As more innovative uses for pulses are explored in response to global demand for healthier food products, Canadian pulse producers may look forward to increasing demand for their crops.
Together with Warburtons, the U.K.’s largest bakery brand, the Canadian International Grains Institute is undertaking its most comprehensive investigation into quality characteristics and functionality of pulses and pulse flours as ingredients in baked products, says Ashok Sarkar, senior adviser in technology at Cigi.
“Improving on common wheat-based food products by adding pulse ingredients — which are high in protein and fibre — or using them to create new products can open the door to greater demand for pulses and more opportunities for food processors,” he says.
Elaine Sopiwnyk, Cigi’s director of grain quality, adds that there are some positive aspects to combining pulses with wheat in food products. “They are complementary to wheat in terms of amino acids, so when you combine them you have a full or balanced protein.”
The three-year research project, which focuses on yellow peas, navy beans, red lentils and chickpeas, adds to the work Cigi has undertaken over the past decade in collaboration with pulse growers and industry on the functionality and application of pulse flours. It reflects growing consumer demand for new and innovative bakery products, Sarkar says.
“We know a lot about wheat but not as much about pulses as ingredients so we want to learn more. Pulses are very new in that respect. We have started looking at the impact of storage time and particle size on pulse quality and flavour when they are used in baking or for other end-products. This is a more structured study that includes components such as a G X E (genotype versus environment) study of pulses, pre- and post-milling treatments of pulses and how this all affects the final product with respect to flavour, functionality and end-product quality.
“From beginning to end we’re mapping everything out,” he says, noting that the information will be compiled into a database and made available to industry.
“We’ll know the raw material profile, the processing profile, and specifications of the flour. The information coming out of this research will help guide us and establish some standard specifications for pulse flour that will be suitable for baking applications.”
New Warburtons products
Working with Warburtons also helps bring the information to commercial reality, Sarkar says. Warburtons has worked closely with Cigi for a number of years on an annual harvest analysis and end-use evaluation of Canadian wheat varieties the company contracts for use in its baked products.
“Pulses are a great way to create a product with high protein and fibre,” says Adam Dyck, Warburtons program manager (Canada). Last September, the 140-year-old family-owned company launched four different new protein bread products containing pulse ingredients. He notes that Warburtons developed the products in response to increasing consumer demand for healthier foods. All of the pulse flours used are from crops grown and processed in Canada.
Dyck says that although the addition of pulses can present challenges in baked goods, he is pleased with the final quality of the new products. “We successfully increased the levels of protein and fibre with pulse ingredients while maintaining Warburtons’ superior quality that makes it the top-selling bakery brand in the U.K.”
In addition to in-kind support and funding for a pilot-scale fermentation tank at Cigi from Warburtons, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers provided $1.8 million for the project last year. Funds were also allocated from the governments of Canada and Manitoba through the Grain Innovation Hub, and from the Western Grains Research Foundation and Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers. Some research activity is also being carried out at the universities of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and at Warburtons’ facilities in the U.K. in support of the work at Cigi.