MEDIA 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.”