Gaining Momentum - PulseResearch
April 25, 2017
Pulse flour milling project poised to meet growing consumer demand for pulse ingredients
At a Canadian food industry event in Toronto, Galen Weston Jr., Executive Chairman of Loblaws, called pulses “the food of the future,” confirming something that those within the industry already know – that demand for pulses is taking off.
The pulse research industry has been anticipating this and is poised and ready to meet the demands of food companies in Canada and abroad by increasingly looking for ways to provide consumers with healthier and more diversified food products.
Recently, at the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), researchers completed a multi-year research project aimed at determining and demonstrating how pulse flours can be optimized to best meet the needs of commercial food manufacturers. “Four years of work has culminated into valuable knowledge and expertise in the area with potential opportunities in this area beginning to gain momentum,” says Heather Maskus, Project Manager in Pulse Flour Milling and Food Applications at Cigi.
“The pulse milling project has enhanced Canada’s knowledge about the use of pulse ingredients as value-added food products, and this is exactly the kind of innovative initiative that the global grain and food industry is interested in hearing about,” she says. “The increased exposure of this project in Canada is piquing the interest of the global food industry, which is interested in trying these new applications using Canadian pulses and Canadian pulse flours.”
The research itself was focused on creating pulse-based products that meet the needs of commercial food companies. The Cigi team facilitated this by first getting feedback from food companies about their specific requirements for food ingredients and then applying in-house expertise and cutting-edge milling technologies to create flours from Canadian peas, lentils, chickpeas, and beans that meet these requirements. They also tested these pulse flours in a variety of food products including noodles, pasta, baked goods, batter coated chicken nuggets, and snacks. “The end result was pulse flours of a specific quality, possessing the unique functionality that food companies are looking for, but the most important takeaway was realizing the potential of pulse flours in specific markets,” Maskus says.
“Within a commercial realm, for instance, there is strong potential for pulses within the snack food market. This is not only because pulses are a versatile ingredient in products like puffed extruded snacks, crackers, or cereal bars, but also a result of the conditions of the snack food market here in North America. We see consumers interested in diversifying their snacking with more selection in grains but also wanting a healthy component to their snack, with added protein or fibre.”
Cigi has shared research results with Canadian food companies and industry associations such as the American Association of Cereal Chemists, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the Chinese Cereals and Oils Association, as well as with all their program participants (there are approximately 1,000 participants/year) who are interested in learning more about Canadian field crop industries and innovative activities taking place.
Beyond sharing knowledge, the project has had another important outcome – spurring spinoff research in a variety of related areas that has the potential to unveil more untapped markets for Canadian pulses. One example of this is a current Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) funded research project that is looking at using Canadian pulse flours in Asian noodles, steamed buns, and Chinese biscuits (see page 26). “This is just one example of the long-lasting effects this research will have on the continued development of the pulse ingredient industry,” Maskus says.
“We are also seeing interest in applied research and development with several companies and are continuing to partner with industry leaders in baking, milling, equipment manufacturing, and food industry worldwide. Cigi’s expertise will continue to support the research work in China to optimize these products, and open other avenues for Canadian pulses all over the world,” says Maskus.
SPG Investment: $346,000
Co-Funders: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – Canadian Agriculture Adaptation Program, Alberta Pulse Growers, and The Canadian Special Crops Association (collectively $1,573,750)
Project Lead: Heather Maskus, Project Manager, Pulse Flour Milling and Food Applications, Canadian International Grains Institute