2016 global trend focuses on vegetable protein



It’s the International Year of Pulses and this trend is only getting stronger.

The UN General Assembly decided 2016 is the year of the pulse, calling the lentils, beans and legumes the “cornerstone of global nutrition for centuries,” according to January release from newswire.ca.

In December, the University of Guelph released their Food Price Report 2016. It predicted three food trends of the year would be transparency from food supply chains, awareness of gut health and popularity of pulses.

While this might be news to some, RRC chef Brad Gray has kept his finger on the pulse for over a year now.

Gray and RRC partnered with the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers Association when the culinary institute first opened to research pulses and their benefits. The collaboration yielded recipes to incorporate pulses into foods like pastas and cookies. But these creations won’t have the life span of crop tops and joggers.

“This isn’t going to be a fad or a trend,” said Gray. “This is going to carry on for quite a few years. Before it used to be mainly protein like a steak on the plate, a few vegetables and a starch. Now… the main staple on your plate is a plant protein.”

It seems pulses combine those three food trends the University of Guelph predicted. Pulses help clean out your digestive tract, but Gray advises to take it easy for the first little while.

“A lot of people associate eating legumes beans with flatulence and yes there’s going to be a bit of that in the beginning,” he said. “But once you build up a tolerance, that will subside. It’s very good for the digestive system, so if you have a hard time with certain foods, this is a good substitute.”

The legumes are also a positive reinforcement on the transparency and growth of local food suppliers. Pulses are a great prairie crop and Manitoba might become an international sensation as far as legumes are concerned.

RRC chef Brad Gray has kept his finger on the pulse for over a year now. THE PROJECTOR/Samantha Samson

RRC chef Brad Gray has kept his finger on the pulse for over a year now. THE PROJECTOR/Samantha Samson

Jeff Fidyk is a business development specialist and works on commercialization for Manitoba agriculture, food and rural development. Part of his job is to predict food trends.

“Once a greater number of consumers figure what [pulses] are and what to do with them, there’s going to be greater opportunity for producers,” said Fidyk. “Manitoba should look at itself as an ingredient supplier to the world and exploit the opportunity behind the year of the pulses and the health benefits.”

Fidyk said Manitoba’s pulses can be added to commercialized foods like crackers, for example. He said local suppliers should reach out to big companies like Nabisco or Christie while the pulse is hot.

“In [adding pulses], you increase the nutritional profile of that cracker,” he said. “As a marketer, that gives me a competitive advantage because now I can make more aggressive claims about the health benefits of my cracker relative to competitors.”

But while pulses are healthy for your small intestine, small bank account and possible the small family farm, Gray said you might not be able to live on pulses alone.

Pulses are a vegetable protein. While they do contain many amino acids — the materials your body uses to create proteins — they don’t have all of them. Instead of switching cold turkey to solely pulses, Gray advises to start with a smaller amount of animal protein and pulses. This shift can also help the world’s growing population.

“Scientists and people worldwide have known for a while now that animal protein isn’t sustainable,” he said. “We have to look to alternative sources and the amount of research and science that’s going into what kind of protein extracted from plants can supplement our diets.”

So while 2016 moves along, is there anything else Manitobans can look forward to when it comes to new trends?

“There’s places in Chicago and Toronto where you can go in and have a veal broth or a chicken broth,” Gray said. “You drink that, and apparently it’s more refreshing and more invigorating than drinking a coffee or tea. But that’s going to probably take a little while to catch up.”