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Set pulses racing: World Pulses Day 2019 celebrates nutritional and sustainable “superfoods”

The first-ever World Pulses Day will take place this weekend on February 10. Following the success of the 2016 International Year of the Pulse, the UN-declared global one-day event is now an annual opportunity to celebrate pulses, the superfood category that includes dry peas, lentils, chickpeas and beans. The USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council (USADPLC) and the American Pulse Association (APA) are supporting the occasion with global events as pulses continue to reign supreme in the plant-based food sectors, on nutritional and sustainability grounds.

Sustainable proteins
Pulses are nutritious and sustainable sources of plant-based protein – a staple food for a healthier diet and planet – and have long been included in diets all over the globe.

Consumers’ quest for alternative protein is driving innovation across several categories involving pulses, backed-up by a rise in vegan and vegetarian trends and an overall growth in meat-free food. People want products with alternative sources of protein as they turn away from traditional meat sources and one of the categories where plant-based inspired eating is driving innovation across categories such as snacking. Other health claims focus on issues such as protein and fiber content, sugar reduction and weight management.

According to USADPLC and APA, pulse crops are especially important to the Palouse region, in Northwestern US. Farmers across Idaho and Washington in the US have cultivated dry peas, lentils and chickpeas for decades across thousands of acres of the region’s rolling hills, making the Palouse one of the world’s pulse crop capitals.

Offering further insight into the benefits of pulses, Aidin Milani, Sales & Development Manager for Pulses & Spices at Bühler, tell: “Pulses have always been a very important source of protein and nutrition around the world but, recently, their popularity has increased substantially even in regions where they were not consumed traditionally.”

“In order to cope with this new demand, new products need to be developed and new methods need to be adopted. Bühler is fully committed to be part of this effort. We work very closely with the pulse industry to understand the challenges and find sustainable solutions to resolve them,” he says.

Milani also explains that Buhler works closely with companies throughout the pulse value chain; from receiving and cleaning to downstream processes like milling to produce ingredients and even value-added processes like extrusion and pasta.

Plant-based proteins have been gaining traction for some time and plant-based innovation is flourishing. According to Innova Market Insights, as the growing consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethics drive plant-derived ingredients and products into high popularity. Innova reports that plant-based product claims increased by 62 percent globally (CAGR, 2013-2017) with growth occurring on platforms including plant proteins.

In December 2018, Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients (LCI), a subsidiary of Limagrain, was highlighting trends in snacking and protein enrichment using plant-based ingredients derived from pulses and legumes.

In tune with consumer demand for naturalness and clean label, pulse-based ingredients offer benefits for human nutrition and can be incorporated into many foods including baker, cereals and savory snacks.

Walter Lopez P.h.D Nutritionist at LCI says: “It is recommended to eat more vegetal products and to reduce our consumption of animal-origin foods. Pulse flours can be an ideal solution for increasing vegetal consumption and used in many food applications.”

“While being natural sources of carbohydrate, fiber and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, pulse flours can be conjugated with cereals, bringing a well-balanced plant protein to breakfast tables,” he explains.

Chickpea-derived fiber and protein has been one of the key ingredients to watch recently. For example, in February 2018, Nutriati and exclusive commercialization partner PLT Health Solutions introduced a premium quality chickpea flour solution to the North American food market. Called Artesa Chickpea Flour, the ingredient addresses a number of issues that have prevented other nutritionally desirable pulse/legume flours from gaining widespread adoption – including taste, sensory characteristics and formulating functionality, according to Nutriati.

In December 2018, Israeli food-tech company InnovoPro raised US$4.25 million in funding in a round led by Migros, Switzerland’s largest retailer, and Erel Margalit, Founder and Chairman of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), a leading Israeli Venture Capital fund. InnovoPro produces “the world’s first” 70 percent protein concentrate from chickpeas, which the company reports features high nutritional values as well.

Investments in plant proteins continue within the ingredients space too. In mid-December 2018, Ingredion announced several steps to accelerate production of plant-based proteins globally, joining a combined US$140 million of strategic investments which will seek to expand the broad range of plant-based protein solutions. As a result, two North American manufacturing facilities will produce pea-protein isolates and a range of pulse-based flours and concentrates in 2019.

USADPLC and APA are hosting an event at the Culinary Institute of America (ICE) in Napa, California to celebrate pulses and it doesn’t stop there. Across the globe, consumers and business are expected to take part in World Pulses Day celebrations, posting pulse content on social media using the hashtags #WorldPulsesDay and #LovePulses. Companies are encouraging consumers to share a meal with family, friends, or colleagues using pulse-based recipes or host a World Pulses Day event at a local restaurant or venue.

“We applaud the UN’s recognition of the importance of pulse crops as a healthy and environmentally sustainable food source for people around the world,” notes Tim McGreevy, CEO of the USADPLC and APA. “This event is a unique opportunity to get a head start on celebrating World Pulses Day and to see pulses in action right on the home front.”

The US Pulse Industry will also be celebrating World Pulses Day 2019 by hosting a pulse immersion event at ICE. This pulse immersion retreat will challenge R&D chefs to dive into plant-forward foods and authentic global flavors, using pulses in all of the dishes they create. This program will look into the nutrition, functionality, and sustainability of pulses – educating chefs on the benefits of the crops to consumers and the planet.

Centered around the flexitarian consumer, the chefs will be challenged to create dishes full of flavor and with a lower carbon footprint and to take what they have learned to the next level when they return to their own R&D kitchens.

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