Nutritious and Delicious

Roasted (precooked) pea our, or pease-meal, is perhaps the most commonly called upon legume in developing food formulations. Made from milled yellow peas, pea flour and its components contribute to healthier products without impacting traditional appeal. It is stabilized by roasting and/or steam precooking. Either process partially gelatinizes the starch, denatures the protein, and inactivates enzymes, thereby increasing product shelf life. Use of dry or wet milling produces different pea our purities, each with applications suitable to specific food functions.

The fiber alone of such products can be enough to capture consumer interest and loyalty. Though the USDA reports that only one in five Americans consumes the recommended daily amount of fiber, in a survey conducted by the 2008 International Food Information Council 77 percent of Americans claimed to be committed to improving their fiber intake. Offering more than 10 grams of natural dietary fiber per ¼ cup, pulse our can be an easy and effective way to achieve the daily recommended level.

Protein content marks another notable advantage to be gained when incorporating pulses into recipes and formulations. Pea protein concentrates and isolates are functional, bio-available, and loaded with lysine, making them an excellent alternative to soy flour. Such ours are also highly soluble with superb water-holding capacity. Pea protein’s promising potential as an egg replacer is also currently being explored.

Complementing pulse’s fiber and high-quality protein characteristics is the fact that roasted pea our is an excellent flavor carrier and flavor improver. Its mild, toasty taste can enliven recipes and dishes, without adversely impacting the appearance or texture of the food. Together, this combination of attributes makes pulses uniquely well suited for inclusion in low-fat or fat-free food product applications, including:

  • Special pastas
  • Specialty foods
  • Dry soups
  • Sauces
  • Dry food preparations
  • Special dietetic food
  • Crackers
  • Snack bars
  • Breads
  • Breading and batters

A recent creation by Canadian food scientists underscores what can be gained by adding pulses. By substituting 50 percent pea fiber, the Canadian team developed a lemon blueberry muffin with half the calories, a third the sugar, a fifth the sodium, and 8 grams of fiber, 2 grams more than a comparable raisin bran muffin. And it still earned high marks for taste.

An Array of Other Benefits

In addition to instantly enriching a product’s fiber and protein content, other benefits of incorporating pea and lentil flour include a pleasant light-golden appearance, a very fine ground, and positive blending and mixing attributes. Pulses also boast no additives or allergens, are GMO and cholesterol free, and offer a low glycemic index, extended shelf life, preserved flavor, and simple, clean labeling potential thanks to their natural ingredients. What is more, precooked our supplies superb stability, comparable to that of wheat our, and is microbially safe.

Starch is another consideration when adding pulses. At approximately 98 percent purity, pea starch isolates are distinctive for their excellent gel strength and bland taste. Such features, along with the ability to contribute to increased volume and expansion in extruded products and puffed snacks, make pea our perfect for inclusion in cookie and cracker formulations as well as Asian-style noodles.

The use of pulses is also economical, especially when compared with fiber-fortifying gums or soy protein products. Pulses actually improve the soil by replenishing the soil’s natural nitrogen as they grow. Few other ingredients have a better environmental story to tell, with pulse crops requiring less water and minimal chemical fertilizers during production.

The Call for Gluten-Free Products

Consumers and food producers are increasingly taking note of another significant characteristic of pulses: They are gluten-free. According to the Celiac Disease Center, one in 133 people in the U.S. is allergic to gluten, a natural protein found in wheat, rye, oat, and barley. The intolerance to this protein, called celiac disease, affects more than 1% of the U.S. population. This is driving global food manufacturers to bolster their product offerings with gluten-free snacks, a market that has had more than 40% annual growth between 2009 to 2013. The estimated market sales are approximately $1200 million in 2013, which takes is a significant volume in the food market (Sheluga, 2014).

Pulses give food producers a ready solution in their pursuit of gluten-free foods. Legumes also serve as an effective way to add structure and enhance the nutrition of products made with other gluten-free ingredients such as rice, tapioca, or potato starches.

A Changing Market

Natural, convenience, and functional are three most important key words in the food industry, exhibited by percent increase of products introduced to the market with these key words between 2010 and 2014, according to Mintel database. An evidence further supports the trend. According to Mintel GNPD database, the top three food claims reflecting products introduced to the market between 2010 and 2015 are 1) GMO-free, 2) High/Added fiber, and 3) Gluten-free. Not surprisingly, pulses as an ingredient fit into all these categories. Furthermore, the top category of products with pulse ingredients between 2010 and 2015 are vegetable snacks, pet food, and meat substitutes.

Challenges remain for the expanding market. The market is still considered as a niche and highly-priced. Innovative products with pulses are marketed for certain populations and not affordable to everyone. However, the high cost of cereal grains in recent years have led food developers to look for alternative ingredients.

Many in the food industry see a significant opportunity ushered in by these trends. They are looking to respond by formulating foods that fit consumers’ hectic schedules and cater to their growing interest in exotic flavors, while also satisfying their desire to eat more healthfully. Manufacturers are working hard to develop value-added pulse-based foods.

U.S. food manufacturers are well-positioned to satisfy this growing need as local, U.S. grown peas make excellent pea flour. As explored below, examples of the new and novel pulse-based creations growing out of these developments are numerous and varied. They run the gamut from flatbreads to nutrition bars. Reinterpretations of traditional dishes are booming as well with new formulations being developed every day for everything from soup to pasta to baby food.