The local Sunshine Sugar company has been in business for 130 years. These days it employs around 600 staff and helps support another 500 growers who are members of the local co-op, so around these parts it’s considered a big business.
The company is headed by local Lennox Head resident Chris Connors who is excited about what the future holds for Sunshine. Since he has been at the helm he has overseen a range of innovative new products and directions, and, he admits, a few that didn’t quite make the cut.
‘We’re always looking to diversify and we have structured the business and involved the staff to come up with new possibilities for future revenue generation and efficiencies,’ he says.
In 2007 Sunshine built its own power generation plants, which generate electricity using the sugar cane waste (bagasse). The project was carried out in collaboration with DELTA Electricity and then sold on. It means that today Sunshine is self-sustaining—using its own waste it makes enough power to run its own mills and refinery and then pumps around 70% of that power back into the grid.
But it’s the latest product idea that has Chris and his staff, and many others, from health professionals to marketers, very excited. It’s a low GI sugar called Nucane, which has the potential to help combat some of the 21st Century’s biggest health problems, including diabetes and obesity.
Sunshine has been working with scientists from Nutrition Innovation to develop a sugar that retains all the good things like calcium, magnesium and potassium, while lowering the Glycaemic Index (GI). The product tastes just like the raw sugar already produced by the company, and has been certified as low-GI to the World Health Organisation’s standards.
Once available it could be added to the production process of thousands of foods, without changing the flavour, while bringing their GI down and helping people to stay healthier. So it really is big news.
Chris says that while they are already producing Nucane, they are not quite ready to go to market yet, but it will be this year. And we will keep you posted.