TRIGUEÑA IS THE FIRST GLUTEN-FREE WHEAT DRINK IN THE WORLD
Andrés Villegas is the creator of a line of white-wheat based products called “El Café del Campo” (“the coffee of the countryside”). Trigueña is the second product that Villegas is launching into the market with help from Corfo, with funding from the PRAE (Regional Program to Support Entrepreneurs) of O’Higgins Region and the sponsorship of Corporación Incuba2.
The innovative drink “Trigueña” is already on sale in the market and is the first product of its kind ever sold in Chile. “It’s 100% natural, contains no food coloring or additives, it’s low calorie and low sodium content, sugar free and sweetened with pure stevia”, explained the former Commercial Engineering student and native of the municipality of Las Cabras in the Sixth Region, where he started his business.
“I began by studying Chile’s culinary traditions in wheat coffee. My consultants were older adults who helped me with the processing, and later I marketed the product in gourmet food fairs. But I wanted to create a more massive product,” said Villegas, referring to his beginnings as an entrepreneur when he was still a student in our University’s Santiago-Vitacura Campus.
Thanks to the PRAE Fund of Corfo – O’Higgins and the sponsorship of Corporación Incuba2, Andres Villegas’ business venture has grown significantly. “When I started out, I didn’t have a production facility. Today we have a 120 square meter factory in Las Cabras. At the facility we’ve got custom-made industrial equipment for producing natural beverages,” Villegas explained.
“It took months of implementing before the right technical team for setting up the facility finally came together, and we’ve now expanded our staff to include a dietitian, food technologist and marketers. If our business goes well we want to expand the team, especially add more factory operators,” he added.
The commercial engineer described Trigueña as having “a lightly toasted flavor with touches of cinnamon, it isn’t aerated, and comes in a convenient 475 ml glass bottle”.
Corfo O’Higgins Regional Director Andrés Lorca Saavedra praised the project and commented that “speaking for Corfo, we’re very pleased to support Andrés Villegas, who won the Regional Entrepreneurial Support Program. Today he is developing the market for TRIGUEÑA, the first gluten-free wheat drink, and as such, an example of innovation. The Director also mentioned, “it has the potential to become an attractive product at the national level, that’s clearly differentiated from other products in the market, and so we hope it will help generate resources and earnings for the Region”.
Benefits of Wheat
One of the particularities of this natural wheat drink is that it’s gluten-free, as certified by the University of Chile’s Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology or INTA. As Andrés Villegas explained, “While all wheat species contain gluten, what varies is the percentage of this protein in each variety. The wheat type we use contains a very small percentage of gluten, and our proprietary process of preparing Trigueña degrades the gluten, resulting in a drink with less than 3 parts per million, meaning it qualifies as gluten-free”. The entrepreneur also pointed out that Trigueña is one of the few food products with more potassium than sodium. “Most Chileans ingest a sodium to potassium ratio of close to 3.5, compared to the recommended ratio of 0.65. It makes a big difference in the long term—in terms of increased liquid retention in the body and more problems with arterial blood pressure, which is a major health issue in our society.
Another benefit is the drink’s low sodium content: “According to the daily dose recommended by the Health Ministry, we need 2,300 mg of sodium per day and 3,500 mg of potassium, but these levels are generally not supplied by our diet. Drinking Trigueña often will help reduce liquid retention and promote a healthier lifestyle.
The Company’s Future Projections
Andrés Villegas explained that the challenge in the short term is to get certified as a “B company”, indicating that the company’s business operations exert a triple impact: social, environmental and economic. “It’s said that B companies aren’t the best in the world, but they’re the best for the world, because they’re integrated into the community and relate responsibly to the community where their operations are located, which in our case is the municipality of Las Cabras”.
He also commented that Trigueña is already looking at entering the international market. Although the product description and label are in Spanish, the English version is already available and the goal is to start exporting in the medium term.
Asked whether he recommends the entrepreneurial path, he answers, “Yes, absolutely. I would say, especially to people who’re just needing that final push, to go for it—they won’t regret it, because even if they fail, they’ll realize why they failed and they’ll fix it, and I’m sure they’ll reach success. The only companies that fail are the ones that stop trying.”