A Lincoln-based wool products company is defying the negativity pervading New Zealand’s strong wool industry, with innovative research fuelling its expansion into the booming global nutraceuticals market.
Keraplast Manufacturing is the world’s leading innovator of keratin protein technology. It processes New Zealand strong, or coarse, wool into natural keratin proteins.
Keratin is an essential component of hair, finger and toenails, and skin. The company sells its keratin products as an ingredient for use in health (wound treatment), andskin, hair and nail beauty products world-wide.
Keraplast General Manager Paul Sapsford says a recent innovation involves a bioactive keratin product – keraGEN-IV Nutraceutical – that’s taken in tablet or drink form to“supercharge” the body’s production of collagen, promoting wrinkle reduction and supporting hair follicle and nail strength.
Keraplast has signed an exclusive agreement with AIDP Inc.which will distribute Keraplast NaturalInnovation products into United States and Canadian markets.
“One of the key promotional tools we use to tell the Keraplast story is our strong connection with New Zealand wool growers, where we introduce a customer to a single farming family,” Sapsford says. “Thecustomer can then work with that farm for promotional purposes, showcasing real people and the natural way wool is grown on what are often very scenic properties in New Zealand.”
“Our farmers are fully on board with this and are great ambassadors for New Zealand wool products. Even better, we can guarantee customers that the keratin in their specific products is made only from that farm’s wool.”
This story of connectedness – from farm to end user of the health or beauty product – is a very attractive proposition, Sapsford says, showcasing New Zealand farmers to the world in a very personal way.
“The link from farm to the end customer has worked very well. Nutraceutical sales are increasing, with substantial opportunity for expansion.”
The success of Keraplast is good news for the New Zealand strong wool industry, which is in serious decline with record low prices for coarse wool. Earlier this month the New Zealand Government released Vision and Action for New Zealand's Wool Sector; a new plan to revitalise the struggling strong wool sector developed by the Wool Industry Project Action Group.
Among other things, the plan calls for innovative technology and research to identify high-value uses for wool that reduce reliance on simply providing bulk coarse fibre for the likes of the carpet industry.
“Given the amount of wool we buy each year (up to 80 tonnes), we will never be able to single-handedly rescue the New Zealand strong wool industry,” Sapsford says. “However, our success and the scientific innovation behind it is exactly what the Government and our industry is looking for. The great thing is that we’ve been in this innovative space for more than 20 years and we keep finding new ways to add value to this excellent and unique wool product.”
Keraplast has secured more than 180 patents for its unique processes and end products.
“It’s this continuous development and innovation that has seen Keraplast become one of the bright lights in the strong wool industry where more traditional coarse wool markets face serious questions over their future,”said Paul Sapsford
Keraplast Manufacturing is the world's leading innovator of keratin protein technology. Its Functional Keratin® technology brings the natural benefits of real keratin protein to hair, wound and skin care, and nutrition.
The company is a combination of New Zealand and American research and innovation.
In the United States, Mississippi plastic surgeon Dr Robert Allen Smith observed unusual properties of keratin materials, such as hair,during the course of his surgical practice. From this pioneering medical research he was able to prove the potent wound-healing properties of keratin protein, leading to the foundation of Keraplast in 1996.
New Zealand based research, supported by the New Zealand wool industry, identified industrial processes for the isolation of functional keratin proteins, and formed the company Keratec to commercialise these discoveries in 2001.
When the two companies – Keraplast from the USA and Keratec from New Zealand – met in the early 2000s, a strong partnership evolved. This resulted, several years later, in the merging of the businesses into one entity with an international patent portfolio involving 36 patent families.
All wool sourced by Keraplast is grown in New Zealand and all of the processing is done at Lincoln. The company employs 20 staff and has export orders to the value of approximately $4-$5 million annually.
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