The International Year of Pulses: Creating a Legacy (PCN Winter 2017) JAN 4 2017 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Pulse Crop News.
Anya McNabb, Pulse Canada
Increasing consumer awareness of pulses was a major goal for the International Year of Pulses (IYP). The aim was to teach people what pulses are, then expand their knowledge and ignite a passion for pulses, a food that aligns with all the things consumers are looking for. Pulses are affordable, packed with nutrients, good for your health and the health of the environment. With this increased consumer awareness and knowledge, the ultimate goal was to get more consumers eating pulses, creating more demand for these crops in Canada.
Throughout 2016, significant progress was made towards achieving this goal.
Canada’s Pulse Feast, held on Jan. 6 in Toronto’s Financial District, was the official “kick off” of IYP in Canada. More than 180 Canadian journalists, chefs, dietitians and bloggers joined Chef Michael Smith in Toronto at one of 141 Pulse Feast events held in 35 countries to celebrate the beginning of IYP. The event generated media coverage on CBC News and Global News, and in the Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun and Toronto Star.
An ongoing consumer promotion campaign in North America has resulted in sustained pulse coverage in the American and Canadian media. So far, these stories have reached more than 2.98 billion people.
The global website that was launched with IYP, Pulses.org, has also been educating consumers about the importance of pulses to global health, nutrition and sustainability. The website includes a database with over 300 recipes collected from 31 countries.
A major focus of IYP in Canada has been making connections and partnerships with a variety of important and impactful national organizations.
Teaming up with Agriculture in the Classroom Canada brought pulses into the classrooms of 32,000 of tomorrow’s consumers. Lesson plans, interactive exhibits and gardening programs taught young students about a food that is good for their immediate and long-term health, and the health of the planet.
An educational exhibit developed by the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum has been travelling across the country, teaching Canadians why pulses are important for their health, nutrition and environmental sustainability. Since January, Pulses: The Ideal Partner has visited 13 Canadian cities, including Edmonton for FarmTech, and Calgary for both Aggie Days and the Calgary Stampede.
A partnership was also established with Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC), to integrate pulses into community kitchens, food banks and after-school cooking programs across Canada. CFCC works in lower-income communities to increase access to healthy foods such as pulses, build food skills, and provide education and engagement opportunities. Twelve pulse recipes have been integrated into CFCC’s FoodFit cooking program, and a social media contest in June challenged CFCC participants to come up with their own unique pulse recipes.
Another major focus of IYP was to increase awareness of pulses and pulse research in the areas of food science, health and nutrition. Pulses were featured at several technical conferences in North America including Experimental Biology, the Institute of Food Technologists Food Expo, the Canadian Nutrition Society, Dietitians of Canada, the Research Chefs Association and the Restaurants Canada Show. Allison Ammeter, APG and IYP Canada Chair, also spoke about pulses at the prestigious EAT Stockholm Food Forum held in Sweden.
For a more hands-on approach, a two-part technical workshop series held in Winnipeg and Saskatoon helped communicate the benefits of pulses as value-added ingredients to food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers. Both workshops were sold out, evidence of the food industry’s increasing interest in pulses.
An IYP special event, the LovePulses Showcase, saw teams from around the world create original pulse dishes celebrating pulses’ versatility. Teams from seven different countries had the opportunity to showcase their product onstage at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Food Expo. Canada was represented by a team from the University of Alberta, which created a bean-based frozen dessert called BiotaGelata.
A Look Ahead: Pulses and the Future of Food
The pulse industry accomplished a lot in 2016, working toward the goal of increased consumer awareness and consumption. A recent survey showed that awareness of pulses among Canadian consumers increased by seven per cent in the first six months of 2016. Roughly one third of survey respondents said that what they learned about pulses has led to an increase in pulse consumption. These statistics demonstrate that the pulse industry is on the right path to increasing awareness and, ultimately, demand for pulses in Canada. At the same time, it demonstrates that there is still work left to do.
The year 2016 was an opportunity for the pulse industry to tell the world that pulses contribute to the health of people and the health of the environment. Pulse Canada is looking forward to continuing its strategic partnerships in Canada and around the world in 2017 and beyond, in a collaborative effort to increase pulse production and consumption, and to serve the interests of human and environmental health with nutritious, affordable pulses.