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Alberta Ag Scientists Eager to Demonstrate Their Expertise and the Versatility of Alberta Pulses for IYP Showcase (PCN Spring 2017) MAR 28 2017 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Dr. Jay Han, Senior Crops Food Scientist, and Michelle Sigvaldson, Sensory Food Scientist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Food Processing Development Centre

In mid-2015, we met with Alberta Pulse Growers to discuss how we could join in the celebration of International Year of Pulses 2016. We wanted to do something uniquely different from what was being planned elsewhere in Canada.

We all agreed that there is not enough inclusion and exposure of pulses and pulse ingredients in our retail offerings. We can talk about where pulses can be used, but creating real products is more impactful. So it was from this discussion that the idea of a showcase of products was inspired – The Alberta Pulse. We also felt this was a dynamic way to celebrate the great success of increased pulse production by Alberta Pulse Growers and its members.

When we proposed the idea to our scientific team, they were excited to have the opportunity to showcase their creativity in developing new products highlighting the functional and nutritional benefits of pulses. This project not only advocates for our primary producers, but also supports our industry processors and generates products that are market-ready, benefiting consumers. This project would not have happened without the generous contribution made by the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission and its members.

We felt that Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Food Processing Development Centre (FPDC) and the Food Science and Technology Centre were ideally suited to lead the creation of innovative pulse-containing products, as we not only have the expertise in product development to deliver but also have state-of-the-art facilities.

During brainstorming meetings, we tossed around many ideas for new products using pulses, such as roasted pulse beans for a coffee-type beverage, cold pulse beverage, various pastas, confectionaries, tofu, yogurt, bread, bakery items, pulse meat bar, pulse coating systems, surimi pulse analog, and pulse binders in meats, to name a few. We called out to industry for partnerships, and there was a great response.

The project team selected 11 products. For seven of those, we partnered with industry and an additional four were proactive products developed solely by FPDC scientists.

Products presented at The Alberta Pulse showcase included:

  • Ready to eat meat bars
  • Ravioli
  • Old fashioned black and red licorice
  • Hot Italian and chorizo sausages
  • Decadent rich chocolate cake
  • Thin and crispy chips
  • Sweet delicate macarons
  • Savoury beef patties
  • Frozen vanilla and chocolate flavoured desserts
  • Chocolate faba toffee bar
  • Healthy dog treats

Dr. Xiangfeng Meng, Research Scientist at the Food Science and Technology Centre, worked on the Healthy Hoggy Treats for dogs and found that pulses like lentils and yellow pea can be used to replace expensive, imported rice flour in baked pet treat products.

“Most baked pet treats are grain-based, low in protein and high in fast-digestion carbohydrates, which may contribute to pet obesity and diabetes,” she said. “With our past experience in using pulse ingredients in pet foods, they have good binding properties, impart nice natural colour to products, and more importantly, provide health benefits to the animals, for example low glycemic. These attributes would make pulses work well in baked pet treats and allow us to create a grainfree product.”

Meng added that the project increased public awareness of benefits of using pulses in foods and pet foods. It also helped promote the Food Science and Technology Centre in Brooks, and fostered potential collaborations with ingredient suppliers and pet food manufacturers, which may lead to more pulse applications.

Product development and sensory evaluations took place over a six-month period during 2016. New products were created, promoting the versatility of pulse ingredients. The products were showcased at invitational events in Leduc and Calgary in November. Ingredient suppliers, other processors, representatives from foodservice and retail were invited to join us and our industry partners. We had underestimated the excitement generated by this project and, as a result, a third open event was added bringing the total attendance to more than 200 for the three events.

Facilitating networking opportunities at these events amongst industry stakeholders was imperative. Pulse suppliers promoted the vast array of locally available pulse ingredients – precooked pulses, pulse flours and fractions, de-flavoured products – and shared successful pulse ingredient applications. Connecting processors directly with suppliers, from whom they can source pulse ingredients, was invaluable. Processors had the opportunity to hear first-hand the excitement around pulses and learn of the high nutritional value and functionality of various pulse ingredients.

Attendees also had the opportunity to make connections with potential foodservice and retail buyers. We also heard from guest speakers that consumers are more educated on the benefits of pulses and seeking to add pulses to their diet. Lively discussions ensued about filling the gaps to provide more pulse containing items in foodservice and retail offerings. Advocating for the value and versatility of pulse ingredients was accentuated by our team and representatives of APG.

“APG was very excited to share these delicious food products that inventively use pulses grown by Alberta farmers,” said APG Past-Chair Allison Ammeter, who spoke at the showcase events. “We worked on this project with the scientists from the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry centres throughout 2016, and we couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute to the International Year of Pulses than sharing the creations they developed with the intent to commercialize.”

The significance for industry was to increase awareness of pulse ingredients and their versatility. Developing new products has an inherent financial risk, so the financial support provided by the pulse producers for this project was a key to minimizing the financial risk to our industry partners and those interested in pulse ingredients. This project also provided access to research staff and facilities needed to develop new products with pulse ingredient solutions. The introduction to suppliers and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry scientific staff who are knowledgeable in pulse ingredient functionality eliminated the first hurdle of where to start.

Industry partner Melissa Bourgoin was thrilled with the opportunity to work with the FPDC scientists on the Ready-to-Eat Meat Bar, saying: “Thanks to the showcase we are turning our idea into reality.”

Food Scientist Dr. Kevin Swallow worked on incorporating pulses into a delicious, gluten-free licorice at the Food Processing Development Centre in Leduc.

“The plan was to make a gluten-free licorice that would appeal to celiacs and the general population,” he said. “We were also fortunate to have an enthusiastic client wanting to partner with us to develop this product. The added bonus for this project was that there are no gluten-free licorice options on the market in Canada.”

He added that pulses offer good functionality and taste and the team was able to develop black and red licorice made with lentil flour that were well received by sensory evaluation panelists. Like most product development projects, there were some setbacks when replacing wheat flour with anything else.

“The lessons learned during this project will be used to develop other products using pulses,” Swallow added. “The other great news is that the client wants to put this product on the market as soon as possible. It is a great success story.”

We will continue to share the great work that came out of The Alberta Pulse with promotion of the proactive products created and foster the connections that were made at the showcase events.

Pulse ingredient functionalities include but are not limited to: thickeners, stabilizers, binders and texture modifiers. Pulses are proven functional alternatives to priority allergens and genetically modified ingredients. Pulses are often added to enhance the nutritional content of a food product as they are packed with fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Pulses are also being incorporated for health benefits as they’ve been shown to reduce the risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.

As we are becoming more aware of sustainability, we recognize the value of choosing products that contain pulses as they positively benefit agricultural and environmental sustainability.