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Pulses: Food of the future?

31 May 2016

The Bühler Group recently hosted a reception at the 2016 Global Pulse Convention in which industry experts outlined how advanced technologies are enabling pulses to be processed sustainably and profitably to maximise value from the crop and create new ways for them to be consumed. 

Discussion revolved around how the industry could work together to bring a greater variety of pulse products to market, to suit different taste preferences.
 
Hüseyin Arslan, president of the Global Pulse Confederation, gave his thoughts about the continued rapid growth of the pulses industry, and exclusive insight into how he believes it can continue to expand. He said: “As the global population grows, the demand for protein will increase and there may be a shortage, so we are constantly searching for new sources – and thankfully pulses provide a very credible option. Although consumption has been largely dominated by the Asian population to-date, interest in pulses has grown in the western world in recent years.  

“As a result of the demand for a long-term, sustainable protein source and the rising global popularity of pulse-based products, we are likely to see the incorporation of pulses into conventional food products like bread, soups, meats and snacks. To do this, however, industry will need to pursue more advanced, hygienic processing technologies to meet consumer expectations on the taste, texture and appearance of products, without sacrificing the nutritional value.”

Arslan also touched on how advances in processing technology – such as the ones developed by Bühler – have helped to drive the market in partnership with processors, improving efficiency, productivity and hygiene throughout the value chain. He said: “The past 15 to 20 years have seen great advances in pulse processing technology and solutions. As with so many areas of industry, process automatisation and computerisation can yield efficiency in operations, reduce costs and provide overall assistance for producing a better quality product. 

“There are real issues surrounding our ability to efficiently produce enough food for our growing populations, as well as reducing waste. Research into new varieties with higher yields and those that have other characteristics, such as higher protein levels or resistance to certain adverse growing conditions will be key. Universities, governments, national organisations and private companies are funding research and development into pulse varieties, growing practices and ways to boost production that may clear the way for the global pulses trade to move forward and reduce restrictions and regulations.”

Joining Arslan, Beatrice Conde-Petit, food scientist and technologist for Bühler, offered an overview on the role pulses can play in global nutrition, the challenges faced by the industry and how Bühler is helping processors to overcome those challenges.

She explained that pulses were the key to meeting the global population’s need for an alternative, sustainable protein to meat. She said: “Between now and 2050, we need 50% more proteins and far more sustainable value chains than today. Pulses are a huge opportunity and are available now.” 

Outlining the challenges in developing food products that are convenient, nutritious, and cost-effective, while meeting modern lifestyle requirements and the growing importance of collaboration along the value chain, she continued: “Processors involved in the primary processing of pulses (the stage involving grits, pulse flours and protein-enriched ingredients) need to work together with those applying pulses in baked products, snacks and pasta, for example, to meet the taste, texture and nutritional requirements of modern consumers,” Conde-Petit explained.

She added: “Research is needed to understand the role of pulse processing and product structure on the nutritional side, such as digestibility, satiety and blood glucose modulation among other areas. The growing interest from the food industry in including pulses in new food formulations is opening up a vast range of processing opportunities for this valuable crop. As consumer awareness of this food group increases, the up-take of pulses within food products will grow rapidly, supported by pioneering processing technology.” 

Also speaking at the reception, Surojit Basu, global product manager at Bühler, explained how the processing requirements for all the different pulse varieties were diverse and complex, but Bühler was able to bridge these gaps in the value chain – helping processors around the globe to adopt more hygienic, sustainable and profitable methods of processing – from efficient cleaning, de-hulling, splitting and sorting, to further value added processes such as germination, in order to improve nutritional value,  yield, aesthetic appeal and functional properties of pulses and their derived products.

One such example is Bühler’s dedicated pulse hulling solution, PULSROLL, which removes the hull from pulses efficiently, hygienically, and cost effectively and which is believed to be the industry’s only CE and ATEX certified pulse huller that enables processors to operate in today’s increasingly regulated and highly automated industry. Since its launch in October last year, Bühler has already had multiple orders, helping to create a quality benchmark for pulses through process excellence and cutting-edge technology, across the value chain.

Arslan concluded by highlighted that in coming years, demand for pulses would be even stronger. He said: “I believe we will see the pulse sector continue to grow and be a big part of the solution to societal problems surrounding the world’s ability to feed it’s growing global population. Higher production levels and more efficient processing technologies, with continued strong demand, are expected to be positives for our industry.”


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