CALGARY — The pulse industry has created a new global brand and is launching a major social media marketing campaign in North America.
“It is time. It is absolutely time to reintroduce the world to pulse crops,” said Tim McGreevy, chief executive officer of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council.
“Our goal is to change our image from an ancient grain to a food that has to be in your diet if you are concerned with your health and the health of the planet.”
The first step in that reintroduction process was to create a global brand for pulses.
The Global Pulse Confederation, Pulse Canada, the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council and the American Pulse Association hired Leo Burnett, a Toronto advertising agency, to help them create the brand.
It was chosen after consultation with the global pulse trade, food companies, farmers and consumers in four cities.
Lee Moats, chair of Pulse Canada, said the consumer education process in North America is daunting.
“They don’t know what (pulses) are, they don’t know how to use them and most importantly, they don’t know why it’s a good idea to eat pulses,” he said.
That is why the brand will be featured prominently on a new consumer website that answers all those questions.
“In terms of nutrient density, you get a better bang for your buck from pulses than anywhere else,” said Moats.
He told delegates attending the Pulse & Special Crops Convention that pulses contain far more protein, fibre and minerals than “superfoods” such as quinoa and brown rice.
“When you line up pulses with those other food types, it’s a quantum leap,” said Moats.
McGreevy said peas contain as much potassium as a small banana, while chickpeas have 1.5 times the folate as kale and many pulses offer four times the fibre of brown rice.
Pulses use half the non-renewable energy as other crops because of their nitrogen-fixing ability and consume a fraction of the water of meat-based sources of protein.
McGreevy believes those health and environmental attributes will resonate with the target audience of the new marketing campaign, which is the 91.7 million 18 to 34 year olds in Canada and the United States.
“They are the future. They are the trend setters,” he said.
“We have to inspire them.”
The plan is to inspire them by persuading influencers such as movie star Gwyneth Paltrow to take the pulse pledge, which is a lifelong commitment to increase the amount of pulses in their diet. It will be a social media movement.
“We don’t have unlimited dollars, but we have enough dollars to create a buzz and to start a movement be-cause our crops are that good,” said McGreevy.
The goal is to raise $8 million for the media campaign. Pulse grower groups in Idaho and Washington have voted to double their levy for three years to help pay for the campaign, while groups in North Dakota and Montana are considering doing the same. The trade association has also increased its dues.
McGreevy said there will be an east coast and west coast launch of the campaign in conjunction with International Year of Pulses 2016 activities.
The pulse industry is also working with the Food Network and major magazines to get the message out.
“Our goal is to be in Time magazine,” he said.
Skeptics say there is no way they will be able to increase pulse consumption in North America, but McGreevy points to hummus sales, which have risen to more than $600 million a year from $5 million in 1997.