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INTERVIEW

“Lupin flour goes well with flatbread products like chapati and dosa”
Monday, 06 September, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
The Lupin Co., is a 100% Australian owned and operated food company. It is a vertically integrated company including prime Australian Sweet Lupin farms, a bespoke Lupin manufacturing and packaging facility near Perth, Western Australia. It deals with distribution of a range of consumer retail, food service and commercial scale products. Signature products are flake, flour, hull/husk and splits and kibble.

The Australia India Business Exchange (AIBX) programme, which is Australian Government’s flagship programme to advance trade and investment links with India, saw David Fienberg, managing director, The Lupin Co., who has a strong background in agriculture and Lupin food development, present strong points about adopting Lupin into everyone’s daily diet.
Fienberg explains the opportunity for a significant global breakthrough in gluten-free Lupin foods as well as an India perspective, in an interview with Kimberley Fernandes. Excerpts:

How has the competitive landscape of the food and beverage industry changed during Covid-19?
I am not a food expert but what I can tell you is all the customers globally, and we currently export to about 5 countries, all of our customers are very busy and the stories they tell me is that they are doubling revenue and in doubling revenue again and doubling revenue again, where the need food seems to have traced in the sector and that is in its not a health food but a portion of healthy food. It’s an ingredient but with some wheat type products, we also sell into the foods where the demand from consumers globally has been very much focussed in our sector and foods that help boost just general immunity, during which time you know having soups and eating fewer legumes certainly does trigger an improved immunity for people demographic, but there has also been a very strong focus on gut health being a primary driver for enhancing immunity and these trying to loop in a perfect contributor because not only at 40% protein and only 4% carbohydrate but at 48% dietary fibre what this means is that dietary fibre as a probiotic phased a good gut and what that does is that simply stimulate the immune system so that we are more resilient to the things like colds and cases of the flu. 

We have never said that this will present as an immune response to Covid, we will never do that what we still say is that in terms of general immunity to the normal symptoms of cold and just helping us feel better you need to improve, you need to get your gut back together into a good position and a way to do that is to use really good quality dietary fibre. So, we can hit the landscape has been really about allowing us to raise the level of awareness on legume and it’s got lots of dietary fibre that improves immunity. A challenge for the competitive landscape is that many of the expos taking place at Australia and India and many others explaining norms being difficult to travel over the last 18 months, so what that means is that our core strategy around marketing is at a change. Webex and Zoom has been amazing, in fact, the challenge of not being out to present proved in a way that we would recommend then, that is driven our need for more videos on your YouTube channel to engage the support of football for example. It’s another tactic for being able to showcase our products.
 
Are consumers inclined towards healthier product choices given the rising number of health-conscious trends and what role do you see prominent stakeholders playing? 
Yes, I think. My mother used to say you need to always take a bit of extra vitamin and it was just an amazing way of boosting your immunity. But we also see that kids take all these such as food manufacturers and we have many customers that are food manufacturers that are now adopting as a base for many of their products and natural protein, protein isolate, taking a really large piece of the profile for protein generally throughout the world however that requires some processing, whereas Lupin is a natural protein at 40% protein so we have seen a bit of significant change with the use of natural protein as a base for many foods ranging from soups and muesli bars and porridges and some and we are pleased with that. 
 
Tell us about the Lupin Co. What are the health benefits, especially in the context of diabetes?
Well, I will tell you about Lupin Co. We started business in 2016 and it was all about focussing on finding a chipping point for consumers to recognise that Lupin can be used at every meal, every pantry, and every part of the world and to find that chipping point where Lupin is recognised as a valuable human food. There is a professor whose name is Peter Leadman, he is the head of the Western Institute of medical research which is a primary cancer research facility. He was the chairman of the centre for food and genome medicine which was a 3-year study focussed on Lupin and he once said to me not that long ago that one day Lupin will be prescribed as a medicine. And that’s the thing that gets me out of bed every single morning, it’s a very powerful statement from a man who heads up an amazing organisation. Lupin has got some amazing contributing factors including in the context of diabetes are the ability to reverse diabetes. Obesity and diabetes go hand in hand globally and one way to remedy that is to see the effects of modern-day foods to include plant-based protein in a diet that is high in dietary fibre and low in carbohydrates which convert to sugar. A lot of the focus for the centre of food and genome medicine study which included a lot of high-profile scientists globally was based on the focus on obesity, diabetes, lowering blood pressure, and mechanisms that drove human health to try to deal with modern day foods. It is such a versatile legume it can be eaten every single day, it doesn’t need to be thoroughly cooked, it doesn’t need to be soaked, it doesn’t need any special treatment other than just use the Lupin flakes as a complement to whatever you are eating. Chapati, dosa, a beautiful Indian curry, just needs to be simply added as your protein source.
 
