Market Opportunities for Pulses as Food Ingredients
August 17, 2018
Where internationally are pulses poised for growth?
By Delaney Seiferling
When the Canadian pulse industry announced a goal to have new uses for 25 per cent of Canadian pulses by 2025, Pulse Canada and Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, along with other provincial pulse associations across Canada got to work developing and refining strategic plans designed to help meet this ambitious goal, says Julianne Curran, Pulse Canada’s Vice President of Food and Health.
“There has been a lot of thought put into how we can achieve this target,” she says.
Much of the industry’s prior work in the area was focused on marketing pulses more generally to all target audiences. The next phase of work will consider end-use applications that each pulse crop is best suited to, and the markets where the Canadian industry has advantages and volume opportunities, Curran says.
“We understand that two million tonnes is an ambitious target that will require multiple sectors and regions, but also unique strategies designed for each pulse type to be more effective.”
The strategy will focus on specific market opportunities and applications for each pulse type and will also identify specific companies or groups of companies the industry is looking to engage with, says Jackie Tenuta, Pulse Canada’s Director of Market Development.
“Every sector is a little bit different. In some areas, there are one or two companies that really dominate the marketplace but others are much more diverse.”
For example, the global snack food market is dominated by just one company, PepsiCo, while the global pet food market is dominated by Nestlé and Mars.
However, the baked goods industry is much more diverse, with a great deal of the production being non-branded, artisanal bread, Tenuta says.
“Each sector is very different so our strategy needs to be different for the sectors we are targeting.”
The Canadian pulse industry recently commissioned a report looking at the current uses of pulses in China to determine where there is room for growth and marketing opportunities, says Tanya Der, Pulse Canada’s Manager of Food Innovation and Marketing.
The report estimated that consumption of pulses in China’s food and beverage sector was three million tonnes in 2016, about 800,000 tonnes of which was used in the vermicelli noodle sector.
“The applications for pulses in China are similar to North America actually, but more diversified,” says Der.
The main uses for Canadian pulses after noodles were baked goods, snacks, sprouts, and sauces. And while the noodle sector uses primarily pea starch as an ingredient, it was primarily pulse paste made from beans, often blended, which was used to produce snack foods, baked goods, and drinks.
There is currently about 200,000 tonnes of pulse flours being used in China’s food industry, Der says. Processing is fragmented however, which means there is opportunity to improve existing flour technologies to cater to the performance and supply requirements of different end users.
Pulse Canada has already done some work in this area. From 2013 to 2015, scientists in China worked with commercial companies to test the inclusion of pea flour in plain noodles, steamed buns, and biscuits. As a result of this work, one Hunan-based company successfully launched a noodle using a 20 per cent pea flour.
If only a few more large-scale noodle manufacturers reformulated 25 per cent of their product lines with 20 per cent pea flour, this could have a significant impact on demand for Canadian peas, Der says.
The Canadian industry will also look at how to best market pulses in China, as consumer perceptions of different pulse types are important. For example, some pulses such as kidney beans are perceived as ordinary, while others such as mung, adzuki, and black beans enjoy a higher level of awareness and perceived health benefits.
The industry is pursuing consumer research to better understand where peas fit within the pulse umbrella, and whether there are opportunities for food manufacturers to position Canadian peas positively versus other ingredients.
This is important as Chinese consumers are increasingly looking for safe, high quality foods and ingredients, Der says.
“Food companies need a reason and a compelling story to include pulses such as peas into their product formulations. Results from consumer insights on pulse perceptions will be used to help companies better market pulse-based foods that will lead to greatest consumer uptake.”
In short, there are a lot of opportunities for Canadian pulses in China, Der says. Now it is just a matter of exploring the exact ingredients and processing innovations needed to expand demand.