Lupins provide growers with numerous agronomic benefits but the market for them has been unstable, even for varieties grown for human consumption.
Siblings, Gary Drew, Roger Drew and Chris Johnston, looked to change this when they set up Lupins for Life in 2017. The business has a manufacturing facility in Jindera, where they produce toasted protein flakes, flour, kibble, crumb and semolina from lupins.
Roger Drew said they hoped to help create a domestic market for the products and offer more stable prices to Riverina growers.
"Lupins are sold for human consumption overseas, throughout the Middle East and parts of Europe, but the price swings wildly," Mr Drew said.
"When there's a shortage of it, there's panic buying but then everyone plants it the following year and there's an over-supply."
Mr Drew explained introducing lupins to the Australian food production industry had not been easy.
"In our first year of operation the price tripled and lupins were put on the Food Standards allergens list so it meant that 95 per cent of our targeted market disappeared overnight," Mr Drew said.
He explained as lupins were put on the allergens list as a late addition, many food manufacturers were hesitant to include them in their ingredients.
"Businesses who prioritise health have been excited at the benefits that lupins provide," Mr Drew said.
"But most major manufacturers have been unwilling to use them because of the cost of changing their current labelling to include an allergen warning for lupins."
Mr Drew said Food Standards Australia New Zealand had put lupins on the allergen list because they believed people with a lupin allergy would be more impacted from it being omitted from the list, then the lupin industry would be impacted by it being included.
But he argued that the health and environmental benefits of the lupin industry were not taken into account.
"Lupins are an ideal replacement for foods high in carbohydrates, they're high in protein and fibre and have very low GI," Mr Drew said.
"Its inclusion has emasculated the industry and I hope it can survive."
Mr Drew said they hoped the government would consider helping the industry.
"It will take time for the lupin industry to find its place in the market, there really needs to be funding from the government to enable the industry to find its feet and to help educate food manufacturers so they're comfortable using what is a new allergen," Mr Drew said.
But for now, Lupins for Life will focus their products on emerging markets in the health food sector.
"We're looking at whole food plant-based protein markets," Mr Drew said.
"Most plant-based protein products are highly processed at the moment but we believe the industry will turn more towards wholefood protein."