We began by clarifying what pulses are, and whether the term ‘pulses’ actually means anything to the average consumer…
WHAT ARE PULSES?
“Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family, dry peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas, but while pulses are legumes, not all legumes are pulses, so we exclude soy, peanuts, and fresh peas.” Tanya Der, manager of food innovation and marketing, Pulse Canada
DOES THE TERM ‘PULSES’ MEAN ANYTHING TO US CONSUMERS?
“People recognize the term pulses in Canada, India and parts of Europe, but in the US I find myself constantly having to explain what pulses are, so the awareness seems to be low, particularly in the US. We did a survey in February this year and only 17% of Americans correctly categorized beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils as pulses. In June, however, the figure was 23%, and there are plans to conduct another survey in 2017.” Tanya Der, manager of food innovation and marketing, Pulse Canada
“The mission behind the ‘Made with Pulses’ logo is a great idea, but awareness is still low. We did a survey showing that 77% of US consumers thought beans were healthy, but when it comes to the word pulses, I think the American consumer struggles with that term.” Mike LaRocca, director of supply chain and R&D, Beanitos
“We have a little badge on our packaging that says ‘powered by chickpeas’ and we highlight protein and fiber on the front of pack. But our primary goal with our [bright orange packaging] is to compete directly with big pasta brands and stand out in the pasta aisle.” Derrick Quandt, director of operations, Banza
- Aaron Gatti, founder, BRAMI
- Derrick Quandt, director of operations, Banza
- Mike LaRocca, director of supply chain and R&D, Beanitos
- Travis Berger, VP supply chain, Eat Well Embrace Life ('other bean humus')
- Tanya Der, manager of food innovation and marketing, Pulse Canada
Sponsored by Ingredion, which supplies multiple pulse-based ingredients
SHOULD THERE BE AN EQUIVALENT OF ‘GOT MILK?’ FOR PULSES??
“The Got Milk campaign was huge. Do brands like us band together and put a few cents in from every pack? I think it’s going to take a lot of work to make pulses a mainstream term.” Mike LaRocca, director of supply chain and R&D, Beanito
WHY ARE PULSES TRENDING RIGHT NOW?
“If you go to a supermarket today you’ll find pulses in almost every aisle: bakery, chips, crackers, dips and spreads, pasta, desserts, brownies – pulses go really well with chocolate and Daiya Foods has a cheesecake with pea protein - sauces, meat-alternatives, and dairy alternatives – beverages, cheeses, yogurts.
“Pulses have a great story to tell. They’re high in protein and fiber and low in fat and very nutrient dense, but there’s also other benefits from satiety and cholesterol management to sustainability that’s driving interest. They also fit in with consumer trends such as gluten-free, non-GMO, and allergen-friendly.” Tanya Der, manager of food innovation and marketing, Pulse Canada
LUPINI BEANS: THE NEXT TREND IN PULSES? AND IF SO, HOW DO YOU MARKET THEM?
“Lupini are an ancient Mediterranean legume, although there is also a separate species that’s part of the same family that’s found in South America that tends to be used in stews and other dishes. The variety we use is the Mediterranean variety and they were known as far back as ancient Egypt and they fueled the Romans on their long campaigns, extremely rich in protein, fiber and minerals.
“Today they’re loved by kids that like to pop them out of their shells or by adults as appetizer snacking beans a lot like edamame [boiled green/immature soy beans] in Japan. Americans with a Mediterranean heritage often know about them but pretty much outside of that there is pretty much zero recognition. We often talk about them as the ‘Mediterranean edamame,’ but outside of certain Metropolitan areas not all Americans know what edamame is either, so it’s an ongoing learning process for us.” Aaron Gatti, founder, BRAMI
WHAT DO LUPINI BEANS TASTE LIKE?
“One of the other challenges is that not only do most people not know what lupini beans are, but it’s really hard to describe the taste. We’ve found that describing them as ‘savory’ or ‘umami’ helps, and the fact that they are lightly fermented and pickled can help people know what to expect.
“To me the flavor of our lupini beans without the shell reminds me most of halloumi cheese, but not everyone knows what that tastes like, so I just have to encourage people to give them a shot.” Aaron Gatti, founder, BRAMI
HOW CAN NEW PACKAGING MAKE PULSES MORE CONVENIENT?
“In Mediterranean countries, you typically get pickled lupini beans in a jar, but we wanted to make them accessible and convenient, so we went for pouches instead of jars, which just sit in your fridge and they are forgotten.
“Where we’ve really won is how inviting and friendly and fun the packaging is, that’s definitely catching consumers’ eyes and encouraging trial. And what seals the deal is that the nutritionals are unique. People are also looking for plant protein and clean protein, so that’s what some people are homing in on.” Aaron Gatti, founder, BRAMI
WHICH BEANS ARE TRENDING?
