International Flavours - PulseResearch
April 25, 2017
Research aims to get more pulse flours in Chinese staple food products
China is a substantial export market for pulses. In 2013, it surpassed India as Canada’s largest importer of yellow peas, importing just under one million tonnes. With growing consumer demand among the country’s 1.4 billion people for healthier and more diverse food products, the opportunities within China will only continue to grow.
In order to capitalize on these opportunities, the Canadian pulse industry first needs to address the lack of information available on using pulse ingredients in Chinese staple foods, which up until now has meant that soy and wheat gluten ingredients have been predominantly used instead. This is why Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) is currently funding research, facilitated through Pulse Canada, which aims to position pulse flours as a functional and nutritious ingredient for Chinese staple foods, such as dry noodles, cookies, biscuits, and steamed buns.
“Food companies are interested in exploring the use of pulse flours to enhance the nutrition and health profiles of their product lines,” says Tanya Der, Manager of Food Innovation & Marketing for Pulse Canada. “This is part of a growing global interest in developing food products that combine pulses and cereal products like rice and wheat, offering consumers new food products that address weight management and improved nutrition.”
The research aims to inform this growing area of interest by gathering information through two phases. The first phase will look at the best ways to include pulse flours in commercial Chinese food products to improve fibre and protein levels, while still maintaining the proper physical and chemical properties of the dough. Specifically, researchers will test pulse flour incorporation levels of up to 50 per cent in Chinese-style dry noodles, up to 40 per cent in biscuits and cookies designed for the Chinese snack market, and up to 20 per cent in two types of Chinese steamed breads that are largely consumed in the country’s northern and southern provinces.
Once researchers have determined the optimal formulations and procedures for creating products with pulse flours, the second phase of research will test the products with Chinese food industry partners. This will include a bakery in Tianjin, a noodle manufacturer in Shandong province, and a yeast company in Beijing. These partners will perform production trials in their own commercial processing environments to test how pulse flours interact with Chinese wheat varieties and other local ingredients, how the dough performs with local processing equipment, and the general economics of adopting pulse flours into their ingredient portfolios. Each commercial partner will also be able to contribute their own expertise to the process, advising on aspects such as consumer acceptance criteria for new products, regional marketing strategies, and more.
The research is expected to be completed by April 2015, at which point Der expects to have conclusive information about how to successfully incorporate pulse flours into commercially produced Chinese staple foods. She also expects the research will have laid the foundation to work with local partners to get these products adopted into the country’s commercial food industry. “With these food studies being conducted in China, local researchers will begin forming a network of expertise in pulse ingredient functionality and be able to transfer technical knowledge to local food industries that have the capacity to commercialize and market new food products,” she says. “Overall, the prototypes will be used to stimulate further interest in pulse innovation, helping to create greater awareness for pulse ingredient applications in China.”
An end result of new and healthier food products for Chinese consumers would also translate into significant benefits for the Canadian pulse industry. In 2009, China’s annual sales of locally produced biscuits and cookies alone was approximately $10 billion CAD, which means that capturing even part of the Chinese staple food market could dramatically increase demand for Canadian pulses and value-added flour products, especially given Canada’s strong export partnership with the country.
“China’s imports of peas have increased from 50,000 tonnes per year to just under one million tonnes in recent years. During this growth, Canada has been able to maintain more than 90 per cent market share in China’s pea imports,” Der says. “So we know that Canadian growers and exporters are very well positioned to capture incremental market demand resulting from this research.”
SPG Investment: $339,090
Co-Funders: Alberta Pulse Growers ($106,167)
Project Lead: Chinese Cereals and Oilseeds Association