The Summer Fancy Food Show

Manufacturers answer FAO’s call to increase pulse consumption in 2016 with new bean-based snacks

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Common bean

In declaring 2016 the year of the pulse, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN issued a call to action to increase the consumption and popularity of legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans which are under used in the US.

Inspired by pulses’ health benefits for people and the planet, manufacturers across the snack category are rising to meet FAO’s challenge.

For example, Beanitos helped launch the now booming bean-based chip category by being one of the first snack companies to embrace pulses as a fractional ingredient, which allowed it to transform the common whole food into innovate new formats, such as its flagship Black Bean Chip.

“In 2009, our founders, the Foreman brothers, developed Beanitos … as a low-glycemic option for people and also as something that had good nutritional benefits – so not just a product that was lacking [unhealthy ingredients], but a product that actually contained benefits,”​ said Alicia Ward,director of brand marketing for the company.

She explained that beans contain “tons of protein, tons of fiber”​ and, black beans in particular, “contain just as much antioxidants as a blueberry, but blueberries get touted as this very high antioxidant food as opposed to a black bean.”

Since the company was founded, Ward added, it has continued to stoke “the bean revolution,”​ by continually innovating so that by 2016 the company offers 13 stock-keeping-units that range from white bean chips with a hint of lime or nacho cheese that can be consumed the same way as classic corn tortilla chips, to Honey Chipotle BBQ Black Bean Chips to Simply Pinto Bean Chips and Better Cheddar and Sour Cream Pinto Bean Chips.

The company’s newest products push the boundaries of what beans can do even more. The White Bean Crunch Mac n’ Cheese chips are baked into the shape of class cheese puff chips.

“The Mac n’ Cheese Crunch has been amazing for the consumers and the brand because how many consumers do you know that can’t eat gluten, can’t eat corn, can’t eat all kinds of artificial ingredients … that are in some of these larger produced brands,”​ Ward said, explaining, “Beanitos uses all real cheese and actually tastes like Mac n’ Cheese but in a bean form.”

The company’s Black & White Bean Skinny Dippers is another new product that is baked – allowing full flavor and crunch, but with only 2 grams of fat and 90 calories, Ward said.

She added that Beanitos is glad to see so many new players entering the bean-based snack segments with products ranging from competing chips to bean-based breakfast cereal and pasta made from chickpeas, lentils and black beans.

“I am excited that all these brands have come together [to support the year of the pulse]. There are a lot of our suppliers for beans, and pulses in general, that are trying to align with each other and I think it is exciting to watch people get options”​ – especially people with allergies who maybe can’t eat corn or wheat, but can eat pulses, she said.

Plus, she added, she believes Beanitos can stand up to the competition because it has “sticking power”​ and is “always doing innovative things. We are constantly thinking, how do we take beans to the next level in snacking.”

RW Garcia launches trio of pulse chips

Multigenerational, family-owned RW Garcia also is embracing the year of the pulse with the launch at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City of three new pulse chips.

Each new chip blends 26% black beans, chickpeas or lentils with ancient grains, such as red quinoa, chia seeds and protein- and mineral-rich amaranth,  along with other flavorful ingredients, such as red bell pepper flakes, and corn, Genelle Chetcuti, RW Garcia’s senior director of marketing, told FoodNavigator-USA.

She explained that the company was drawn to using pulse crops in part because they produce chips with more protein, higher fiber and lower fat than the traditional corn mixture.

But it also wanted to use pulses because of the benefits they offer the planet.

“It is really exciting what pulse crops can do for the community and for the planet,”​ Chetcuti explained. “They are a sustainable crop that is typically used in fields that normally would go fallow in between seasons. And what it does is it is planted in the same soil as the traditional crop and it actually puts nitrogen back into the soil, which allows for a more fertile land … and makes it a really sustainable and healthy product for the world.”

The ancient grains in the chips are a nice complement to the pulses in that they “bring a little bit of extra nutrients … and gives [the chip] more of a crispy, flakey crunch than a traditional chip,”​ Chetcuti added.

Biena uses familiar flavors to introduce mainstream Americans to roasted chickpeas

Another award-winning brand with a pulse at is base is Biena, which makes roasted chickpeas in familiar, time-tested flavors that Americans love.

Poorvi Patodia, who founded the company, said she was inspired to create a line of roasted chickpea snacks after discovering that pulses are the only foods that FDA classifies as two different food groups –a protein and a vegetable.

“When I started looking into it and I realized what incredible nutritional properties the pulses and chickpeas in particular have that is really where I came up with the mission for Biena, which is really about offering consumers really tasty, but super healthy snacking options,”​ she explained. “If I can get people to switch from barbeque flavored potato chips to barbeque flavored chickpeas, that is kind of a dream, you know, because you’re getting that flavor and you’re getting that crunch, but you’re doing it in a much, much healthier way.”

Patodia explained that Biena relies heavily on bold, but familiar flavors to help reach mainstream snacking Americans and convince them to try something new.

The newest flavor to the brand’s line up is Rockin’ Ranch, which Patodia said offers consumers the “cool, creamy ranch taste”​ and crunch they love, but with more protein and fiber.

Other flavors include Barbeque, Habanero, Honey Roasted, Sea Salt and Cinnamon Crunch.

Biena also recently launched a 1.2 ounce single serve bag for grab-and-go, which Patodia said will allow consumers an easier format, but also a way to try the product and flavors before committing to a larger, more expensive bag.

Reflecting on the progress of her brand and others in pushing forward FAO’s agenda to boost consumption and popularity of pulses, Patodia said she believes Americans are hearing the message about the health benefits of pulses, but the challenge remains in creating great tasting products with pulses.

She explained: “Nutritionally these snacks are a real home run, and there is no question about that. But, as you know, the American palate is very discerning and there is no shortage of snacks. So, for American consumers, if they don’t like something, they move on to the next thing. So, I think the challenge for brands is continuing to develop foods that taste really, really good and are truly acceptable to that everyday American consumer.”

With that in mind, she echoed Ward and Chetcuti sentiments when she predicted, “We’re going to see more launches and more products that are going to go more broadly into the legume space in the coming years.”

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Where next for beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils?

Register for our FREE, online 60-minute Pulse Innovation Forum​ ​on November 2, featuring Brami (lupini beans), Beanitos (bean snacks), Eat Well Embrace Life ('other bean hummus'), Pulse Canada, and Banza (chickpea pasta).

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