The plum contains the world’s biggest source of vitamin C. It also has a unique antioxidant self-defence system, a smart environment adaptation to protect itself from the consequences of high UV index that prevails in Northern territory.
As a result, some cosmetics containing extract of the Kakadu plum have been clinically proven to smoothen wrinkles and brighten skin tone.
The three-year, A$2.7m ($1.95m) project hopes to address the significant opportunities that exist within the fruit’s value chain, said Jed Matz, chief executive of the new Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, which is co-investing A$500,000 towards the project
“The Kakadu plum is a very versatile product and this project showcases the opportunities which flow from investing and building a stronger value chain, such as more training and career opportunities for Indigenous communities.”
Demand for the fruit is expected to grow by 10% annually over the coming years, according to the University of Queensland associate professor Yasmina Sultanbawa.
“[There are] significant opportunities emerging in the nutraceutical, supplement and pharmaceutical industries, so looking at how we can improve the value chain to better capture these new markets will be a key focus of this research,” she said.
Another project partner, Kindred Spirits Traditional Homeland Enterprises, started processing and selling Kakadu plum fruit, puree and powder products in 2013.
Its executive officer, Ann Shanley, said the project would bring together lessons learned about the existing value supply chain and apply research techniques to identify how the Kakadu plum industry can grow its market share through new products and marketing opportunities.
“Our potential customers keep telling us they want to use Kakadu plum in food products, cosmetics and nutraceuticals, but they need information about how they can do so,” she said.
Growing the market and increasing demand also creates opportunity for local Indigenous harvesting communities to grow their enterprises and their local economy, she said.
Matz said the project presents an exciting opportunity for traditional owner-led enterprises across Northern Australia.
“Importantly for us, this project promises to further develop the economic opportunities for Indigenous communities by driving investment and creating new jobs and training across generations,” he added.