Pulse sector focuses on new uses

The industry’s strategy for increasing demand will target whole, split pulses as well as flour and fractionation


REGINA — Pulse Canada has put some meat on the bones of its strategic objective to find new sources of demand for 25 percent of pulse production by 2025.

The importance of that strategy has been highlighted by the loss of India as Canada’s top pulse customer.

“It’s more than just focusing on another geographic location because every other pulse exporter in the world is doing the same thing,” said Pulse Canada chief executive officer Gord Bacon.

Instead, the strategy focuses on finding new uses for pulses, Jackie Tenuta, Pulse Canada’s director of market development, told delegates attending the 2018 Pulse and Special Crops Convention.

“This is around two million tonnes of product that we’re looking to find a new home for,” she said.

Two main areas have been targeted — whole split pulses in the foodservice and retail sectors, and the pulse flour and fractionation market in the processed foods sector.

The goal is to increase whole split use by 800,000 tonnes with half being absorbed by restaurants and the other half by grocery stores.

The United States, Canada and Western Europe have been identified as target markets.

Another 700,000 tonnes will be consumed in the making of processed human foods such as bakery products, snacks, processed meats, noodles, milk alternatives and biscuits.

The U.S., Asia and Western Europe are the target markets along with companies such as PepsiCo and Grupo Bimbo.

The final component of the strategy is 500,000 tonnes for the animal food sector, including pet food, aquaculture feed and livestock feed.

The U.S. and Europe are the biggest markets for pet food while Asia will be the target for the aquaculture and livestock feeds.

Benchmarks for existing pulse use had to be established in order to track progress on the new strategy.

“We have some pretty decent numbers now that we feel comfortable with in terms of where we think pulses are being used,” said Tenuta.

An estimated 1.6 million tonnes of pulses are being consumed by the human food and pet food markets in North America. Another three million tonnes is being used in China’s human food market. Work is still ongoing to determine Europe’s utilization.

Pulse Canada has also created targets by crop type.

The goal for yellow peas is to have an additional 1.1 million tonnes of flour and other fractionated ingredients incorporated into processed human food, pet food, aquaculture feed and livestock feed.

For lentils the target is to sell another 625,000 tonnes of whole, pureed, dry and shelf stable product into the foodservice and retail markets.

Another 275,000 tonnes of market opportunities have been identified for navy and pinto beans, chickpeas and fababeans.

Tenuta said the idea is to hone in on specific applications for specific products, a strategy that has proven successful for other foods.

For instance, egg sales in Canada are up 6.6 percent over the last year because McDonald’s and A&W launched all day breakfast menus.

So the strategy for lentils will be to position the crop as a low-cost, sustainable protein substitute in meat blends, such as burgers, meatballs and pasta sauce.

Lentils will also be promoted as an ingredient in power bowls, which are hot items in restaurants.

Julianne Curran, vice-president of food and health with Pulse Canada, said there will be challenges in executing the 25 by 2025 strategy, such as regulations surrounding protein claims in Canada and the U.S.

“It’s actually challenging to meet those claim targets when we’re including pulse ingredients,” she said.

Another is consistency of supply because multinational companies will require large volumes of the crops once they decide to commercialize products that incorporate pulse ingredients.

And then there are dietary guidelines that are all focused on whole pulses rather than pulse flours.

Pulse Canada has various initiatives underway to address those challenges.

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