Andrew Jacobs, Chair of UK Pulse Promotion Group
Restaurants are responding to the changing tastes of customers, and including more pulse dishes on their menus. They are not only featuring as an accompaniment to main courses, but also front and centre of the plate – grilled fish served on a bed of lentils, spicy bean burrito or chilli con/sans carne or regional sausage with chickpeas.
Chefs are catching on, making dishes healthier and reducing their costs, making Bolognese sauces with 30% pulses for example, without any change to taste or texture but with an increase in fibre and nutrients and a reduction in cost.
The growing gluten-free market has created opportunities too and there is now 100% chickpea pasta (gluten free) being manufactured in UK by dell Ugo. Additionally, snack manufacturers are moving away from fried potato crisps, and towards healthier baked & extruded pulse snacks, like Lentil Curls by Kettle Bites.
This movement reflects the growing awareness amongst consumers that pulses are good for the family and good for the planet. The United Nations declared 2016 as International Year of Pulses recognising pulses multi-facetted benefits:
- high in protein and high in fibre
- low in fat and low glycaemic index
- gluten free, no cholesterol, no sodium
- when combined with cereals (wheat or rice) pulses provide complete Amino Acid
- high in anti-oxidants, excellent source of folate, good source of iron & potassium
- cost per serving 1/5th of chicken, 1/7th of pork, 1/15th of beef
- no waste, as easy to control portion size by batch cooking and freezing.
However, research shows it is the sustainability benefits of pulses which is making the biggest impression with Millennial consumers, who are taking more of an interest in the environmental impact of their eating habits. Pulses have the lowest carbon footprint of any protein source, they are water efficient (using only 5% or less of the water to produce equivalent weight of meat), and they naturally fertilize the soil in which they are grown, as they fix nitrogen into the soil and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
What’s not to like in this sustainable, super-food category? They are the developed world’s food, featuring in highly regarded top end restaurants (where informed diners know pulses play a part in lowering the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardio vascular disease and cancer). And they are developing world’s food, providing most of the protein needs for the Indian sub-continent as well as featuring as an essential cornerstone item in humanitarian food parcels being delivered to Syrian refugees.
With world population set to grow by 2.4 billion by 2050, pulses can be considered “The Future of Food”. It’s like we’ve invited 2.4 billion guests to dinner and it’s our responsibility to provide food for them. That cannot be done with animal protein – sustainable plant proteins must be the answer.
To become part of this movement, check our inspiring recipe, where there are over 400 pulse recipes from all over the globe, including over 60 video recipes.
You are welcome to attend free demonstrations and presentations to celebrate International Year of Pulses at Food Matters Live at Excel London Nov 23rd .