Global use of pulses in the food manufacturing and pet food industry has increased 500 percent over the last decade. In North America, 1,241 new food and pet food products containing pulse ingredients were launched in 2017, up from 171 new products in 2005.
Despite the substantial increase in the number of products that use pulses as primary ingredients, the volume of pulse flours and fractions (fibre, protein, and starch) is relatively low. The volume of flours and fractions utilized in the U.S. food market in 2015, for example, was estimated to be 41,000 tonnes for snacks and pasta, 45,112 tonnes for use in dips and 145,000 tonnes in dog and cat food in 2016 in North America.
In an effort to move significant volumes of Canadian pulses into new processing and value-added applications, Pulse Canada has implemented a “25 by 2025” strategy — a goal of having 25 percent of Canadian pulse production utilized in new market and use categories by 2025. This translates into new demand for 1.1 million tonnes of peas, 625,000 tonnes of lentils, 100,000 tonnes of faba beans, 100,000 tonnes of chickpeas and 75,000 tonnes of beans by 2025. Crop-specific targets are based on anticipated production levels, ingredient supply constraints, an in-depth assessment of market opportunities and volume use potential, food industry consultations and strategy consensus among pulse growers and exporters.
Achieving the Canadian pulse industry’s volume targets will require that Canadian peas are preferred by fractionators and usage of these pea protein ingredients continues to grow in applications like meat analogues, dairy/dairy alternatives and bakery products. Expanding use of pea starch and fibre is also critical to achieving the target for peas. Growth in lentil flour processing and use of lentil flour in applications such as snacks, bakery, pasta and blended meat products will also be needed to increase demand for a significant volume of Canadian lentils. For the Canadian bean industry, focusing on domestic consumption and utilization of beans in Canada will diversify the market and has potential to have a meaningful, significant volume impact for the Canadian industry.
Regardless of the end-use market application or ingredient format, there are opportunities for all pulses to be positioned for their unique attributes. These include the quality of protein, carbohydrate profile, functionality, health and sustainability benefits. Focusing on marketing the attributes that are unique to Canadian pulses will ensure pulses become incorporated into the food supply as a core food and ingredient that maintains a Canadian advantage.
Given the importance of pulses to the Canadian economy and the role of pulses in cropping systems to reduce environmental impacts of agricultural production, it is critical that market diversification goals are achieved so that Canada remains a leader in pulse production and exports. Creating new demand for Canadian pulses will ensure that this 25 by 2025 goal is achieved.