Cigi mission to EU investigates pulse ingredients in gluten-free market

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Avoiding grains when on a gluten-free diet means that people are eating fewer products enriched with nutrients necessary to maintain good health. The most common sources of dietary fibre, along with fruits and vegetables, are whole-grain breads and cereals which contain gluten, while gluten-free diets tend to contain inadequate amounts of fibre.

Pulses are a rich source of protein and fibre and when pulse flours are used as an ingredient with other gluten-free ingredients, the nutrition levels of the product can be enhanced. Cigi’s pulse department has been working on how to best utilize pulse flours in gluten-free food products and has successfully done so with multiple products that include tortillas, pita breads, snacks, pastas, cookies, and bread.

The European Union has been a leader in gluten-free foods and their supermarkets carry a variety of products such as bread, pasta, and snacks.This month a Cigi investigative mission to the U.K. and the Netherlands on the utilization of pulse ingredients was conducted to gain some market information on the EU, looking at trends and whether there is a need for more nutrient-enriched gluten-free products.

Three of us (Peter Frohlich and Lindsay Bourré from Cigi’s pulse technology area and myself, Dean Dias, from programs) looked at how common gluten-free products are in the EU, what work has already been done there using pulses, and how Cigi can collaborate with companies to promote the inclusion of Canadian pulse flours and pulse ingredients in food products. We also investigated the challenges of including pulse flours in everyday diets and gluten-free diets.

Three food manufacturing companies were visited. All of them showed interest in the work Cigi has done and in following up with some ideas and work on developing other gluten-free products. The companies included a multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer headquartered in England with stores across Asia, Europe, and North America; a gluten-free and wheat-free bakery in the UK, and a research centre in the Netherlands.

We also had an opportunity to meet with a company that has developed award-winning gluten-free flours for home use. They also have a wide range of organic gluten-free flours on the market with one containing chickpea flour. We discussed with them the benefits of adding other pulse flours for different products and the work Cigi has done with peas and lentils. They showed interest in working with Cigi and possibly visiting to discuss future business.

During our visits we had a chance to meet with Coeliac UK, the oldest and largest coeliac disease charity in the world with over 60,000 members. Approximately 1,200 people join every month. Cigi plans to become a member and work with the organization to develop products with manufacturing members and to also get feedback from end users.

While in the UK we also visited major super markets that sell pulse flours and other pulse ingredients – a positive sign for pulses in the EU market.

Cigi at Protein Summit in the Netherlands

We ended our very successful mission by attending the two-day 7th Protein Summit 2014 conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands, organized by Bridge2Food, which was dedicated to the sharing of information among scientists and industry on topics related to protein. Heather Maskus from the Cigi pulse area joined us and together with Pulse Canada delivered presentations on the Canadian pulse industry. The conference offered us a chance to make important connections with European industry members interested in pulse proteins.

A key message resonating with attendees was better understanding the pulse-cereal protein partnership to provide solutions to the growing issue of a potential protein shortage in the future. Vegetable proteins will be a key component in the future of food proteins and this is work that Cigi can focus on in its future research programs. Blending of these proteins to create functionality was also a highly discussed topic and something that will require further research to fully understand.

During the conference we also met with one of the most advanced, independent contract food research companies in the world which focuses on food texturing, taste, health, and food safety. Cigi may have an opportunity to work with this company on collaborative research and their representatives expressed an interest in working closer with Canada. The purpose of this work will be to look for ways to understand and improve on the flavour profile of pulses when used as food ingredients.