Super legume? Five Sun Foods prepares for nationwide US launch of Andean Lupin

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Five Sun Foods
Photo: Five Sun Foods

Related tags: legumes, Protein

Andean Lupin, a nutritionally-dense legume native to the Andes Mountain region of South America, could be the next big superfood ingredient since quinoa, says Stephen Goldman CEO and founder of Five Sun Foods.

Goldman came across Andean Lupin while traveling with his family in Ecuador, where it's commonly referred to as 'cho cho'. 

"After really digging into it, the more we found out, the more we were just blown away,"​ Goldman told FoodNavigator-USA. Seeing huge market potential for Andean Lupin, Goldman quit his job at a food industry consultant to start Five Sun Foods​. 

On its own with the hulls still intact, Andean Lupin is 60% protein, about 15% prebiotic fiber, and 20% high oleic oil. The legume also contains "close to zero net carbohydrates" ​and is neutral in taste and color, said Goldman.

In addition, its nutritional profile makes it easily digestible due to low net carb content make it ideal for paleo and keto diet followers, Goldman noted. 

"We weren’t sure why it hadn’t been brought to market yet," ​Goldman said. 

There have been other types of lupin legumes introduced to the US market on a broad scale, typically the hybridized "sweet lupin" variety, which Goldman claims are harder to formulate with and don't have the same nutrition as Andean Lupin.

'We’re preparing this to be sourced at scale'

The first hurdle to introducing Andean Lupin at scale to the US market was finding the right processing technology to remove the alkaloid from the legume. 

Other beans and seeds often contain alkaloids that can be easily washed off, but the alkaloid in Andean Lupin is found inside the bean structure making it a trickier process, according to Goldman.

Five Sun Foods has developed a chemical-free processing method to gently remove the alkaloid from the legumes, which is all done in Ecuador.

Because Five Sun Foods intends to source Andean Lupin at scale from the Andean region of Ecuador, creating a sustainable sourcing and production operations was crucial for the company.

"We’re preparing this to be sourced at scale., but we’ve been really careful about taking those steps and being really respectful of the Ecuadorian market. This is a staple food for Ecuador right now and what we wanted to avoid was problems that you’ve heard about with other commodities that have gained sudden notoriety,"​ said Goldman.

Demand for quinoa, another 'super food' ingredient from the region, quickly outpaced supply, ultimately leaving local small-scale farmers unable to compete against the rise of commercial quinoa farms appearing across the globe.

"We’re going to do all of our that [processing and production] work in Ecuador, finding the right operation partners there and making sure we’re supporting the local economy,"​ said Goldman.

Value as a whole ingredient

According to Goldman, Five Sun Foods wants to partner with CPG companies and work with them on the R&D side to introduce different applications for Andean Lupin.

"What we have is a ground whole food with almost the same protein content as [some commercially available plant proteins] and it has all these other side benefits – no carbohydrates, good fat, and good fiber,"​ said Goldman.

"It’s so useful as a whole ingredient and that’s what we’re seeing as the real benefit."

Its first entry point into the US market will be the baking segment as a fortifying ingredient for baked goods, but eventually Goldman sees Andean Lupin gaining traction in other fast-growing categories. 

"High protein plant based milks could be something that would be really interesting as well,"​ he added.

However, it won't be until early 2020 that consumers can start to see products using the novel ingredient, according to Goldman.

"We’re just starting to build out our factory in Ecuador and my hope over the next few months is that we can do some at scale trial runs where we can have thousands of lbs and starting with customers to do some R&D with them to start to figure out how this can work into their product profiles."

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