What types of research and development go into your products and how does that set you apart from your competitors?
Firstly, we use high-profile universities, and there is a number of them in Australia that have a very strong focus on Lupin. Kurtin University has possibly done the vast majority of work in the parallel university of Western Australia, many scientists from Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent may have found in the works. We have also worked with a tri-state university, Professor Eugina Belleski is one of Australia’s leading dieticians and presents globally. So, there is a lot of research completed at each stage and our current research focusses on how do we produce so very high protein ingredients in the log of 90-95% protein. We are now going to the aggressive stages that are judicially associated with developing protein isolates. 

We are very much focussed on sustainability and clean lining our business and as a consequence of that we tried very hard to work with non-aggressive sustainable processes such that it delivers to a broad range of consumers because consumers ask us what we are into making your Lupin flakes and ask how do we make this so I can say this is a natural product made naturally and it has all the benefits if you just have it.

Well, I guess, it is not just the research that sets us apart from our competitors, we need to go back to 100 years of Lupin growing farms, we have our farm source, we use progenerated culture with full GPS controlled equipment and we are getting bogged down into all of the technologies associated with that which gives the ability with prominence and flexibility to tell you exactly what happened, many years before that. And quality assurance ratings which include passive g and p’s. One of the things that narrow us to take any or all customers is that we know exactly where our products come from, we know how I made it, we pack it ourselves and we know exactly how it is delivered so there is no opportunity for any compromise for any part of the journey. 

Any questions around quality, how we make the product, pack it, the sustainability angles which is also in our blogs called ‘quest for sustainability which tells what sets us apart, it’s the use of very advanced technology in terms of efficiency, the minimum use of chemicals for example on the farm on a very basic as needs basis. The rotation being used is made to ensure that we can manage our wages. The needs for chemicals change dramatically. We use solar panels for much of our power and our packaging – we are trying hard to find more and more ways to reduce the global footprint. I think that’s what sets us apart from our competitors. We are not just someone who is pushing the barrel of Australian Lupin, we are well into the knowledge of where the product came from, the demand, and supply chains.
 
Elaborate on the company’s plans for Indian markets and list the products that will be available for Indian consumers.
Well, firstly, India is an amazing place – it’s got such huge potential to develop stronger and stronger relationships with Australia and our whole strategy is we do whatever it takes to develop stronger relationships with the food market within India and we intend to have support for safety standards having an India approved importation of Lupin. Lupin seeds look like chanadaal, they look like lentils and not to be consumed with them we feel that this is not a step too far for the Indian consumer market so I mean we will be marketing our product online through India in a way where the Indian consumer market recognises the need for protein but perhaps not recognise the benefits of dietary fibre but they would recognise the benefit of low carbohydrate. 

So the combination of high protein and low carbohydrates we feel the things that we can add to our strategy where it is not a huge step for the Indian consumer to try our product and adapt it the same way as in our own home. So we can say they boil it, they grind it, cook it and they turn in those beautiful curries just to complement the meal and gradually progressively increase the quantities consumed in the home. It will have a significant difference – a positive effect for the consumer. The products will be viable, initially, it will be one product and that is Australian Sweet Lupin, mainly because they look the same, you cook them the same, have a very long shelf life, limited moisture content, as for the shelf life of at least two years makes them robust in terms of giving some time to gain some traction in the market and the usability inside the Indian consumer’s home.

Describe the company’s vision for sustainable living.
We are in our business and so we have very much focussed on the things that we can control and this around use of power, use of diesel for example for our equipment in the farm, use of packaging, use of chemicals, use of manpower and the ability to recycle and reduce wastes, I can talk a lot about that, but in terms of sustainable living, my strong feeling is that it is all about the global footprint, it is all about using a whole lot less water for example on my paper the quest for sustainability I gave some figures that I hardly referenced about water use efficiency of meat production for example compared to Lupin production and it is a standout winner by a factor of 10 fold where the production of 1 kilo of protein from Lupin compared to 1 kilo of protein from white meat, or chicken meat is significantly better so we think that is a really good place to start. 

