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Capturing the rise of pulse flours & ingredients

07 April 20224 min reading

Increasingly, the food industry is gaining more and more familiarity with all of the positive attributes that pulse ingredients (peas, lentils, chickpeas and beans) can bring to the table. As sustainably produced, nutrient-dense sources of protein, Canadian pulses are increasingly finding a home in conventional food and beverage formulations. 

Janelle Courcelles
Director of Quality & Procesing 
Pulse Canada


Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pulses including peas and lentils, with a rich history of value-added processing of pea proteins that has existed since the 1980s. Accompanying the plant-based movement, we are seeing rapid momentum and growth in the pea processing industry; with Canada’s domestic capacity to process pulse ingredients expected to reach 600,000 metric tonnes by the end of the year. Canada’s experience in pulse processing has created an ecosystem of educated professionals with the knowledge and experience to support this growth. The Canadian pulse industry is investing heavily in scientifically-backed data which speaks to the sustainability benefits and quality advantages of processing Canadian varieties. Given an average annual production of ~4 million metric tonnes, the Canadian industry is well-positioned to become a leading supplier of pea ingredients to the international market. 


LEVERAGING EXPERIENCE TO CREATE  NEW & INNOVATIVE PULSE INGREDIENTS

Behind peas, lentils are the second largest in volume of the pulse crops produced in Canada, with an average annual production of ~ 2.4 million metric tonnes. It is becoming clear that the success and history of pea processing in Canada can be leveraged to create new and innovate ingredients from other pulses like lentils. The production of flours from red and green lentils has been identified as an undercapitalized opportunity in this space; with a compound annual growth rate (2020-23) for lentil flour utilization in US packaged foods estimated at 22.3%1. An online survey of 1511 representing the general population identified lentils as having strong consumer awareness with perceived benefits being healthfulness, plant-forward, high in protein and high in fibre2. 

IMPROVING NUTRITIONAL PROFILES & CREATING CONSUMER-DRIVEN PRODUCTS

The production of lentil flour can be adapted to produce flours with specified end-use characteristics that can be applied to a range of applications from pasta, savoury snacks, baked goods and breakfast cereals. Lentil flour can provide a range of functional benefits in foods including moisture and oil retention, assist as an expansive agent in extruded products or as a clean-label additive for colour development. Given its versatility in end-use applications, lentil flour can serve as the secret weapon to improve the nutritional profile and create “better-for-you” products through improvements in protein, fibre, vitamin and mineral content. A research study3 evaluating the effects of reformulating traditional pan bread, breakfast cereal and pasta formulations with 15%, 53% and 30% lentil flour, reported 14-93% increases in the overall nutrient balance score. The nutrient balance score provides an aggregated measure of nutrients and other dietary constituents considered to have a positive or negative effect on the nutritional profile of a given food considering both qualifying nutrients (e.g. protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals) and disqualifying nutrients (e.g. salt, fat and cholesterol). 

Lentil flours are a good option for plant-based protein, and significantly increase the overall content and quality of protein. For instance, the reformulation of breakfast cereal with 53% lentil flour can add up to 78% more protein3. Being a rich source of lysine, a limiting amino acid found in most cereal products, blending lentil flour with cereals in appropriate amounts can improve the overall quality of protein present within foods through increases in measurements such as the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS). 


BLENDED PRODUCTS INCORPORATING LENTIL & CEREAL FLOURS PROVIDE A WIN-WIN OPPORTUNITY

The significance of protein quality improvements is demonstrated in the table presented below, where reformulating durum wheat pasta to contain 25% lentil flour increased the overall protein content by 26% while also improving the PDCASS from 0.43 to 0.71. For regulatory environments such as Canada and the United States, where the protein quality must be considered to determine a protein claim on packaged foods, the inclusion of lentil flour can increase the amount of overall protein eligible for a claim and be the determining factor as to whether or not a product can be considered a “Good Source of Protein”. Blended products incorporating lentil and cereal flours provide a win-win opportunity to revitalize traditional food formulations through improved nutrition, complementary amino acid profiles, increase protein content, and healthier labels. 


If you have any questions on pulse flour functionality, applications or anything else, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at jcourcelles@pulsecanada.com



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