Elife's Wild Tumeric studied by Otago University

Samoa’s own wild turmeric drink has been studied by the University of Otago Food Science Department, which has successfully developed a low-sugar spiced edition of the health drink.

Etu Tusitala, the man behind ELife Samoa Wild Turmeric, said having Food Science students work on his product was a blessing.

For the second year in a row, four students in Food Product Development have taken on the task of adding value to Mr. Tusitala’s product. 

In 2018, the first group succeeded in making a spiced version of the drink, while this year’s cohort have managed to cut out the excess sugar in the mix using natural sweeteners like stevia.

Pacific Trade Invest has a relationship with the University, and regularly brings Pacific businesses to get student research on.

Using Mr. Tusitala’s brief of what he wanted out of the partnership, the students researched, marketed, tested and tested again to bring a new flavour to Elife’s stable.

Dominic Agyei, lecturer in the Food Science department and the supervisors of this year’s group studying turmeric juice, said the product was ideal because the previous class had already worked on improving it.

After extensive testing they learned the drink was still quite sweet, and as a health drink, Mr Tusitala wanted to ensure it wasn’t going to be harmful. So the new class were able to take the 2018 group’s product and remove all that extra sugar.

Mr Tusitala took the 2018 cohort’s product to London, and said a café owner there became “hooked” onto it.

“One was the taste, two was the aroma, and it was done by University of Otago,” Mr. Tusitala. They have been consistently stocking that café ever since, he said, which sells upwards of 100 turmeric lattes a week at £6.50 (T$22.40) each.

With products like his, and the more concentrated flavour from Otago, Mr. Tusitala has his sights set on stocking major café chains like Starbucks.

He said the work the students do actually helps consumers trust his product because they can see it has been scrutinised and researched.

“It’s every human beings subconscious thought, with anything to do with something medicinal.”

Turmeric has scientifically proven health benefits, and Mr. Tusitala produced the juice to make those benefits more accessible, he said.

Watching his own mother recover from illness through, among other things, drinking turmeric juice regularly was evidence enough for him to believe in the roots strength.

However, medicinal amounts of turmeric from supplements should be avoided by children and pregnant women.

“It’s human nature, not to believe it until it happens,” Mr. Tusitala said.

“But when it happens is too late, we need to prevent it before it happens.

“That is why I say to people, turmeric is not going to hurt you, it’s going to improve you, it’s going to make your system, and especially your digestive system, better.”

As well as a drink for regular consumption, Mr. Tusitala says the beverage can also be used as an ingredient in cooking for an extra flavour and health boost.

Recently, he has also found a way to use the turmeric pulp left behind when the juice is made: dog food.

He and his wife, Elena Tusitala, who is also the financial controller of the company, discovered their dog completely recovered from ticks and fleas after eating the pulp mixed into his food.

They have packaged it up in a plain and noni juice format, which has improved the shelf-life of the product. 

Next week, Mr. Tusitala will meet the Food Science students for the first time and receive their final report on their project.

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