Lentola Bar Takes Top Honours at 10th Annual Mission: ImPULSEible (Summer 2017 PCN) JUL 6 2017 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
The University of Alberta team that created the Lentola Bar walked away with the top prize in the Alberta Pulse Growers’ 10th annual student food product development competition, Mission: ImPULSEible.
But the winning pulse product was “Plan B” for the University of Alberta Nutrition and Food Science students who developed it.
“This was actually our backup plan,” said Team Leader Andrea Dacko. “Our first plan, a pulse jelly, didn’t work out, which turned out to be a good learning experience and a reminder of what could happen in something like product development. So our backup plan was to create a product that we are all very familiar with as busy students – granola bars. We chose a granola bar because our target audience (millennials) value convenience, nutrition and innovation. Thus, we chose to make a unique-flavoured bar, swap out common granola ingredients and utilize pulses as much as we could have, and this is what came of it. In my opinion pulses are a very under-rated food and it was fun to promote them through our product and the whole experience in general.”
Three teams offered up their tasty pulse-based creations as well as presenting their marketing plans to judges Wanda Aubee of the Food Processing Development Centre, Registered Dietitian Jennifer Livingstone and Teresa Spinelli, owner of Italian Centre Shops.
For the first time in its history, the event was held in conjunction with the APG annual Director and Advisors meeting so that farmers from across the province could experience the excitement
and creativity that post-secondary students have when working with pulses.
“It was a great experience having Alberta producers in the Mission: ImPULSEible audience this year,” said Debra McLennan, APG’s Food and Nutrition Coordinator. “The Directors and Advisors enjoyed seeing first-hand the creativity of the students and the versatility of pulses.”
Third place went to Portage College Culinary Arts students Lacey Patenaude and Crandell Houle who created Cula Crunch, a cereal that included an autumn lentil flake blend of red, black and green lentils, as well as honey roasted chickpeas.
Second place was awarded to the University of Alberta Nutrition and Food Science students who created PeaCo Pudding, which was made with chickpea milk, red bean paste and coconut milk. The team consisted of: Yun Yang, Xuejuan Ding, and Beiyi Shen.
Dacko, along with Aleksandra Tymczak, Philip Elson, and Jeffery Duong, created the Lentola Bar, a snack bar incorporating roasted green lentils and chickpeas.
“We were all very excited and happy to see our hard work come together,” Dacko said. “It had already been a crazy learning experience and fun networking opportunity, so winning was just a nice bonus.”
Team member Tymczak explained that the group learned how to present the various aspects of their product in a convincing manner, including how pulses were incorporated, nutrition claims, the originality/creativity of the Lentola Bar, and their marketing plan. They also learned how to present their product to a wide range of audience members which included: pulse growers, dietitians, food product developers, food scientists and retail store managers.
“We also got great feedback from the judges with regard to how we could improve our product and what it would take to upscale our product for production,” Tymczak said. “For example,
we received a few comments about making changes to the product so that it could be available for customers who may be allergic to peanuts. The suggestion was to substitute the peanut butter with pea butter.”
The team also experimented with the roasting times and temperatures for the chickpeas, green lentils and red lentils to get the texture right for each pulse. Another area of fine-tuning was finding the right ingredients and mixes to bind the bars together. For example, although the sugar content is very comparable to granola bars already on the shelf, Dacko said the team wanted to improve the healthy image by lowering the sugar content – which meant lowering the addition of corn syrup, an important ingredient for binding the dry ingredients together. They worked through numerous alternative binding ingredients and processing techniques.
“Lastly, we put a lot of time and effort into perfecting our spice blend to achieve a mild yet distinguishable curry flavour,” Dacko said. “We found that spice acceptance is quite different among consumers, so this was quite a fun yet hard challenge.”
Dacko recalled that she had used chickpeas quite often prior to the competition, but rarely used other pulses.
“Now I know that other pulses, such as lentils and yellow peas, are very simple to cook and offer great interesting flavours,” she said. “They are a lot more versatile than one would think, and probably a lot more nutritious than one would think too!”
The Lentola Bar team will represent Alberta in the national virtual Mission: ImPULSEible competition in June, and they are open to future commercialization opportunities for their tasty snack bar.
“If we find ourselves with an opportunity to pursue production of the bars, there are still some improvements we would like to make to our Lentola Bars,” Tymczak said. “For example, we want to increase the nutritional content of the granola bar by increasing the amount of protein. We want to do this by incorporating various pulse protein isolates, such as pea protein isolates.”
Meanwhile, judge Spinelli touched on the Mission: ImPULSEible competition when she spoke to the APG Directors and Advisors the following day about the story of the Italian Centre Shops started by her parents and expanded to more Alberta locations.
“The students learn so much just by competing in the process,” she said, adding that the principles of telling your product’s story also apply when vendors ask her company to place their products on the shelves. “Know your product – why it’s different and why it’s good. Know what the ingredients are. Really tell your story! Really brand why you made this product and why it’s a really great product. When we know that, we like to promote that it’s local.”