Sugarcane has been the backbone of the Queensland economy for over 150 years and now in a world first, an Ayr based company has found a way to turn virgin cane into a powdered fibre containing endless health benefits.
The cane flour, known as Kfibre, is being used to counter the effects of health disorders such as acid reflux and constipation worldwide. The breakthrough technology was developed in the Burdekin by local company, Health Food Symmetry (HFS), formerly known as KFSU Pty Ltd, after years of research and millions of dollars of investment.
Company Managing Director, Gordon Edwards, says the project has had the backing of consumers, industry and the medical fraternity since their small-scale production started in April 2006.
“During this time, sugar mills and sugar farmers were experiencing low profitability and we thought this would be a great diversification project to utilise the whole of the sugarcane plant,” explains Gordon, whose background in marine engineering assisted in developing the required processing technology.
“This functional food ingredient originates from the fibrous component of sugarcane which has traditionally been burnt as boiler fuel in the sugar milling process.
“When added to foods, Kfibre has shown to lower the glycaemic index of the food, and exhibit health benefits associated with dietary fibres such as improved bowel and gut health and is used as a flour-based alternative for coeliacs.”
Kfibre first hit the shelves of Queensland pharmacies in 2010 before expanding nation-wide. As a result of the highly positive consumer response, HFS opened their $6 million dietary fibre plant in Ayr in 2015, which was funded by a $2 million grant from the Federal Government and $4 million from investors.
Alongside injecting over $2 million into the Burdekin economy every year, the company is also the first to bring commercial scale sugar cane dietary fibre to the international market, with their most recent distributor being Amazon in the U.S.
“Traditionally sugarcane has produced only one export crop being sugar, which is highly vulnerable to the vagaries of commodity pricing. Kfibre has helped the industry to diversify, and value add, particularly for farmers as the product has a higher return than sugar,” continues Gordon.
“From our plant facility, we have the capacity to produce around 1,000 tonnes per annum using approximately 10,000 tonnes of sugarcane and we employ 14 people at the factory plus an additional 10 further down south.
“We have distributors in the U.S, Canada, the Phillipines and the EU, have two companies that are looking at taking us into the Chinese market, we have several hundred stockists in Australia and the company is also cash positive.”
In addition to the product assisting the globe’s population with intestinal issues, HFS are also now helping improve the shelf life of foods through their U.S distributor’s new product, ‘WoW Protein Donuts,’ which contains their new sugarcane-based ingredient called Phytocel. The product launched in the U.S through Walmart in November and Gordon credits their rapid growth overseas to an increasing demand for natural ingredients that have the potential to improve food products and general health.
“Consumers in developed countries are increasingly discerning, some obsessively so, about additives and allergens, which has created enormous demand within food manufacturing for natural alternatives to traditional wheat-based fibres,” he explains.
“Our technology applies a unique chemical-free process which maintains the ‘all-natural’ quality and inherent goodness of sugarcane without the sugar.
“We also have full traceability from the consumer back to the farmer which is desired by medical food manufacturers.”
Kfibre has recently been endorsed by world-renowned therapist and wellness expert, Marissa Peer, and its unique flour-like formula is backed by their research partners, the University of Tasmania and the University of Queensland, who have conducted human clinical trials and scientific publications using HFS’s sugarcane fibre.
“We are planning for our product to become a core recommendation for both clinicians and consumers when they are looking for assistance for a wide range of digestive ailments,” says Gordon.
“We also have a chemotherapy trial that will start early this year which is aimed at treating patients on chemotherapy for nausea and appetite, and we are also looking at going into the aged care sector for microbio and constipation relief.”
The company is now aiming to raise $3 million in equity funding to fund a significant expansion of Kfibre’s retail range and are looking to establish themselves as the leading provider for the global health and goods market.
“We have a whole range of new products coming out in regard to synbiotics, which is a combination of prebiotics and probiotics, and we’re looking forward to seeing that expand and come to life,” continues Gordon.
“We will continue to manufacture and research functional ingredients for the global health market and hope to become the go-to product when people are considering gut health and overall wellbeing.”