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Large Scale of Chinese Facilities Impressed Alberta Food Scientist (PCN Spring 2015) MAR 25 2015 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.

An Alberta food scientist found his second trip to China to be as eyeopening as the first as he viewed progress on the development of food items using Canadian yellow pea flour.

“The scale of these Chinese companies is huge,” remarked Dr. Jay Han, Food Scientist-Crops for the Leduc Food Processing Development Centre. “These are not the biggest companies in China, but still their size is enormous. It would be very helpful for Canadian producers producing these pulses to know the scale. There is a huge market and lots of people who can benefit from Canadian pulses.”

In April 2014, Pulse Canada entered into contractual agreements with the Chinese Cereals and Oilseeds Association (CCOA) for three research projects that involve product scale up to commercialization using pulse flours for steam buns, noodles and biscuits – all important staple foods with significant growth potential in the Chinese marketplace.

Recognizing the opportunity, Alberta and Saskatchewan growers are supporting the projects with a $445,257 investment. Whole and de-hulled yellow pea flours were milled at the Canadian International Grains Institute using the knowledge gained from the Pulse Canada Pulse Milling Project, and provided to Chinese researchers for their use in these food product development projects. These projects are set to conclude in July 2015.

“If any one of these projects is successful (in commercialization), there is huge potential,” Han said. “But I believe all three have potential. They are working on other types of products using pea flour and they are also interested in working with other pulses.”

The Alberta Pulse Growers delegation consisted of APG Directors D’Arcy Hilgartner and Fraser Robertson, and Han, who participated in the technical review of the Chinese projects. They were part of a contingent of growers and staff from Alberta and Saskatchewan pulse organizations, a CDC pulse breeder, and Pulse Canada staff who travelled to China in November to meet the project partners and learn how commercialization of these new pea flour projects is proceeding.

“It was great to have two APG directors and a director from Saskatchewan because they could really talk about the farming practice in Canada,” Han said. “They made valuable contributions to the 16 different meetings we attended in seven different cities.”

The group was hosted by the CCOA and visited areas where the work is taking place. APG directors supported the trip as a chance for growers to see Canada’s largest yellow pea market first hand, and get a handle on the true opportunity for food product growth and innovation in the Chinese economy.

“One of the universities had so many grain research instruments, and they are far beyond what we have scalewise,” Han said. “It was a multi-million dollar research laboratory. I’m not complaining that we don’t have those types of instruments because it comes down to being able to use them efficiently. There is a big potential if we can work with them.”

Han’s first trip to China was in 2010 when Canadian researchers visited Beijing in order to discuss the potential for projects utilizing yellow pea flour taking place in the eastern country. As a result, the Chinese submitted several project proposals for which Han was one of the reviewers, and three of the proposals were accepted.

“I have experience working with this product in cookies and biscuits using yellow pea flour,” Han explained, noting that using yellow pea flour increases the nutrition and bears a lower cost than using 100 per cent wheat flour. “The Chinese call a biscuit what we would call more of a cookie. Ours was more like a Ritz cracker.”

In the Winter issue of Pulse Crop News, Hilgartner and Robertson discussed seeing how the yellow peas they grow end up in commercial products in China on the trip, and also the opportunities for increasing pulse exports to China.