New Zealand’s largest seafood company, Sanford, has opened a new $20 million marine extracts plant in Blenheim, Marlborough, with the hopes of investing in under-appreciated marine products.

The company's general manager for innovation, Andrew Stanley, said the new plant will take marine products that Sanford is already making, like its anti-inflammatory greenshell mussel powder, and invest in them further.

“We already make it, we already sell it, it is very popular,” he said. “Our new bioactives centre introduces new tech and equipment which gives us a chance to double and eventually quadruple our output.”

Stanley also said there were new areas of marine extracts and science that Sanford was planning to explore, as the company currently worked with more than 100 different marine species.

“This science is being done with great partners like Cawthron, Plant & Food and Massey University," he said. “And our Blenheim plant will be a home for much of that work.”

Sanford chief executive Peter Reidie said some of the products Sanford would be making at the plant “sound like science fiction”.

“Hoki skin collagen is one of those,” he said. “We extract the collagen from the hoki skins and then one of our partners turns it into a nanofibre. 

"That fibre is then woven into beauty masks which melt on contact with damp skin, delivering the collagen deep into the dermis.”

He said these “sell out” in South Korea, which showed that there was “huge potential” to grow and to make the most of a product like fish skin, which many people saw as waste.

“Blenheim is currently world-famous as a centre for beautiful New Zealand wines,” he said. “We believe it can and should become famous as a home for marine products and extracts that can take the world by storm.”

The Sanford bioactives centre is planning to create new jobs for scientists and technicians in Marlborough and will eventually employ up to 48 people.

Sanford’s shares were up 0.5% to $4.25 this morning.