Sunday, April 6

Regina-Based Venture Uncaps Gluten-Free "Beer"

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A Regina-based company owned by over 200 Western Canadian seed growers is providing an alternative alcoholic beverage to people with celiac disease and wheat allergies.

Nubru Gluten Free, developed by FarmPure Beverages, is about to sell out of its first 6,000 cases of product that have been tested in the Manitoba market.

FarmPure uses an innovative, patented process. "We're making a clear, neutral concentrate out of protein sources, such as peas and soybeans," said Chief Operating Officer Carl Flis. "From that concentrate, we can do two things - we can formulate it to taste like any beer in the world, make coolers, wine coolers and fruit coolers; or we can license that technology out to existing breweries." FarmPure Beverages plans to pursue both options.

FarmPure Beverages production innovation will be attractive for other breweries. "By implementing the technology, they can reduce their production costs significantly, because we're reducing the traditional brewing time, which is 21 to 28 days, down to nine to 11 days," Flis said. "An existing brewery can increase the production of their plant without any capital investment."

The first test with FarmPure Beverages' own product line was the Nubru blend, which was a 50/50 blend of FarmPure's product and Fort Garry Lager. The advantages of blending are that it reduces costs and improves the head of the beer.

Since the original Nubru blend, FarmPure Beverages has developed the Nubru Gluten Free beverage, which is currently being distributed in the Manitoba marketplace. Upcoming products include Nubru Red, which is similar to Rickard's Red, and a cider.

The gluten-free market of food and beverage products promises growth. According to Flis, celiac disease is the fastest growing diagnosed disease in North America. An estimated one in 133 has the disease. "We're not there to build breweries around the world. It's a specialty market, and celiac patients and people with wheat allergies are looking for alternatives."

Although the target market for the Nubru line is people with celiac disease and other digestive disorders, the product has broader appeal. In its first round of market testing, Nubru was rated on par or better than traditional light beers. It scored especially well with the young female segment of the market.

FarmPure Beverages has an ambitious plan for the distribution of its products, but first, it will strive for brand recognition. "It's a new technology where the possible products we can generate are endless. At this stage, it's getting the first concepts out there, getting the name known, and then we can start further product development," Flis said.

Next, they plan to expand into Ontario and Quebec, then British Columbia. Europe already has a number of gluten-free products, based on rice and millet, using traditional brewing processes. Breweries there have tried to emulate the traditional European beer tastes.

The Nubru products have a North American taste. The market is attractive to FarmPure Beverages because there are fewer competitors. Flis names a Quebec-based company and Budweiser, with a product called Red Ridge, as the two main rivals.

"If Budweiser is getting into the market, I think we're on the right track," he said.

For more information, contact:
Carl Flis, Chief Operating Officer
FarmPure Foods
Phone: (306) 757-3663, ext. 111
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