Food and ingredient companies like Nestle, General Mills and Cargill are looking to pulses to make their products more nutritious.
“There’s a lot of pressure from the food industry, from consumers right now to make more healthfulness and nutrition in food products,” explains Heather Hill, project manager for pulse flour milling and food applications at the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), in this Pulse School episode.
With funding from Pulse Canada and the federal government, Cigi is working with the companies mentioned above to find ways to add pulses to breakfast cereals, instant noodles, extruded snacks (think cheetos) and other foods that we don’t usually think of as overly healthy.
One of the cereal products Cigi is working with looks a lot like Kellogg’s Corn Pops.
“The use of pea flour in these breakfast cereal products really increases the protein and fibre compared to what’s on the store shelves that you can buy as a consumer,” she says, noting they’re aiming to be able to put a label on food packaging that these products are “high in protein” and/or “high in fibre.”
While peas and other pulses boost fibre and protein, the challenge is maintaining quality and taste, as people don’t expect their sugary breakfast cereal to taste or smell like vegetables.
Hill says they’re currently using a 60 percent yellow pea flour blend with corn, and looking at adding oats or buckwheat to boost protein levels to the standard needed for a “high in protein” claim. When they reach the target, a commercial-scale trial is planned with a partner in Minneapolis.
“Getting that protein claim is really important. Having a good strong message for consumers is really what (the food company) is looking for,” says Hill.
Traditionally, Canadian pulses have been sold without much processing, as split and whole seeds, but “this could open up a whole new potential for what pulses can be used for,” she says. “It’s all a good news story for Canadian peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas.”