WRONZ-backed Wool Source hitting stride

Image of uncoloured Wool Source Powder on hand with spoonMEDIA RELEASE – Thursday 17 August 2023

A commercial production adoption programme backed by Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ) for strong wool-derived products is gathering pace and attracting strong international interest.

WRONZ established Wool Source in 2021 as a commercialisation venture to test market potential for products developed via the New Uses for Strong Wool programme. This WRONZ-lead programme was supported by wool growers, supply chain participants, Ministry for Business and Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund and awarded Gold Status for the final report by MBIE. WRONZ holds the intellectual property rights and patents for the world-leading technology it generated.

Wool Source CEO Tom Hooper says with the close of the seven-year research programme, the focus on commercialisation for its wool-derived powder, pigments and particle products is starting to yield results.

“We’ve had an incredible response from the different sectors and industries we’ve been introducing to our products. The value proposition wool offers is not only those natural performance benefits of wool, which we’ve retained as we’ve transformed the fibre into new forms, but its credentials as a natural, renewable, biodegradable and ethically sourced product.”

Hooper says the products have attracted interest ranging from large multinationals to local New Zealand players and comes from sectors as diverse as personal care and cosmetics to ink and coatings.

“We’re selling product, we’ve got multiple product development projects underway with international brands and a significant opportunity is opening up for our Wool Source Pigments in the inkjet printing market.”

Hooper says the focus remains on finding markets and opportunities that will return the most value for growers, lift the price of wool at the farm gate and capture as much margin as possible within New Zealand.

“We are crystal clear that our mandate is the WRONZ mandate to maximise the returns for growers. We are ultimately looking for volume sales opportunities for our products and access to our IP and technology is conditional on customers using New Zealand strong wool. This puts us in a different position to a commercial entity looking to maximise their own profitability or short-term returns.”

As Wool Source was set up to establish the commercial viability of its products and create new markets for sales rather than ongoing commercial operations, WRONZ is using an independent advisory firm to investigate the longer-term commercial pathway options and which of those can deliver the greatest success for growers. An opportunity for New Zealand-based investment is expected in the next 12 months.

Meanwhile the market engagement for Wool Source continues at pace.

“We have new Wool Source products launching soon that open up even more markets and travel to Europe and the US planned over the next couple of months to share exciting product development trial results with potential distribution partners,” says Hooper.

“There is a momentum gathering with a lot of irons in a lot of fires. Product adoption of new and novel technology is not an overnight endeavour but I’m feeling positive and excited by the opportunities ahead.”

Lipstick with New Zealand strong wool a world-first

Image of Karen Murrell lipstick and packagingMEDIA RELEASE – Monday 28 November 2022

New Zealand-based company Wool Source and leading lipstick brand Karen Murrell have teamed up to create an unexpected new avenue for strong wool – a lipstick coloured with wool keratin-based pigment.

This collaboration marks the first product to be created and commercially available using Wool Source’s drop-in ingredient and is believed to be a world-first in beauty.

Wool Source Chief Executive Tom Hooper says, “We’re excited that the first product using our ingredient is coming to market in New Zealand and will be something New Zealanders and growers can get behind.

“By collaborating with an experienced and respected brand like Karen Murrell, we’ve been able to test the performance of our pigment with a rigorous product development process and we’re delighted that it’s created a product that Karen and her team are excited by and keen to promote.”

Wool Source Pigments are one of the products Wool Source is looking to commercialise out of the New Uses for Strong Wool programme backed by wool growers, supply chain participants, Ministry for Business and Innovation and Employment and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund. The seven-year multi-million-dollar research programme was spearheaded by Wool Research of New Zealand (WRONZ). WRONZ then founded Wool Source in 2021 to test market potential for its world-leading technology in deconstructing wool fibre into pigments, powders and particles that retain wool’s performance benefits at ultra-fine particle level.

Leading global Lipstick Designer and beauty entrepreneur Karen Murrell says she was blown away by the research and the performance of the ingredient.

“The wool keratin powder can absorb and neutralise pollutants, preventing them from damaging your skin from oxidative stress. The absorbent nature of the keratin powder in the pigment and its light sponge-like character locks the moisture in close to the skin, keeping the lips well hydrated.”

Murrell explains the ultra-fine keratin powder is undetectable in the application of the lipstick and is incredibly soft, completely non gritty, and applies like a very smooth, balm-like lipstick with a deep red colour.

