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A new research from Ingredion shows that 65% of European consumers welcome the addition of pulse-based ingredients to food products.

Those surveyed have an overall positive perception of pulses, with chickpeas (51%) and lentils (43%) the most widely known pulse flours and proteins, followed by peas and faba beans.

In the 2017 survey, nearly 90% of consumers can see benefits of pulses as ingredients and were found to associate pulses with multiple health benefits including natural, low fat and nutritious. Overall, 56% of respondents thought pulses were natural and healthy, 38% saw them as high in fiber and more than a quarter of respondents considered them to be a good source of minerals and vitamins. There was also recognition of pulses ability to contribute towards fuller for longer diet (37%), and provide long lasting energy.

Janin Zippel, product manager pulses and rice, Europe at Ingredion explains: “The healthy eating trend is strong across Europe and finding new ways to enhance the nutritional profile of products using ingredients that are both familiar to consumers and deliver the necessary functionality can be challenging. In this respect, the research is really encouraging. Pulses had strong associations with a wide variety of health benefits, but we were surprised by the level of awareness of adding pulses to products and not just in their whole form. This could be down to the continuing demand for natural, more nutritious products but also the growing interest in, and awareness of, vegetarian and vegan diets. As a meat-free alternative that is also gluten-free, pulse ingredients tick many of the boxes for both consumers and manufacturers alike.”

The research asked consumers to rank different types of flours and proteins. All pulses were preferred to soy as a source of protein, with lentil protein ranking 53% above average and soy protein 16% below average, while meat ranked 19% above average. Consumers also showed a marked preference for gluten-free flours, with chickpea flour, rice flour and lentil flour all ranking above traditional wheat flours.

Zippel adds that following a gluten-free diet as a lifestyle choice rather than for medical needs is becoming more widespread and this may explain the high preference for gluten-free flour alternatives that emerged in the research. The familiarity of pulses and their positive health associations could mean consumers find flours derived from pulses as readily acceptable alternatives, further endorsed by their simple label listing as, for example, chickpea flour.

“Pulse flours are versatile too, and can be used in a wide variety of applications. It could be chicken nuggets made with a lentil flour batter instead of wheat flour, or meat-free chicken nuggets made with lentil protein; both products were tested on and well received by consumers in our research. We found that by adding lentil protein to a product, 42% of those surveyed were more likely to buy,”  Zippel mentions.

Pulses are high in protein, typically containing between 20% to 25% protein, which is double that of wheat and this alongside their ease of use as an ingredient, makes them an excellent alternative source to meat.

“One area of concern for consumers that came out of the study was the possible impact of pulses on the taste and color of a product. This highlights that there is still work to be done to educate consumers on the variety of applications that can now benefit from pulses, in particular clean-taste products that offer a neutral flavor profile. Manufacturers are already working with these clean taste pulse options in application areas that previously weren’t possible, such as dairy and dairy alternatives, great for vegan products, as well as sweet bakery and cereals.” 

Related articles: 

Ingredion Launches New Dietary Fibers for Baked Goods 

New Ingredion report: Which is the key to future of clean and simple food 

EUR5m EU Project Promotes Cultivation of Pulses 

Roquette Invests EUR40m to Expand Pea Protein Processing 

Global Pea Protein Market Meets High Demand  

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