Demand for Canadian pulses as ingredients in food and feed products has growing potential in Mexico according to a Cigi staff member who was part of a western Canadian trade mission there in January.
Twenty representatives participated on the mission from across the Prairies, including grain exporters, ingredient suppliers, millers and pulse processing companies, flax and barley organizations, and a provincial government trade department. Organized by Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP), the trip consisted of seminars, press conferences, meetings with local companies, and visits to research institutes in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City.
Cigi’s participation follows a pulse investigative mission to Mexico in March last year. Peter Frohlich, Project Manager, Pulses and Special Crops, who also participated in that mission, presented on pulse ingredients in food and feed in each of the three cities at the recent seminars. In addition, he says he met with, and is currently following up with, representatives from about 20 Mexican companies.
The Mexican market places a strong emphasis on the importance of personal relationships in business so it is important for Canadian industry to take the opportunity to engage with their industry representatives on an ongoing basis, Peter says. Cigi arranged last year’s mission while Cigi was invited by STEP to represent the Canadian pulse sector on the recent mission.
“Cigi was invited as a speaker and my role was to discuss pulses and their benefits. Quite a few people came up to me personally to ask questions. This is our second mission into Mexico in the last year and I think that in the first mission we made a scratch and with this mission we made a dent. It’s important, especially in the Latin American market (for business), that we establish relationships that are long term.”
He says the participants ranged from representatives from food processing companies, research and development departments, ingredient buyers, and grain importers. “As far as the food portion of it a lot of the emphasis was on health. They have issues with obesity and diabetes in Mexico just as we do in Canada and the U.S. So they welcomed us with open arms, anything to do with healthy ingredients to improve their food products.”
The morning seminars began with press conferences, answering questions from media, he says. Chefs also prepared recipes using Canadian commodities such as pulses, flax, barley and oats for a number of food items from entrees to snack foods and desserts for participants to try.
Peter says that beans have been a staple food in Mexico for a long time and there is awareness about the health benefits of pulses. The country imported 6,100 tonnes of peas, 8,100 tonnes of beans, and 11,600 tonnes of lentils from Canada in 2013-14* which represented a significant increase over previous years.
“The challenge is letting them know it is possible to make to make extruded snacks, pastas, or tortillas with pulse flours and more importantly how to do it. This is where our expertise comes in. So in a way I was technically marketing Canadian pulses by talking to these R&D people and greeting suppliers and letting them know this is what you can do with Canadian pulses. There was a ton of interest and currently I am in the process of following up.”
Peter explains that the follow-up communication ranges from providing information about Cigi and its programs to details about end-use products and contacts for suppliers of pulse flours. Some customers were also interested in buying raw pulses. “We don’t really deal with that at Cigi but I served as a contact between the Mexican companies and industry here. Because of the nature of what we do at Cigi we have contacts in every aspect of the industry.”
In addition to food, he presented on pulses as ingredients in feed with a focus on peas which is the most common pulse used in formulations because it is economical and nutritious in terms of providing animals both energy and protein, he says. Peas are also a popular ingredient in pet foods, especially in Canada.
The people Peter spoke with in Mexico are also interested in learning more about Canadian agriculture overall as well as the technical expertise Cigi can offer. “We do these outgoing missions but the idea is also to do some incoming programs. So if we meet with a food company and they want to use pulses in pasta, tortillas, or baked products, for example, we are able to bring them to Cigi for a short course on either milling or the utilization of pulse flours.”
He adds that Cigi participation in trade or technical missions to countries such as Mexico is beneficial to the industry as a whole. “I think these missions are important. They especially help build customer relationships which I think is positive.”
*Source: Canadian Grain Commission Statistics
Click below to listen to Peter Frohlich interviewed on March 5 about Cigi’s participation in the STEP mission, courtesy of Golden West Radio.