Murrell was particularly excited to see the collaboration come through testing stage so well as she hails from a rural background in Te Awamutu and was keen to support the farming sector.

The wool used for the pigment is from Westmere Farm in Ashburton and she says, “The traceability of the keratin held huge appeal for us and the design on the product box is a shot of the actual farm that the sheep are from.”

Hooper adds, “We’re seeing a lot of interest and excitement in our products from different sectors and organisations around the world. We have ingredients that are natural, sustainable, ethically sourced, biodegradable and completely traceable and that’s increasingly important to brands and to consumers. And then wool brings all these amazing performance benefits like moisture management, pollution control, odour absorption, flame retardance and more.”

In keeping with its strong rural ties, the new lipstick dubbed “Kera Kisses” will be launched at Fieldays on 30 November and available for purchase online at karenmurrell.com.

Wool Source features in leading international cosmetic science magazine

Wool Source article in Cosmetics and Toiletries magazine

Wool Source article in Cosmetics and Toiletries magazine

Wool Source Powders and Pigments have attracted international interest with publication in Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine – the definitive peer-reviewed publication for cosmetic scientists around the world.

The magazine’s April 2022 edition features potential ideas to protect the skin against key facets of the exposome, or the totality of a person’s exposures in life. Wool Source products are offered up as a potential solution in the article “Wool Source Powder and Pigments for Pollution Protection – A Proposal” by Amy Cruickshank (Ph.D), Gail Krsinic, Claire Clark from Lincoln Agritech Limited (LAL) and Wool Source’s Chief Scientific Officer Rob Kelly (Ph.D.) (also from LAL).

The piece shares details of the active anti-pollution performance of our Wool Source Powder and Pigments. Wool Source’s patent-protected technology has captured the performance benefits of wool in fine, insoluble powder form, including its proven ability to neutralise pollutants common to urban environments – you can read more about our testing and compelling results in the article.

If you would like more information on our Wool Source products or their pollution protection functionality, please contact us at info@woolsource.co.nz

WRONZ launches Wool Source

WRONZ-led wool research initiative develops unique wool particle products with applications from cosmetics to printing; WRONZ establishes Wool Source and pilot production plant to create new products and secure new markets – to help revitalise New Zealand’s strong wool sector

CHRISTCHURCH, NZ – 26 July 2021 – Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand Inc (WRONZ) today announced its world class research initiative with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to explore new uses for New Zealand’s strong wool has led to the development of unique wool particles, powders and pigments with global export potential for applications as diverse as cosmetics, printing, luxury goods and personal care.

WRONZ unveiled the innovative wool products at an event to celebrate the achievements from its New Uses for Strong Wool programme, supported by research, industry and funding partners. WRONZ also announced the launch of commercial development company Wool Source to develop the new products and assess market demand for the strong wool innovation. WRONZ further announced the completion of its pilot production facility to manufacture its first deconstructed wool ingredients from 100 per cent biodegradable, renewable and sustainable New Zealand strong wool.

WRONZ Chairman Andy Fox says, “We’re delighted to announce these significant research and commercial milestones as we work to add value to the post-harvest strong wool industry alongside our collaborators and stakeholders. By funding fundamental and enabling science that creates new uses and products from our traditional wool clip, we aim to create better outcomes for farmers with increased demand and pricing at the farm gate and create sustainable value across the wool sector.”

The launch event also provided the opportunity to announce investment from the Ministry for Primary Industries to fund further product lines and commercial development as part of the wider New Uses for Strong Wool programme. MPI is contributing $1.95 million via its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund alongside $2.92 million from WRONZ.

The three-year programme aims to prove the commercial viability of the new deconstructed wool particle products. The goal is to develop more sustainable product ingredient alternatives for global manufacturers and consumers – while revitalising New Zealand’s strong wool sector, creating new value for our economy and communities. Additionally, The Strong Wool Action Group (SWAG) announced it was jointly funding Wool Source’s market engagement alongside WRONZ.

SWAG chief executive Andy Caughey says, “We’re providing support for Wool Source to undertake a deep dive project into particles, powders and pigments markets to assess the scale and viability of the commercial opportunity. New Zealand’s wool production, 90% of which is strong wool, is at a low point with declining sheep numbers. With many farmers selling wool at a net cost this season, the industry is desperately seeking innovation to boost strong wool demand and prices.”