Reducing wastes, for example, we have done a major study which we have completed around the use of Lupin husk, which happened to me was months ago used as a stock feed, we are very close to launching that in the Australian market and the international market as a source of dietary fibre for humans instead of and that is an indigestible dietary fibre. We do whatever we can to minimise the global footprint. We are going out of our way to develop robotic solutions, the industry is in a massive vacuum, so it has forced us into robotics and automation to such an extent that is wastages are being minimised and power usages being reduced, loss of productivity is reduced. While the vacuum in many places has been negative in some respects it has helped reduce our global footprint.

What are the company’s key long-term and short-term goals?
Long-term goal is to work hard with key international partners to find a tipping point where Australia’s Lupin is recognised as valuable in terms of human health food, what that means is people start to think more about consuming Lupin gives me a loss of protein that I would normally get from red meat or white meat or fish and it gives me a low carbohydrate option as opposed to eating meat which is often associated with high carbohydrate, high fat, high salt, high sugar which has a significant detrimental effect.

The short-term goal is really about education. Everywhere I have travelled, even throughout India people don’t know what Lupin is. In India, it is recognised as a pharmaceutical company, there is even a television character, a fabulous show which I have watched a number of times but people don’t know what Australian Sweet Lupin is. Once they learn about Australian Sweet Lupin they say, this is amazing, how come I haven’t thought about it before. In the end, today it's simply because we just need to market it more strongly and that marketing is from an Indian perspective will be all the more important. We will be trying to find ways which can gather the attention of the Indian consumer, Indian food manufacturers the Indian food service. So, our short-term goal is that before Christmas we will be in India selling our product online on all the platforms like Amazon with some strong marketing at heart that demonstrates the clear hope that Lupin offers.

What are the strengths of the Australian food industry? Does it have an edge in the international market?
I think it does, I used to think that the providence of Australia in terms of loose cars, stick foods, reliability of supply was real to certain events, however, I am not so sure that that’s the case with countries like India have come ahead in the way they demonstrate their consumer base. What is required to is demonstrate safe foods and because of that I think we have lost some of the events that we used to have. The Australian food industry capability is all about bringing together transparency about the way we love to do business with quality businesses that are around to stand the benefits of the product we are proposing and to do that is having confidence that foods that are being made available will be safe but will be targeted and all of the efforts that go into Indian markets for example and more also go into Australian market.

Will you be moving towards green packaging alternatives, keeping in mind environmental concerns?
We would love to see fully sustainable packaging of our belongings in the market. Compostable comes with the detriment that the long shelf life of our Lupin perhaps two years effectively is longer than the shelf life of the actual packaging, so the packaging takes down before the shelf life expires. So these are perfect for short-term products and that includes cold chain logistics type products but in terms of longer term products this just does not quite there yet so we use recyclable plastics and paper as basic we possibly can. However, we look forward to the top we can have new fresh interactive solutions where the packaging does meet the shelf life of our products. In terms of waste and going to landfill we try to avoid that at all costs and hence for our strategy in business about separation of those products is just normal day to day recognise basic tactics, that’s all, normal strategy becomes part of our culture business.

Are you planning on launching any new products into the market given the ongoing pandemic?
Yes, we are, a new product is Lupin Splitz into the Indian market likely through Amazon but we are also about to launch a new range of ready-to-eat foods that are based around at least 80% Lupin, which gives us a very very high protein, low carbohydrate option In snack food range where we hoped we can at least complete all of the strategy and the primary workaround that by Christmas time we are going to launch in the first Quarter 2022 its probably being a limiting factor up until now where we have made largely Lupin flour, Lupin flakes, Splitz blitz and we have to supply and we also have some small retail products that we sell into the global market but we need to get to a ready-to-eat solution which is where the snack foods and the other foods will come in.

Can you mix Lupin with wheat flour that all Indian households use?
Lupin flour goes well with flatbread products like chapati and dosa. We made chapati with up to 50% Lupin flour and normal very high protein wheat and it gave the same rising. I have made chapati at Farm Foods India on many occasions. We make dosa at Farm Foods India on many occasions, we know that it goes well and of course what happens with that is that you reduce the carbohydrate as much as by 30% and boost the protein content by a factor of about 3 times. But the use of Lupin in a range of foods is limited to the inventiveness of the homes, I think. It's about just simply displacing normal white bread flours which is very high – sometimes up to 65%-70% carbohydrate with an increasing amount of Lupin. When it comes to square loaves as we see in sandwich loaves in the Western markets, you need goods that can clear that carbon dioxide and get that rising volume. In the Indian market, you don’t need that because they are sufficient with flatbreads. It is just a matter of displacing the white bread flour with Lupin as much as you feel is necessary, start smaller practice it in and build it up to 50% or more so that you get the health benefits.
 
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