Medicinal mushrooms a growth area for Alpha Group
Business is booming for natural health products made from mushrooms and other fungi – so much so that Alpha Group is planning on doubling the size of its New Zealand-based mushroom-growing facilities.
The Auckland based company was established in 1998 by mycologist (mushroom expert) Professor Yinhuai Gao and has since expanded to establish branches in China, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar. Alpha Group is a vertically-integrated business, so it was a logical step for Professor Gao to also set up mushroom growing operations in New Zealand and Asia.
Alpha Group’s General Manager Maggie Chen says fungi have long been prized in Chinese traditional medicine so Asian countries comprise the company’s largest markets. However, in New Zealand there is now a steadily-growing market for Chinese natural health products amongst Pakeha, Maori and Pacific Islanders.
Immune system support products are popular with these new markets, but anti-constipation products are also in surprisingly high demand.
Although some of Alpha Group’s products are fruit or herb-based, more than half contain mushroom extracts.
The company has what it understands to be New Zealand’s only commercial medicinal mushroom-growing operation, in Auckland. At present it grows golden enoki, white enoki and phoenix mushrooms. All of them are also valued as food, so some are sold to local restaurants.
Maggie says Alpha Group grows around 10 tonnes of mushrooms a year in Auckland but demand is outstripping supply, so there are plans to double the size of the facilities and also add oyster mushrooms to the range.
Although medicinal mushrooms are a growth area for Alpha Group, the company is also innovating in other areas, in April 2016, Alpha set up a natural nutraceutical research centre with Massey University to evaluate extracts from common New Zealand plants for biological activity.
These are exciting times for Alpha Group!