hop production in New Zealand is based on these New Zealand-bred cultivars. New Zealand hops are key ingredients in a number of new beers, both domestically and overseas. New Zealand brewing companies are also increasingly exporting craft-style beers to premium markets and marketing these products based both on the new flavour characteristics and by leveraging the Pure New Zealand brand.

Steinlager Pure, for example, was released by Lion Breweries in 2007. The beer uses Pacific Jade, a New Zealand-bred hops cultivar, to deliver a smooth flavour ,and its branding focuses on its New Zealand-sourced ingredients. Steinlager Pure commands approximately 10% of the total premium beer market in New Zealand, and is now available in the USA, Australia and the UK.

The market potential

New Zealand hop production has grown from a cottage industry with a domestic focus to an export-dominated business. The cultivar ‘Nelson Sauvin’, released in 2000, has grape flavours similar to those of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc and is much desired internationally for these unique aroma characteristics. More than 100 tonnes of ‘Nelson Sauvin’ are now produced each year, a five-fold increase in just five years, and generating $2 million at the farm gate. Newer releases ‘Kohatu’ and ‘Wai-iti’ are projected to double New Zealand specialty hop production by 2016 and attract premium prices in excess of $20/kg in the global marketplace.

The hop breeding programme is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment with co-funding from New Zealand Hops Limited, Lion Breweries and DB Breweries.

Created: September 2012

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