The nutritional value conferred by pulse-based ingredients helps differentiate snacks from the ordinary.
Research firm Packaged Facts explained in its recent report “Food Formulation and Ingredient Trends: Plant Proteins” that consumer interest in boosting protein intake remains strong with more attention being paid to the specific types of protein being consumed. The desire for clean labels, ease of digestion, compatibility with vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, concerns about sustainability among the general population and the need to avoid allergens are putting the spotlight on plant proteins.
“Consumer notions of what constitutes a good protein source are expanding to include a wider variety of plant protein ingredients,” said David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts research director and publisher.
Today’s consumers, in particular millennials, demand more — and varied — protein for a range of reasons including weight management, allergies, sustainability, and ethical or religious beliefs. With 10% of millennials considering themselves vegan, according to the Packaged Facts report, plant-protein-enhanced foods have an audience.
“Protein enrichment is a growing trend, and with more consumers preferring vegetable-based proteins, pulses can be a logical and cost-effective choice,” Mr. O’Brien said. “Pulse ingredients stand apart in the protein world with their combination of positive nutrition and ‘free from’ attributes. They are readily used to add protein and fiber to cereals and snack foods and can even be used to replace eggs in baked goods.”
Some grain-based foods make pulses their base ingredient and the reason the food exists. For example, RW Garcia, San Jose, CA, is rolling out Pulse Chips, a snack that is a source of protein, as well as high in fiber and low in fat. There are three varieties: Black Bean & Ancient Grains is made with just eight ingredients and a base of 26% black beans. These chips have an earthy flavor punctuated by red quinoa seeds and chia seeds. Chickpea & Ancient Grains has a subtle kick from red bell pepper flakes and a base of 26% chickpeas. Lentil & Ancient Grains is 26% green lentils. These chips also contain protein- and mineral-rich amaranth, which gives a nutty flavor. All are Non-GMO Project verified, certified gluten-free and kosher.
“We’ve been eager to utilize pulse crops, which are versatile, earth-friendly and delicious,” said Genelle Chetcuti, senior director of marketing, RW Garcia. “The sustainability of pulse crops was an important factor for the company, which is committed to sustainable practices and social good across its supply chain and production facilities. We’ve always been the brand with heart, and now we’re the brand with pulses.”
Natural Intentions Inc., Folsom, CA, introduced Daily Crave Quinoa Chips, where the emphasis is on the quinoa; however, lentils, chickpeas and peas deliver most of the 4 g protein in a 1-oz serving. The chips come in Bourbon BBQ, Gouda & Romano Cheese, Himalayan Pink Salt and Spicy Thai Chili varieties.
Mr. Sprinkle agreed that pulses make sense for snacks. “Looking at both present trends and toward the future, alternative ingredient snack sales are going to continue moderate-to-strong growth over the next few years, building on the larger healthier-for-you trend affecting the overall snack market and on the unique flavors and textures consumers are also craving,” he said.
Snack foods, traditionally high in refined carbohydrates and starches and low in nutritional value, can be improved with pulses, which offer the opportunity to introduce higher fiber and higher protein, according to Regina Bertoldo, food scientist, Healthy Food Ingredients. “Pulses have an excellent amino acid profile and mineral content. When paired with other flours, pulses offer certain amino acids in higher amounts, which creates a more complete amino acid profile in the product,” she said.
Many pulses also have a good starch content, which is important in baked goods, said Michele Majeski, food scientist at Healthy Food Ingredients. “Pulses can often be used as a direct replacement for wheat flours or other flours in many recipes with minimal adjustments.” Ms. Majeski added. Healthy Food Ingredients has formulated many baked products incorporating pulses that simply required minor adjustments in moisture content.
Take a look at how consumers are responding to pulses in the next segment.