“Beans are very malleable when it comes to different flavors and most beans do well in a hummus format, so we’ve been experimenting with lots of different varieties, including green chickpeas [fresh young garbanzo beans]. Green chickpeas have a nice nutty flavor profile and a nice fresh note that we’re excited about. It’s just starting to take hold but it’s definitely something we’re looking at. I believe green pulses, green vegetables and everything green is gaining popularity.
“We’re always looking to highlight what pulses we’re using on pack rather than just talking about ‘beans,’ for example. I think that beans are growing in every aisle of the store and that has really helped raise awareness and helped us grow our brand.” Travis Berger, VP Supply Chain, Eat Well Embrace Life (‘other bean hummus’)
“We look at what’s popular and what’s affordable, because when you start introducing unrecognizable names it’s harder for consumers to latch onto, so we’ve found our niche with black beans and pinto beans, although we’ve considered looking at different campaigns using specific beans for specific times of the year.
“Cost is a factor for bean snacks. Beans are at a premium item and we’re already paying a higher price per pound than people in the corn, potato and wheat-based snacks space, so we have to consider that to stay competitive.” Mike LaRocca, director of supply chain and R&D, Beanitos
WHAT ARE BEANS LIKE TO WORK WITH?
“There’s a diversity of pulse ingredients now available to manufacturers that’s expanding all of the time. There’s also new ingredients with different particle sizes, which can be critical for functionality with pulse flours. There are also de-flavored versions of pulse protein ingredients, sprouted pulses and pre-cooked products, but flavor can still be a challenge.” Tanya Der, manager of food Innovation and marketing, Pulse Canada
“When we first launched Beanitos our mission was always to have beans as the first ingredient – and we always start with whole beans - you do see other brands in the snacks aisle that are making claims about beans but you flip over the pack and the first ingredient is corn or potato.” Mike LaRocca, director of supply chain and R&D, Beanitos
IS THE FACT THAT PULSES CAN CAUSE DIGESTIVE DISCOMFORT A BARRIER TO GROWTH?
“Pulses are high in fiber, which can cause digestive discomfort – the soluble fibers tend to be the culprits, so soaking them prior to preparation can make a difference, and heat treatment can also play an important role.”
“We get that question a lot, but as you increase fiber in your diet your body naturally becomes less prone to flatulence, so all we say to that is eat more beans!” Mike LaRocca, director of supply chain and R&D, Beanitos
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE PULSE PASTA MARKET?
“Over the past 10 years the pasta market in general has been declining, and a lot of that is based on fear of carbohydrates, but we are offering something that tastes as good with better nutrition – more fiber, more protein [Banza - pasta made from chickpeas - claims to rival the taste and texture of regular wheat pasta, but has twice the protein and four times the fiber, and is aimed squarely at mainstream consumers who are looking for pasta with fewer empty carbs and more nutrition, but are not prepared to compromise on taste or texture].
"Most pulse-based pastas today are quite good compared to what was available a few years ago. We’ll look at other pulses but chickpeas had an initial advantage because of the more neutral flavor and color.
Want more data on pulse trends? You can download a fact sheet full of data courtesy of our sponsor Ingredion when you register to tune into the FREE forum HERE.
“We’re the fastest growing pasta company in the United States.” Derrick Quandt, director of operations, Banza
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE BEAN SNACKS MARKET?
“It’s taken some time for retail buyers to get on board with bean snacks, but the ones that were willing to give us a chance saw great success with us early on and now buyers are knocking on our door that said ‘No’ originally because they see beans growing in snacks and other categories.
“The sky’s the limit for bean-based snacking, I think it should grow into every section, just like corn is in a lot of aisles in the store. We’ve seen that given the chance, consumer are ready to make healthier choices in the snacks aisle. We started with chips and expanded into extruded snacks more to be kid friendly, but there are also other platforms we could go into.” Mike LaRocca, director of supply chain and R&D, Beanitos
WHERE NEXT FOR PULSE PROTEINS?
“Most of the focus has been on pea protein, but lentil and bean proteins have been tested in food products, and they have some very interesting functionality, but commercially they are not as readily available. From a nutritional perspective, pulse proteins are not considered complete proteins, but they do contain high levels of lysine that can be deficient in other protein sources, so they can be complementary to other protein sources.” Tanya Der, manager of food Innovation and marketing, Pulse Canada
WHAT’S THE AVAILABILITY OF ORGANIC PULSES?
There is availability of organic peas and lentils but it’s a very small part of the market.” Tanya Der, manager of food Innovation and marketing, Pulse Canada
Watch our video about pulses from the IFT show.