Turning the tables on the humble lupin

Lupins for Life business operations manager Chris Johnson with the Toasted Protein Flakes to be launched at Farm Gate.

In a world first, a local farming family has taken lupins from the stock feed market to developing a unique process of steaming, flaking and toasting ready for human consumption.

As the nation’s only processor of albus lupins as a food product, Lupins for Life, will be dishing up their new range to visitors at the Farm Gate Produce Market at Henty.

The Brocklesby grain grower behind Lupins for Life, Gary Drew, will be at Henty to meet with field day visitors and launch the company’s latest product, Toasted Protein Flakes.

The business embodies the true spirit of paddock to plate, low food miles and local expertise.

“Those flakes have been sown in local soil, harvested by local farmers, and carted to the local town for processing and packaging,’’ Lupins for Life managing director Roger Drew said.

The Drew family has been growing lupins as a traditional break crop in their rotation since the 1980s.

They grow high yielding Rosetta and Luxor sweet albus lupins, boasting protein levels of more than 40 per cent.

Catering for the gluten free market, much of the Lupins for Life range is Coeliac Australia and New Zealand approved, and milled at the company’s Jindera plant.

“There was no blueprint for a process which steams, rolls and toasts a whole kernel,’’ Roger said.

“The resulting lupin flake can be blended through a muesli mix, eaten with yoghurt, as a salad topper, used in baking or add texture to main meals and desserts.

“The protein level at 43 per cent is higher than steak and it has a low glycemic index, giving a feeling of fullness.’’

Last year’s field days were the first public debut for the company, showcasing their range of lupin flour, semolina, crumb, kibble and flakes.

“The toasted flakes had just come on line at that point – we had launched our retail range and packaging so Henty was the first testing ground for us,’’ Roger said.

“The back story had been there – people had been hearing about Gary’s work with lupins for a while.

“It was really only in the last decade he had become far more aware of the nutritional aspect of his stock feed overlapping with the possibilities of human consumption.

“Gary was steam flaking angustifolius and albus lupins at the Walla mill and the day his eureka moment happened, he was trying to persuade one his neighbours to flake them.

“Five years ago he had taken a load to the Walla mill, had them flaked in the stock flaking site and was unrolling the truck tarp on sunset to be met with a shimmering golden load smelling like Uncle Toby’s muesli.

“That sparked a desire to bring that value add to the end consumer.

“He had the lupins steam flaked and supplied to the Brocklesby-Burrumbuttock football team, who won four premierships in five years.

“A few years after that, he wanted to know how to make it happen commercially and involve the family.’’

Roger said the decision was made to process lupins commercially rather than do it as a cottage industry.

At the time, he had been working in the not-for-profit sector and was looking to relocate to Albury-Wodonga.

Gary stored a year’s worth of harvest enabling the family to undertake research and development for the next 18 months to develop a range of flours and flakes.

They sourced second hand commercial milling equipment and built a factory in the Jindera industrial estate.

“It was a lot of reading, trial and error and risk taking,’’ Roger said.

“There is no other business in Australia processing albus lupins for human consumption.

“They are hard seeded with a coating almost like Teflon – round lupins can be dehulled easily but these are another kettle of fish.

“The normal milling processes cannot be used as the 30 per cent fibre content means the seed will not go through conventional roller mills.

“Most of the risks we have taken have proven to be right and a lot of bakers have been impressed with the flour we have been able to produce.’’

Roger said the toasted protein flakes took longer to develop and were now the only whole seed pulse flake on the market in Australia.

Industry experts advised against steam rolling the seed but suggested extruding it.

“Our commitment is to work with whole foods rather than overly processed foods, so we wanted to come back to steam rolling and toasting so the protein and nutrients were not damaged,’’ Roger said.

“But, doing that has been quite an art.’’

Business operations manager Chris Johnston said Lupins for Life was building a community of interested growers in southern NSW to ensure supply.

“Those growers are interested in the whole concept and philosophy of the business,’’ she said.

“Dryland lupins are environmentally sustainable but it is a slow process educating people about the nutritional value of lupins.

“The amount of protein in lupin splits is far greater than chia, spelt, brown rice, quinoa, white wheat flour, soybean, pea, faba bean, lentil and chickpea.

“It has all the essential amino acids and a mix of probiotics to help with gut health.’’

Roger said Lupins for Life was able to provide a premium price for albus lupin growers.

The raw product is trucked to the factory at Jindera and milled and packaged on site.

“We have worked with larger food producers, including Australia’s largest lupin flour user, The Protein Bread Co, to produce a high protein, low carbohydrate product,’’ Roger said.

“They have used our kibble to blend with rice and produce a product four times the level of protein than normal rice.’’

Roger said the lupin would also play a role in the plant based alternative protein market.

The lupin flour can be bought at IGA East Albury, Almar Organics, Jindera Takeaway, Fox & Brew, Nine Canaries and Goldfields Greengrocer, or on line at www.lupinsforlife.com.au

“I’m excited about where we will be in six years time but the big challenge for us is where we will be in six months time as far as business development and marketing,’’ Roger said.

“This is compounded by the fact we are producing something into a market that doesn’t know it wants it, the fact the price of albus lupins have tripled since we started and there is a drought.

“We feel the pain of everything from the rainfall to the retail markets – they all keep us awake at night.’’