Leading New Zealand food innovation and commercialisation specialist to run FoodHQ

Dr Abby Thompson

This is a supplied media release.

The current director of Riddet Innovation, Dr Abby Thompson has accepted the role of FoodHQ chief executive. Dr Thompson is experienced in commercially focused research and development and has led this work for the Massey Institute of Food Science and Technology.

FoodHQ chairwoman Sue Foley says Dr Thompson’s credentials are unparalleled.

“Abby brings with her a wealth of knowledge of the commercial and scientific sectors. She is already well known throughout both sectors in New Zealand and internationally. Her appointment will help FoodHQ grow New Zealand’s reputation in food innovation through science based development of value-added products that are valued by customers.”

Dr Thompson is an associate investigator in the Riddet Institute Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), the Director of FoodPilot (part of the New Zealand Food Innovation Network), and is actively involved in both the High Value Nutrition (HVN) National Science Challenge and the MBIE-funded Food Industry Emerging Technologies (FIET) programme.

Previously, Dr Thompson worked for the world’s second-largest food company, PepsiCo, as senior scientist – global projects within their R&D Nutrition team. She completed her doctorate in Food Technology at Massey University and subsequently carried out human clinical studies investigating the effects of nutrition on the risk of non-communicable diseases at the University of Reading in the UK.

Ms Foley says Dr Thompson will work with business and connect them to the innovative capability provided by FoodHQ partners and stakeholders as well as coordinate the development of the FoodHQ precinct master plan.

“Abby and her team will be based at the factory in Fitzherbert Science Park, and together they will complete FoodHQ’s transition from establishment to delivering value to its owners and stakeholders,” she says.

Dr Thompson says she is excited by the appointment.

“My primary interest is in combining the science and the business of food,” she says. “And that is what FoodHQ is really all about. We have some of the world’s leading food scientists as part of FoodHQ – in all our partners employ more than 2200 food innovators across the value-chain. Our challenge and opportunity is to better leverage their knowledge and expertise to enable food companies to innovate more effectively and efficiently.”

“Internationally, New Zealand has a strong reputation in food safety and food quality, but few overseas consumers associate Aotearoa with food innovation except in those key sectors where we dominate international markets,” says Dr Thompson. “We have great scientists and a lot of ingenuity and creativity, but these need to be strengthened and connected.  I am looking forward to working with FoodHQ partners and local and national food companies to see what we can achieve by working better together.”

Ms Foley says FoodHQ acting director Professor Clare Massey will continue to provide leadership and guidance to FoodHQ until Dr Thompson takes up the role in February.

“Claire has done a tremendous job refining FoodHQ’s offering. She has placed FoodHQ on a sound footing for the new chief executive officer to take forward.”


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