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National Mission: IMPULSEIBLE Judges Sweet on Alberta Team’s Pulse Pops (PCN Fall 2014) SEP 25 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

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

The Alberta creators of Pulse Pops declared their mission accomplished when they were awarded the top prize at the national Mission: IMPULSEIBLE competition in Saskatoon recently.

The University of Alberta team’s Pulse Pops thoroughly impressed the judges at the Pulse & Special Crops Convention 2014, said Executive Director Leanne Fischbuch of the Alberta Pulse Growers (APG), which co-sponsors the competition for post-secondary students. The frozen Pulse Pop is composed of chickpeas, pea butter and soy nuts wrapped with black bean and cacao, and then rolled in chocolate and coconut.

“Congratulations to Team Alberta on the success of their decadent Pulse Pops, which are delicious for adults as well as kids,” Fischbuch said. “The national competition was intense, but Team Alberta’s Pulse Pops managed to edge out inventive and tasty culinary creations from across Canada. The flavour and versatility of the Pulse Pop for birthday treats or simple everyday snack convinced the judges to name the U of A team as the champion.”

The University of Alberta team consisted of four students: Anastassia Astrakhantseva, Christie Cheng, Diana Nguyen and Stacey Seufert. The team won the provincial competition sponsored by Alberta Pulse Growers and Pulse Canada in March to secure the opportunity to compete against three other regional winners at the national competition, held July 8 in Saskatoon. The national competition was sponsored by Intertek, a multinational company that provides cargo inspection, laboratory testing, certification and related services for the food, feed, ingredients, additives, and agricultural commodity industries in Canada.

“Awarding Pulse Pops (first place) meant so much to the team and I,” Seufert said. “The creativity, hard work and pride we have in our product was acknowledged, all in the common goal of a healthy yet delicious snack that I believe every age can enjoy.”

The team was formed to develop a food creation for their food and nutrition class in January but the criteria for the project didn’t specify that pulses must be included. Astrakhantseva had participated in Mission: IMPULSEIBLE in 2013 and qualified for the national competition, so the team developed their school project to Mission: IMPULSEIBLE specifications, Seufert recalled.

The award-winning product wasn’t created right out of the gate, however.

“The base we started with consisted of chickpeas and black beans, sweetened so that kids would like it,” she said. “We developed several formulations to test with a consumer panel of 50. A nutritional bonus was the result that healthier sweeteners were preferred. A change for nationals was moving away from peanut butter. A judge from provincials did not like the ingredient present due to allergies, and the fact that peanuts are not allowed into schools. Pea butter was a simple substitute, especially since there is a producer in Sturgeon County. In addition, we swapped out peanuts for soy nuts in the centre which still contain a nutty flavour.”

The swap also helped the team meet the lower maximum fat content that the national competition dictated.

At provincials, Pulse Pops included black beans and chickpeas, but by the time the nationals came around, Alberta’s offering also included additional pulses in the form of peas and soybeans.

“The question we get a lot is: Are they actually good because they are so healthy,” Seufert said. “They taste just like chocolate and sugar but are made mostly from pulses. They actually taste really good.”

Seufert explained that the next step for Pulse Pops is to make the product available in the marketplace for everyone to enjoy. The team will start by targeting events and festivals, and work toward placement in coffee shops and grocery store freezers.

“Working with pulses is a rewarding challenge,” she said. “This under-utilized piece of the legume family involves natural colours, a variety of flavours and textures, and versatility that is reflected in Pulse Pops.”

The mission for all competitors was to develop a wholesome and delicious snack food for kids using Canadian pulses, as well as to promote how the product provides nutritious solutions to consumers and industry.

For an added twist this year, the teams were asked to promote their product with a video uploaded to YouTube, Fischbuch noted. In addition to bringing home the national title, Team Alberta also won $2,500.

“Each year, we see an incredible array of innovative food products created using whole and split pulses, pulse flours and pulse fractions like fibre, protein and starch by the students who participate in Mission: IMPULSEIBLE,” Fischbuch said. “This competition demonstrates the potential for pulses in food product development and the inventiveness of our post-secondary students.”

Pulse Pops are the second pulse-based creation to earn a place at the national Mission: IMPULSEIBLE competition for Astrakhantseva. Last year, she partnered with Karen Ting, also a U of A Food and Nutrition student, to develop Chizza, a pizza dough made of chickpea flour that can be stored and poured from a carton like milk. Chizza beat out six other food items to take home the grand prize at the 2013 Alberta competition, but missed out on first place at the national competition.

Astrakhantseva was thrilled to claim the top spot at nationals in 2014 with Pulse Pops, but the journey was about more than just claiming the top prize.

“Winning the national competition was an amazing experience, but the connections and industry people that we got to meet was the highlight of attending the special crops convention,” she said. “Also, meeting other students from across Canada was great as we shared their experiences of the competition and discussed their future goals in life.”