Pulse flour: a sustainable, nutritious, functional option

FEATURED SPEAKER Fi Conference 2019
The use of pulse ingredients is expected to increase as the focus on plant-based foods, and more specifically plant protein, continues to develop, and global consumer demand grows even stronger. Tanya Der, Director, Food Innovation & Marketing, Pulse Canada, discusses innovations in milling technology, untapped opportunities, and the benefits pulse-based ingredients can bring to manufacturers, consumers and the environment.

Tanya Der, Director, Food Innovation & Marketing, Pulse Canada

What growth have you seen in the use of pulses as ingredients in cereal-based products?
“Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a 500% increase in global new product launches containing pulse flours. About 20% of these global launches come from the bakery and snacks category in Europe. Pulse-based pastas and breakfast cereals are also gaining traction in markets.”

What are some of the factors behind this?
Sustainability has become a key priority for the food industry over the last few years.  Marketing claims on food packaging around sustainability (e.g. environmentally friendly, sustainable, carbon neutral, etc.) are increasing at a rapid rate. The number of products launched with a sustainability claim rose 10-fold from 4,000 to 40,000 between 2008 to 2018, which comprises about 15% of all new product launches in 2018 according to Mintel.”

“As a nitrogen fixing crop with a low carbon footprint, pulse crops help contribute to overall soil health. Using pulse ingredients in product formulations adds to the positive sustainability story that companies can tell. Demand for high protein and fibre foods also continues to grow. By including pulse ingredients in cereal-based products, food manufacturers are able to meet these evolving consumer needs. Pulse ingredients are also being utilized as part of the ‘free from’ trend, which is the development of products that are targeted to the increasing number of consumers seeking foods that are gluten-free, allergen-free and also egg-free.”

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And where are the untapped opportunities for pulse flour in the bakery sector – where do you see significant growth potential?
“There is significant potential to use pulse flours in the bakery category. Flat breads, biscuits, pastries, cakes and cookies are examples of categories with growth potential. These products are all cereal-based, so there is opportunity to create pulse-cereal blends that are complementary from a protein quality perspective and from sustainability and functionality angles.”

You are a pioneer of pulse flour - can you tell me about the R&D / new technologies you have invested in?

The Canadian pulse industry continues to support projects related to pulse flour processing and functionality. Pulse flours can be processed using an array of milling technologies. While hammer, stone and pin mills are typically employed in commercial milling, work has been done to explore the use of roller milling technology to mill pulses, which could lead to a more controlled and gradual particle size reduction and preservation of flour quality. Currently, there are projects taking place in Canada and France looking at the effects of pre-treatment of pulses on milling quality, storage conditions, and the effects of tempering and heat treatment of peas and lentils prior to milling.”

Which ingredients/products/innovations will you be promoting at the Fi Conference?
“Pea and lentil flours will be promoted as nutritious, functional and sustainable options for food product development.”

How important is sustainability to your company?
“Sustainability remains a key attribute of pulses. As the food sector continues to position new pulse foods around sustainability, the pulse industry is investing in generating even more environmental data to quantify the sustainable attributes of Canadian pulse ingredients. This information will help manufacturers develop products with pulse ingredients that meet their own sustainability goals as well as the sustainability interests of their end-use consumers.”

What would you say your long-term ambitions are as a business?
“The Canadian pulse industry strives to diversify the use of pulses in value-added applications that are promoted for their nutrition and sustainability benefits based on sound evidence.”

What do you hope to take away from the Fi Conference?
“We hope to learn about new innovations in the bakery and food sector and to understand and encourage the interest to innovate with pulse-cereal blends.”

How do you see the bakery sector developing over the next few years, especially with regards to pulses?
“The use of pulse ingredients is expected to increase as the focus on plant-based foods, and more specifically plant protein, continues to develop, and global consumer demand grows even stronger.  We believe that as more knowledge develops around pulse flour milling technology, food and ingredient companies will continue to work closely together to refine processes that will lead to greater consistency and predictability in quality.”

Don’t miss Tanya Der’s presentation on ‘Plant-based clean label ingredient solutions for the bakery industry’ at the Fi Conference on 3 December at 12:00.