Skip to content

Pulses And Pulse Ingredients Found in All Food Categories at the Natural Products Expo (PCN Summer 2014) JUL 9 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

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

Shirzad Chunara MHSc, RD, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

Anaheim, California hosts the Natural Products Expo West and Innovation Summit each March. This year’s expo boasted a record-breaking 2,600 exhibitors and more than 67,000 attendees who gathered to showcase new products, foster business relationships and forecast trends.

Sustainable eating was a real driving force, as were organic, vegetarian eating, allergen-free and non-GMO. Fortunately for the pulse industry, pulses and pulse ingredients fulfill the demand for all of these categories. Everywhere I turned, I saw pulses and pulse ingredients being used in new and exciting ways, including:

  • for sustainable eating
  • gluten-free products
  • allergen-free options
  • for healthy energy shakes
  • vegetarian and vegan protein
  • whole bagged pulses
  • pulse flours
  • GMO-free pulses
  • organic pulses
  • sprouted pulse flours

The Hampton Creek Foods success story was shared as an ideal example of a company which follows the “keep it clean, keep it simple and be human” path to innovation. Their goal is to make food products that are healthier, safer and more affordable to a greater number of the population. Their first product on the market is a vegetarian-based mayonnaise which, they proudly announced, incorporates Canadian Yellow Peas rather than eggs. They highly praised pea protein as a more sustainable ingredient, which they found to be up to 48% more cost-effective than the conventional chicken egg.

Although only one per cent of the population is said to have true Celiac Disease requiring gluten-free foods, up to 20 per cent of the products showcased at Expo West claimed to be gluten-free, with many utilizing pulse ingredients such as pea fibre and a variety of pulse flours. There were numerous pulse snacks in this category including roasted or fried chickpeas, faba beans and my favourite, jalapeño honey mustard pretzel sticks. These delicious snacks had 12g of protein and 4g of fibre in one 34g serving, thanks to a combination of soy protein and pea fibre.

In the allergen-free category, pea protein is used in a variety of ways, including in Daiya’s mozzarella style shreds, which are also used in their pizza line. Their fire-roasted vegetarian pizza is dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and absolutely delicious. The allergen-free “chicken sausages” made from pea protein, were also a great hit at the expo as they were served from the food trucks near the entrance. Another allergen-free product that caught my eye was the True Solution nutritional shake, which contained 17g of “pure plant protein” in one serving. Pea protein concentrate was the second ingredient after purified water. Although soy and whey proteins are still dominant in the drinks categories, pea protein seems to be moving up as a preferred ingredient allowing for allergen-free and vegan labelling claims.

Pulses and pea proteins were found in almost all of the categories, indicating that as this trend keeps growing there will be ample opportunities, demand and growth for these high value Canadian ingredients in all forms. There were many who believed that the natural and functional ingredients industry was simply a niche market that would shrink away. However, according to New Hope Media’s research and what was showcased at the Natural Products Expo in 2014, the natural, organic and healthy products industry is poised to grow to $226 billion by 2018 with an annual growth rate of 8.6 per cent. Is the pulse industry ready?

Shirzad Chunara is a Development Officer with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Crop Extension Branch. She is a strong pulse industry advocate.