Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus
Personal trainer turns his hand to fermented foods after catching the bug for gut-health
During his 15-year career in health and fitness, London based Aussie entrepreneur Ben Payne learnt a lot about the many benefits of good gut health but he never made a conscious effort to improve his until he had to take a course of antibiotics for a bug he picked up while exploring South East Asia.
“The antibiotics got rid of the bad bugs but they wiped me out as I was depleted of all the good bugs. I was lacking energy and struggling to get back to normal.”
After running his own body transformation business in Sydney and speaking to many experts in health and nutrition, Payne had often questioned whether he should do something to proactively boost his good bacteria and this was the nudge he needed to carry out a ‘re-boot’.
“Ever since I was a child, I suffered with terrible ulcers. I got them three or four at a time and they’d be so painful they’d ruin my enjoyment of food.
“My dad had always got them so I had assumed it was hereditary but after learning more about leaky gut syndrome and undiagnosed intolerances I had started to wonder if it could be something I could fight through my diet.”
Payne undertook an 30-day elimination diet in which he removed any foods that have the potential to cause gut issues including: wheat, sugar, dairy, gluten, certain nuts and grains, soy, corn, caffeine, alcohol, chicken, and hen eggs.
The aim was to remove most of the foods he ate regularly and introduce a whole new range of nutrients and fermented foods and drink to help his body build an entirely new and improved microbiome.
“I did it for 30 days and from then on, I no longer got ulcers. I also started to get lots of other benefits – I had always struggled to put on weight before and had always been quite skinny but suddenly I found I was able to put on muscle easier.
“Perhaps I had some sort of malabsorption issues before so all that great quality food I was eating was probably not even being absorbed by my body.”
During this intense diet, Payne discovered kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut, and he became hooked on making his own versions.
After moving to London in 2016 with his wife and three-year-old daughter, Payne wanted a more family-friendly career so he decided to turn his love of fermented foods, into a business and he launched his first three products under the brand ‘Bottlebrush Ferments’ in November 2017.
Payne, who has now successfully re-introduced all the foods he eliminated from his diet, is working with London South Bank University to carry out clinical trials on his products to discover what live gut benefits his products actually provide.
“At the moment the gut health thing is a massive market. Everyone and anyone is into it – whether someone has a serious gut health issue, or wants to give their gut a reboot or even if they just want to get a better range of veggies into their diet, there’s so many reasons people are interested in these products.
“The gut health trend is massive in Australia, especially on the East Coast. Kombucha was already pretty big when I was the in 2013 and it’s only got bigger since. I can see the same happening here.”
The brand now offers a five-strong range: ‘The Yellow One’ sauerkraut made with pineapple, ginger and turmeric; ‘The Purple One’ sauerkraut made with red cabbage, beetroot and caraway; ‘The Red One’ with Chinese cabbage, mooli, carrot, spring onion, garlic and chilli, ; ‘The Green One’ kimchi made with cabbage, mooli, garlic and spring onion; ‘The Hot Red One’ kimchi with Thai Birdseye chillies.
These are available in high-end and independent stores primarily in London but Payne is looking to expand online, through Amazon, and get some listings in nationwide retailers.
He is also ‘playing around’ with some fermented condiments and drinks which he believes will help with his aim of getting the brand out of the niche, and into the mass market.