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Taking healthier noodles to Chinese plates

It is not quite selling ice to Eskimos, but it’s close – an Australian listed company is taking on the challenge of selling noodles to the Chinese.

But ASX-listed Holista Colltech believes it has no need for slick sales pitches or smooth-talking salesmen to achieve its goals, with its product – a patented low glycemic index noodle – expected to speak for itself.

Holista chief executive Rajen Manicka said the company began developing the low GI noodles about three years ago, in response to the growing epidemic of diabetes, particularly in China.

Dr Manicka said a study published in 2013 in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated 42.9 per cent of Chinese adults were pre-diabetic, which would likely result in one in every four of them contracting diabetes.

“That’s a statistic which will scare anybody,” Dr Manicka told Australia China Business Review.

“China is increasingly affluent, it is producing a new billionaire once every three weeks.

“It is a tremendous rise of affluence but coming with it are all the diseases of affluence – obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

“They have the money, they need to find solutions.”

One solution, according to Dr Manicka, is Holista’s noodles, the first such product worldwide to achieve a glycemic index of 38.

“While there has been a lot of innovation in bread, there is high-fibre bread, high-protein bread, gluten-free bread and the like, there has been no innovation in noodles in 1,000 years, health-wise,” Dr Manicka said.

“There are different iterations – glass noodles, long noodles, flat noodles, but nothing that talked about the health the noodle will give you or the health it will convey on to you.

“China needs a low GI version of this staple food.

“The alarming rise of diabetes in China further strengthens our value proposition for the country’s emerging upper-class population.”

Holista, which was founded in Malaysia before listing on the ASX in 2009, recently signed a distribution deal with Express Trading Canada to take its low GI noodles to China, with a $C15 million ($15.3 million) minimum order in the first year of the arrangement, doubling to $C30 million in the second.

Express Trading will target supermarkets and restaurant chains in major Chinese cities, as well as maintain listings on e-commerce platforms operated by Alibaba Group and JD.com, in addition to a dedicated WeChat selling platform.

Dr Manicka said the noodles had been developed specifically for the Chinese market, with Express Trading selected from a wide range of suitors, which emerged after the company announced its low GI noodle breakthrough to the stock exchange late last year.

“We were inundated with calls from Australia, from Canada, from China, asking how they could take it into the Chinese market,” Dr Manicka said.

“We decided to go with Express Trading because they had a much stronger value proposition in terms of the numbers they were prepared to sign up with, and also they were already doing that business as a model, shipping high-end Canadian products into high-end Chinese homes.

“They were doing abalone, lobsters, honey, high-end biscuits, high-end Canadian wines into affluent homes, and that’s exactly what we wanted to achieve.”

The patented noodle formula includes okra, lentils, barley and fenugreek, with the product endorsed by Diabetes Canada and the Glycemic Index Foundation.

Next up for Holista, which Dr Manicka said would remain strictly a research and development company that licenses its products to manufacturers and distributors, were low GI roti canai, pancakes, muffins, breads, cookies and biscuits.

He said the company had also been approached to develop low GI dumplings and mooncakes for the Chinese market.