Diabetic-friendly functional food: MediKane exceeds crowdfunding expectations to help drive international expansion

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

MediKane's flagship product NutriKane D is made with sugarcane fibre and has been clinically proven to lower and control blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. ©MediKane
MediKane's flagship product NutriKane D is made with sugarcane fibre and has been clinically proven to lower and control blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. ©MediKane

Related tags Australia Sugarcane Functional food Diabetes crowdfunding

Australian food-as-medicine company MediKane has concluded a crowdfunding campaign which raised more than AU$350,000 (US$258,000), to drive the next stage of the company’s growth, including international expansion plans.

This exceeded its initial target of AU$250,000 (US$184,000).

MediKane produces plant-based functional foods to help people prevent, manage and reverse chronic conditions.

Its flagship product, NutriKane D, made with sugarcane fibre has been clinically proven to lower and control blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.

It was also found to lower the glycaemic index of meals improving the gastrointestinal tract and microbiome, reduces constipation in hospitalised patients, as well as reflux during pregnancy.

Available as a powder, NutriKane D has been on the market in Australia since 2015. It is sold through pharmacies and health food stores.

According to CEO and co-founder, Rod Lewis, the firm has since sold about US$1.6 million of product. Amid the pandemic and despite a lack of marketing support, sales managed to double between January 2020 to January 2021.

The support we've had from the general Australian public has been outstanding and enabled us to increase our sales, doubling month-on-month, purely due to the exposure through the crowdsource funding​.

One of the reasons we're crowdfunding is to make sure we have marketing and sales reserves. There is no point having the best product in the world if no one will buy and use it continually​,” Lewis said.

Expansion plans

Currently 85% of its business is the domestic market.

We've shipped several pallets of our product to the US late last year. It’s becoming quite apparent that we have to have a very sound business in Australia before we can get the attention of the bigger chains in the US like Walmart and Walgreens, they want to see that you're successful at home first​,” Lewis told NutraIngredients-Asia​.

The firm has signed arrangements with agents in Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, and expects products to be distributed there next year.

Our strategy is to use this crowdfunding program to market successfully and build a 5 to 7 million turnover. Once we've got that, we will then focus on the US, and Asian markets​.”

Other products

MediKane also has another product, NutriKane+ for medical nutrition. It helps people in hospital, aged care homes and similar facilities who suffer from constipation, usually after post-operative opioid use

Most people get constipated once they go into hospital due to the painkillers, which can cause constipation for a few days,” ​Lewis added.

The clinical trials we did in hospitals showed that our product is good at either eliminating constipation in some lucky individuals or reducing it in everyone else​.”

Early beginnings

According to Lewis, the NutriKane brand started as a gut health product, improving constipation and intestinal recovery in hospitalised patients.

However, we observed a large population of people that were recovering from hospitals had diabetes, so we decided to explore the effects of lowering blood glucose levels​,” Lewis said.

Diabetes affect more than 400 million globally, and there are currently no pharmaceutical product that fully treats diabetes.

Controlling blood sugar levels requires daily invasive monitoring, strict food intake and often medication.

However, these drugs that help people manage their symptoms, may come with undesired side effects and their effectiveness tends to decrease over time.

Chief scientific officer and co-founder Dr Malcolm Ball said: “I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years, and I can categorically state that today’s diabetes management practices do not work nearly well enough, and there are currently no cures.”

This has resulted in growing demand for non-pharmaceutical preventative health products worldwide. The global natural health supplements market estimated to reach close to US$70 billion by the end of 2024.

MediKane is adamant that its products are not supplements, instead calling them functional foods.

Lewis explained: “Supplements tend to be single component or a collection of extracts. I like to think of our product as an actual food as medicine because we select the foods for the nutritional value​.”

For example, we don't add chromium, instead we use a high chromium food​.”

Backed by science

The company is also committed to scientifically backing its health claims. MediKane conducted eight human clinical trials, five on animal studies, and three in vitro​.

For instance, clinical trials conducted in Australia and the US found that regular use of NutriKane D resulted in a 2.2 times reduction in blood sugar levels and positively impact the diversity of flora in the gut microbiome.

Ball said: “With MediKane, we’ve taken the Food as Medicine approach to managing chronic conditions like diabetes, alongside an evidence-based diet and exercise program, because the medical evidence that good health begins with food is overwhelming​.”

The company is ultimately working towards the development of a plant-based alternative to pharmaceutical drugs for use by people with Type 1 diabetes. This new product was recently put through pre-clinical trials at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Australia.

As gut health plays a role in the onset of many diseases beyond diabetes, the firm is exploring trials in inflammatory-caused diseases such as arthritis and IBS, as well as mental health issues in diabetic people, according to Ball.

Recently, MediKane was named as one of the partners of Macquarie University’s Industrial Transformation Research Program (ITRP).

This new research project will allow MediKane to show that NutriKane is effective in treating pets and other animals, and gain a better understanding of how NutriKane and probiotics interact.

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