Q&A BioBrew Managing Director Andre Prassinos

26 January 2016

As a farming nation, maintaining the health of our livestock without chemical-based antibiotics is important for our ‘clean and green’ brand and health. Biobrew’s probiotics are organic and the firm is expanding its products and ingenuity to the USA.

Founded in 2009, BioBrew Ltd developed a range of probiotics to improve the health of livestock, pets and agriculture. The high performing probiotics contribute to robust health and wellbeing in animals and minimise the amount of antibiotics used on them.

 Since then, BioBrew has continued to expand with two breweries in New Zealand and being on the verge of its biggest step yet – exporting to Australia and breaking into the United States market.

In this Q&A, BioBrew Managing Director Andre Prassinos talks about discovering the American market, exporting to Australia and how an organisation can maintain its sustainability ethos as it develops into a multinational.

How did you discover the gap in the United States market? 

We first went to the USA to confirm our technical and regulatory compliance which ensures we were able to manufacture and distribute our products in the American market. We accomplished this via our Colorado pilot plant which operates as a registered feed manufacturer with the Colorado Department of Agriculture in a United States Department of Agriculture registered facility.

We then looked to see how best to aim our product launch and discovered a very interested and open-minded population involved in the large, very high end equine hospitals in Kentucky. We will establish our reputation at the very pinnacle of thoroughbred racing.

What are some of the difficulties establishing Biobrew within this market?

We represent not only a new product but also an entirely new product category. There is a great deal of education that has to take place to properly equip an early adopter to share an understanding of EquiBrew (a high performance probiotic for use in horses) and other BioBrew products with others.

Will you be producing the product in the USA or importing it? 

It will be produced in a BioBrew Ltd brewery, a place where we undertake the multi-stage fermentation processes that yield our uniquely fresh and active probiotics, in Denver, Colorado which is our third facility and first outside of New Zealand.

We operate our main facility in Matangi (in the Waikato) and our original facility near Balclutha.

We are making plans to export to Australia from New Zealand.

How do you maintain your sustainability ethics when breaking into or producing in a new market?

The use of our products reduces the use of antibiotics, hormones and other synthetic inputs. Biobrew is a tool for meaningful sustainable practices in the farming sector and as such every market we enter is an overt act of positive ethics. We look for the most efficient way to contain and transport our products but as BioBrew Ltd products are heavy, due to high water content, exports to Australia will be by sea.

How do you measure and offset your environmental impact as you begin to export into Australia? 

We will seek the most efficient means of transport across the Tasman, which is shipping, but we do not have a measure or offset programme in place. 

I’m interested in the development and science side of the probiotics. Without spilling company secrets, what kind of processes and science go into developing different types of BioBrew? 

There are a range of ‘good’ microbes that science has repeatedly shown are safe, beneficial, and capable of being produced in artificial environments. Lactobacilli, the key group of microbes in our current products, are one type of good guys that meet these criteria and there are several others. We are working on developing our existing products and on adding new product styles with different microbial formulations.

You were a finalist in 2015’s Innovator Awards and you won the 2013 NZI Sustainable Business Network Award for Restorative Innovation. What’s been the biggest success of BioBrew so far? 

The most transformative events over the past couple years have been the launch of EquiBrew into the New Zealand market and the completion of two Callaghan Innovation-supported R&D projects.  The first bit of Callaghan funding came from a Freedom To Operate opinion from a reputable Intellectual Property law firm. This is usually a precondition for further support from them, you have to show you are not infringing on anybody’s patents.

The second project was for a Masters Degree student who undertook work to characterise our product, primarily using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectronomy methods, identifying the beneficial metabolites produced by our microbes†. The work also included the development of the Quality Assurance programme we operate today.

The third project was for a Post-Doctorate Fellow who did the work to isolate, identify and characterise a range of microbial isolates* that are used in our products today. This includes the Lactobacillus plantarum** used in EquiBrew and the Lactobacillus reuteri *** used in CalfBrew, a probiotic for calves.

Callaghan is a big part of why we are able to offer our range of retail products. It has been great to work with and I have nothing but good things to say about its programmes, people and systems.

† Metabolites: a substance used during the metabolic process
Microbes: a single cell organism

* Microbial cultures are used to determine the type of organism, its abundance in the sample being tested, or both
** A bacteria that produces hydrogen peroxide through consuming oxygen. The hydrogen peroxide prevents the growth of other bacteria from the food source (or same location as Lactobacillus plantarum)

***A strand of probiotic that protects against disease in mammals