Skip to content

Pea Soup, Chili, Hummus and Beyond (PCN Winter 2014) JAN 23 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Wendy Benson, R.D., M.P.H., Consulting Registered Dietitian

Early in 2007, I was contracted to liaise with Alberta food science, nutrition, and health researchers. From this small initiative, Food and Nutrition Marketing evolved to be an influential source for key stakeholders and substantially raised the profile of Alberta pulses.

In 2007, Pulse Canada developed the Pulse Innovation Initiative for Food and Nutrition, with the overall goal to increase Canadian pulse consumption. The key strategies were to influence stakeholders such as food and health media; health professionals, primarily dietitians; and chefs, including those with a media presence, to carry the pulse message to the general public. Starting with about 50 consulting days per year, the key strategy was to influence stakeholders rather than deliver services and programs directly to the public.

The program started with needs assessments of the three key stakeholders. Over the six years, about 1400 professionals have engaged with Alberta Pulse. They know our name, know pulses grow here in Alberta, include pulses in their menus and recommendations, and some are widely enthusiastic pulse cheerleaders.

Many initiatives were piloted and implemented over six years. Some of the highlights include:

  • Dietitians of Canada sponsorship for Edmonton, Calgary and occasionally national events. This ensures Alberta Pulse’s name is visible and reminds dietitians about our programs and resources. It also encourages dietitians to share Alberta Pulse information with one another. About 325 dietitians and health professionals are on the electronic newsletter list, distributed about three times per year.
  • Pulse Classroom Support for Alberta Foods teachers for Grades 8 to 12. About 150 teachers each year participate in a program that has about 6300 students preparing pulses. Foods teachers are particularly enthusiastic pulse supporters because of the culinary versatility and affordability. The teachers also receive an electronic newsletter, about 4 times per year. [editorial note: photos of WB educating teachers]
  • Mission ImPULSEible is a postsecondary student food competition operated in Alberta as part of the national competition. The Alberta event is higher profile compared to other provincial events. It attracts a good-sized audience of food processors and large institutional foodservice managers. Over the past four years, about 45 students have been involved in the competition, some multiple times and about 100 students attend a presentation about pulses and Mission ImPULSEible. There are many reasons to be optimistic that the pulse information and benefits will be incorporated by students as they move into their food careers.
  • Recipe development has been well supported by Executive Directors, specifically Sheri Strydhorst and Leanne Fischbuch. With the talents of a home economist or chef, food stylists, and photographers, Alberta Pulse has had 20 recipes developed. All these recipes are now on our web page.
  • Web pages and social media: The consultant’s role has been to advise and recommend changes for two different versions of Alberta Pulse Growers/Alberta Pulse web page. Since its inception, traffic and appeal of recipes has vastly improved.
  • Foodservice promotions such as NAIT Culinary Arts collaborations, collaborating with provincial initiatives such as the Alberta Food Processors Association’s Feastival, and the pulse specific Savouring Pulses has raised the profile of Alberta and prairie crops with students, chefs and foodservice professionals.

The Food and Nutrition Marketing work is only possible through strong partnerships and professional working relationships with many people and organizations. The partnership with NAIT, Culinary Arts is particularly strong and unique. Other partnerships particularly noteworthy are with UofA researchers, Alberta Canola Producers, Alberta Barley, and many dietitians within Alberta Health Services. The Alberta Pulse Growers Commission staff is also very instrumental in supporting many initiatives.

At the time of writing, it’s not clear how the Food and Nutrition Marketing will continue. Most of the mentioned strategies have substantial energy and should continue. Some suggestions for the future include:

  • Connecting directly with adult and high school consumers, through a standard presentation delivered by a handful of professionals across Alberta.
  • Fostering and encouraging Mission ImPULSEible food products that enhance, not detract, from the nutritional strengths of pulses and pulse flours.
  • The web page recipes and online profile need to stay current with the latest and greatest trends so new users continue to use our recipes.
  • More consumer tasting and demonstrations as they need the confidence to prepare pulse dishes and know they will enjoy. This is truer for pulses than many other foods.
  • Strengthen program evaluation to understand successes and assess pulse consumption, specifically in Alberta.

The future is bright for the Canadian pulse industry and potential food uses. I can see a day where pea soup, chili and hummus are no longer the top three Canadian uses of pulses. It’s been an honour and privilege to work with Alberta Pulse.