Greenwheat Freekeh is the world’s leading premium producer of the ancient superfood it has been producing commercially in South Australia since 1997.
It exports to 17 countries including the America, Canada, Britain, Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Brazil, and began shipping product to Japan and Korea this year.
American demand for freekah began to soar in 2011 after television host Oprah Winfrey nominated it as “one of four exotic grains that can improve health”.
It is cooked and served in a similar fashion to rice and can also be used in salads, breakfast cereals, soups, breads and cakes.
The name freekah comes from an ancient process to heat immature green grain to halt maturation without cooking, which was first developed in the Middle East in about 2300BC.
But it is the process invented by Greenwheat Freekeh’s managing director, Tony Lutfi, that has allowed its production to grow to more than 500 tonnes a year. The company plans to expand the process at its plant north of Adelaide to 3,000 tonnes a year by 2018.
Lutfi said that sales in Korea had come out of the blue earlier this year following a meeting with a Korean businessman in May.
“The next day we got an order for a 20-foot container of our highest value retail product,” he said.
“Then he turned around a week later and said they needed it to be a 40-foot container—that’s 45,000 boxes.
“Before we shipped in July they paid for them and ordered a second 40-foot container and wanted to order more.”
Lutfi said promotion of Freekeh on the Korean Food Channel had led to 168,000 orders.
“They bring in celebrities, chefs and nutritionists and they sit down and talk about freekeh and consumers call up and place orders,” he said.
“The Korean market is incredible, it is doing things for us that we never would have imagined.”
Grenwheat Freekeh has also formed a partnership with a company in Singapore to produce a rice and freekeh blend, which will be launched in the coming weeks.
“That is a product that will go into all of the Asian markets including Korea and China,” Lutfi said.
As well as expanding production in South Australia, Lutfi said the company was looking to licence its technology in a joint-venture arrangement, particularly in the northern hemisphere so that the seasonal production can continue year round.
Lutfi said demand for his freekeh products continued to grow globally and in Australia.
“In 2011 the Australian market accounted for less than 1% of our sales. In 2015 it accounted for 50% of sales,” he said.
“I could sell our entire product to export up front but we are holding stock back for the Australian market.
“There are so many companies from all over the world writing to us… it’s a genie out of a bottle and we are the main supplier.“
According to US website Health Status, freekeh has four times more fibre than brown rice, provides more protein than almost any other grain and is excellent for digestion as it is rich in prebiotics and probiotics.
It is also a rich source of zinc, iron, calcium and potassium and is very low on the Glycemic Index, which means that it might decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes.