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‘Pulses will increasingly be source for new plant-based products’

10 August 20209 min reading

Cindy Brown
President of Global Pulse Confederation

“Pulses truly are the food of the future. They are the future of food because they provide phenomenal nutrition. With the pandemic causing new concerns about food supply chains, we expect more consumers to turn to plant-based proteins. And pulses will increasingly be the source for new plant-based products. From plant-based meats to pea-milk, snack foods and pet foods, we are really in the early stages of uncovering the true market potential of pulses.”

We have an important guest for Miller Magazine’s August issue: Ms. Cindy Brown, the President of Global Pulse Confederation (GPC). GPC is the peak body of the global pulse industry. It represents all segments of the pulse industry value chain from growers, researchers, logistics suppliers, traders, exporters and importers to government bodies, multilateral organizations, processors, canners and consumers. The GPC is the sole international confederation for the pulses industry, facilitating free and fair trade and increasing production and consumption of pulse crops worldwide. It has 24 national association members and over 500 private company members.

Ms. Brown was elected GPC President in June 2019. She leads an Executive Committee of over 30 international members. She answered Miller Magazine’s questions on the mission of the GPC, the importance of pulses in terms of world food security, and Covid-19 impact on the pulses market. She said COVID-19 has had a significant impact on pulses markets. “The billions of people around the world who have been in lockdown have become more conscious of the foods they are eating, and many are seeking out healthy, shelf-stable foods like pulses. With the pandemic causing new concerns about food supply chains, we expect more consumers to turn to plant-based proteins. And pulses will increasingly be the source for new plant-based products.” she comments. She expects that the global consumption of pulses will increase a minimum of 10% versus 2019. As the first woman President of the Global Pulse Confederation, Ms. Brown encourages more women to become involved in agriculture and the pulses industry.

Ms. Brown, first of all, I want to thank you for accepting our interview request…Could you please tell us about your background? How did you get into the pulse industry?
My background is in agriculture. I grew up on the family farm and have been involved with the business since I was a kid really. In fact, I am still living in the house I grew up, which sits at the entrance to Chippewa Valley Bean. My father, Russell Doane, was the first President of Chippewa Valley Bean Company, and grew our first crop of kidney beans in 1969. I took over as President at Chippewa Valley Bean 10 years ago. And, I am proud to say that during that time we have grown the company by more than 200%. And I am equally proud that in June 2019, I became the first woman President of the Global Pulse Confederation.

Could you give us some information about the Global Pulse Confederation? What is the mission of GPC?
GPC has served the global pulse industry for more than 50 years. GPC has 24 national association members and over 500 private company members. GPC has a mission to create greater awareness and consumption of pulses, to enhance food security and environmental sustainability, and to improve market information and international market access for the benefit of the global pulse industry and pulse consumers.

‘WE ARE IN THE EARLY STAGES OF UNCOVERING THE TRUE MARKET POTENTIAL OF PULSES’ You define the pulses as “future of food”. Why do you think so?
Yes, pulses truly are the “food of the future.” They are the future of food because they provide phenomenal nutrition. Research shows that populations that regularly consume pulses are shown to live longer. They are a low fat, high fibre sources of protein that are full of vitamins and minerals.

And pulse fractions – particularly pulse proteins – are the up and coming stars of the food manufacturing sector.

From plant-based meats to pea-milk, snack foods and pet foods, we are really in the early stages of uncovering the true market potential of pulses. And equally important, increased production and consumption of pulses helps address climate change because they have a low carbon footprint, enrich the soil and use less water than other major sources of protein.

Do you think the world knows the nutritional benefits of pulses? What is GPC doing to raise awareness on this issue?
In 2019, nearly 900 million people suffered from serious malnutrition. At the same time, 600 million people were categorized as obese and 2 billion overweight. So, clearly the world’s leaders do not understand enough about the nutritional and health benefits of pulses. But GPC and its members have made tremendous progress in this area. The International Year of Pulses was a major achievement and helped bring much-needed attention to the nutritional benefits of pulses. And now with World Pulses Day taking place each February 10, we have a great annual opportunity, along with our partner UN FAO, to remind the world of the tremendous nutritional and other benefits of pulses.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the pulse markets?
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on pulses markets. The billions of people around the world who have been in lockdown have become more conscious of the foods they are eating, and many are seeking out healthy, shelf-stable foods like pulses. Consumer demand for bulk, packaged and canned pulses has been particularly strong. However, there has also been a decrease in demand in certain sectors such as hotel, restaurant and institutional (HRI) trade.

The number of people who are vegans or flexitarian is growing. The plant-based meat made from pulses is becoming popular. Can you share some information on the growing plant-based protein market and your opinion about its future?
In the U.S., the annual retail food market grew only 2.2 percent in 2019, according to industry trade groups. However, according to the Plant Based Foods Association, plant-based foods sales increased by over 11 percent in the same period. Plant-based meats sales in U.S. have performed particularly well over the past few months. IRI retail sales data shows that plant-based meat experienced triple-digit sales growth—compared to the same weeks in 2019 but were particularly high in March due to pantry stocking.

Do you think the pandemic could lead to stepping up consumer demand in plant-based protein?
Yes, we expect the pandemic will result in increased consumer demand for plant-based proteins. Even before the pandemic, the plant-based protein market size was projected to grow from USD 10.3 billion in 2020 to USD 14.5 billion by 2025. With the pandemic causing new concerns about food supply chains, we expect more consumers to turn to plant-based proteins. And pulses will increasingly be the source for new plant-based products.

Can you share GPC’s forecast for global pulse production and consumption for this year?
We do not have precise numbers available as pulse crop production is still underway in the Northern hemisphere countries. We expect to see an increase in the production of lentils, faba beans, colored beans, white beans and black beans. Dry pea production is expected to remain relatively flat. Global kabuli chickpeas production is expected to drop in response to excess inventories from prior years. On the demand side, we expect that global consumption of pulses will increase a minimum of 10% versus 2019. For some pulses such as beans, the increase in demand would likely be even higher but it is constrained by a lack of inventories.

Which regions or countries do you see as potential new markets for pulses? In which countries/regions is the demand for pulses increasing?
The Asia Pacific region is expected to experience the highest annual growth rate in terms of the plant-based protein market. The young demographics in many parts of the Asian Pacific and growing interest in plant-based products have resulted in manufacturers expanding their scope in the region. We expect much of the new demand for pulses will come as a result of product innovations and globalization of eating habits. Let me give you an example. In Japan, there is not a history of eating pulses in savory dishes. However, relatively recently western-style hotdogs with chili beans were introduced at thousands of 7-Eleven stores throughout Japan. And Starbucks introduced Tex-Mex wraps with beans at their Japan stores. As we increasingly see a broad array of new products featuring pulses such as alt-milks, yogurts, snack foods and even seafood, we will find great potential in not just Asia but all global markets.

The USA is one of the top pulses exporters. I wonder how Americans interest in pulse consumption in their diets. What can you say about the pulse consumption trend in the USA?
Per capita pulse consumption has increased significantly in the United States but much of that increase has been driven by value-added products rather than traditional home cooking. Products with chickpeas are super popular right now with hummus, pulse-based pastas and chickpea snacks all experiencing incredible growth over the past several years. In addition, as the Hispanic population in U.S. continues to grow, we have seen more Hispanic style products with black and pintos beans being offered by large food manufacturers. Lastly, the pea fractions market is growing astronomically as evidenced by the number of new products and manufacturing facilities.

Is there anything you would like to add?
Personally, I want to encourage more women to become involved in agriculture and the pulses industry. It is a great profession with limitless potential. In terms of global markets, I want to make sure that national associations and individual company members continue to work closely with GPC to maintain market access for pulses and advocate for great inclusion of pulses in diets. And in terms of health and nutrition, I want to help spread the word to governments that including pulses in food distribution programs is a great investment as it will lead to better health of their citizenry and lower healthcare costs.

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