Wool Industry Research Limited (WIRL), a wholly-owned subsidiary company of WRONZ, is five years into its seven-year research contract for the New Uses for Strong Wool R&D programme. MBIE invested $8.4 million of the $21 million seven-year project in partnership with WRONZ. The research programme has focussed on deconstructing wool to a cellular and particle level and then reconstructing it for various product uses.

WIRL chairman Garth Carnaby says, “I’m incredibly proud of the world-class research team we’ve assembled and our significant wool research capability. Key research partners Lincoln Agritech, AgResearch and Lincoln University have helped us deliver outstanding research breakthroughs. We’re excited to see this research progress to the commercial development and market engagement phase – with the potential to stimulate new market demand for the New Zealand wool industry.”

WRONZ has just completed its pilot plant facility at Lincoln University, which the WRONZ board backed and funded from its own capital. Wool Source will operate the pilot production plant to run production trials, develop market samples, and engage with parties interested in new product development.

Wool Source chief executive Tom Hooper says, “Wool Source is reimagining the future of New Zealand wool. Our new pigment, particle and powder products – from all-natural, sustainable, strong wool particles – provide the base ingredient for a new generation of high-performance materials, free from chemicals, metals, and toxins. We’re focusing on proving the commercial viability of our products and establishing demand, predominantly with international markets. To do this, we need to demonstrate we can produce at scale, with a unit production cost and price point that enables margins that create long term value-added opportunities for the New Zealand wool sector.”

Wool Source is looking for local partners, especially in personal care, cosmetics, pigments, and printing. Hooper says, “Wool fleece is the perfect sustainable, biodegradable, cruelty-free and traceable natural product – with intrinsic positive characteristics that enable use against the skin. From skincare to luxury fibres, the opportunities for new products are endless. Ultimately, we’d like to see the future development of a large-scale manufacturing operation in New Zealand solely using New Zealand strong wool.”

Fox adds, “Today is a significant step forward towards our vision for new uses for strong wool that create new market demand and create better outcomes for farmers and the wool sector.”
For more information see www.woolsource.co.nz


Media enquiries & further information:

Sandra Lukey, Shine Group (PR for WRONZ/ Wool Source)
+64 21 2262 858

Caption: Exploring new uses for New Zealand’s strong wool. Wool Source pigments are currently in pre-commercialisation trials.


Launch Images:

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor (centre) with the Wool Source team (left to right) market engagement manager Nick Aubrey, Dr Rob Kelly (CTO), Tom Hooper (CEO) and market engagement manager Sheralee MacDonald

About Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand Inc (WRONZ)

Established in 1961, WRONZ is committed to the promotion, research and scientific work that enhances the position of New Zealand wool and the price farmers receive for it. Through our research arm, Wool Industry Research Limited (WIRL), we are world-renowned for the quality of our research and success in innovative technology development into new wool products and uses. The majority of sheep farmed in New Zealand produce coarse diameter wool used mainly in floorcoverings, the increasing use of synthetic fibres in these products has reduced the demand and price of wool. Our focus is to create an entirely new wool ingredient manufacturing sector within New Zealand, creating high value and high volume uses for New Zealand strong wool. These could see use in a wide range of sectors and will initially focus on the cosmetics, personal care, printing and luxury goods areas. We also invest in education and professional development, supporting wool-related qualifications and post-graduate research fellowships that support our research and development programme.

About Wool Source

Wool Source, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand Inc (WRONZ), was formed to focus on the commercial development of WRONZ’s New Uses for Strong Wool programme. We are taking the deconstructed wool products created from this research project – including particles, powders and pigments – and testing them in our purpose-built pilot facility and engaging with the market to determine commercial viability. These base ingredients for a new generation of high-performance materials, free from chemicals, metals, and toxins – can be applied to industries as diverse as cosmetics, personal care, printing and high end luxury goods.

About Wool Industry Research Limited (WIRL)

Wool Industry Research Limited (WIRL) is the research arm of Wool Research Organisation of NZ Inc (WRONZ). A wholly-owned subsidiary and jointly funded by WRONZ and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), it has developed a world-class research team focused on developing new uses for Strong Wool. WIRL undertakes research that increases the value and competitiveness of commercial New Zealand wool-based activity through cooperation, integration and sector development built on leading-edge R&D.