Lupins to milk new markets

Photo of Sofia Sipsas

[Photo: Sofia Sipsas says the research team has also identified a number of new drink products based either on lupin milk or lupin/dairy milk blends.]

While lupins have long been a valuable stockfeed in Australia, the development of a new yellow lupin is opening up the potential for this useful break crop to become a high-value human food.

Trials of this new yellow lupin - Lupinus luteus - have been producing a grain containing up to 40 percent of high-quality protein, which can be de-hulled to produce a kernel meal with a protein content of 52 percent. This makes it highly tive as a source of food-grade protein for food manufacturers, for premium stockfeeds, and also for new markets such as aquaculture.

By comparison, the traditional narrow leaf lupin ( Lupinus angustifolius ) and white lupin (Lupinus albus ) have an average protein content of just over 30 percent, which has tended to consign them to low-value stockfeed markets.

Now, lupins have a chance to rival soybean (44 to 48 percent protein) as a source of high-quality protein. Researcher Sofia Sipsas, from the WA Department of Agriculture, says the lupins have already been ratified in both Australia and Europe as an approved food, which clears the path for future commercialisation.

She explains that because protein can be extracted from the lupin flour, it can be used as an ingredient just the same as protein taken from milk (casein and whey), or egg-whites. "In Europe, lupin flour is already being used in bakery and pasta products because it can replace eggs and butter to enhance colour," she says.

In addition to the protein, Ms Sipsas says lupin flour also contains non-starch polysaccharides, which act like both soluble (oats) and insoluble fibre (wheat bran). "

So after we"ve removed the protein, we"ve still got valuable by-products for the functional foods industry. Lupin-kernel fibres have been proven to lower blood cholesterol, and tests on lupin fibre as an ingredient also show it has a high satiating factor; lengthening the time before people feel hungry."

Ms Sipsas believes the market potential for a high-protein lupin is huge: "Aside from the obvious uses, if we were able to get just one to three percent lupin flour into doughnut mix in the US alone, it would consume a great portion of all the lupins we could grow."