By Janin Zippel
We know pulses are popular – a regularly trending healthy food and even given their own International Year by the United Nations – but what is it about these unassuming legumes that attracts consumers? We asked the question and the results from our research offer an interesting insight into current perceptions among European consumers. So what did we learn?
One of the key findings was the generally high level of acceptance of pulses – and not just in their whole form.
- 63% of respondents said they would welcome the addition of pulse-based ingredients to food products.
- And in terms of differentiation, chickpea and lentils were the most well-known pulses – 51% and 43% respectively – followed by peas (35%) and faba beans (30%).
Equally evident was strong awareness of the health benefits of pulses:
- 56% of participants saw pulses as healthy and natural, 38% associated them with high fibre content and more than a quarter considered them a good source of minerals and vitamins.
- 37% also recognised the ability of pulses to contribute to a fuller for longer diet and provide long lasting energy.
What makes this particularly interesting is the fact that consumers not only have a general impression of pulses as a ‘good for you’ ingredient, they can also explain why in terms of the nutritional content -making them an increasingly well informed audience.
Pulses were also found to tick another important box for consumers – protein. This remains a hot trend with vegetable-based ingredients continuing to dominate innovation across food categories. So with pulses typically containing 20-25% protein, we wanted to find out how they ranked against other sources.
Our research found that all pulses were preferred to soy as a source of protein, with lentil coming out on top at 33%, followed by pea (27%) and faba bean (21%).
Taste Issues Addressed
The study did flag up one consumer attitude that manufacturers need to proactively address; concern around the possible negative impact that pulse-based ingredients might have on the taste and colour of a product.
This is not entirely unexpected news – and is perhaps partly a legacy of old-style vegetarian recipes which have long been banished from modern menus – but tells us that more needs to be done to educate consumers on the arrival of clean taste pulse options.
The fact that adding lentil protein to a product increased intention to buy among 42% of respondents is encouraging. Our research found that products made with pulse-based ingredients were generally well received by participants – particularly chicken nuggets made with a lentil flour batter instead of wheat free batter, and meat-free chicken nuggets created with lentil protein.
Overall, our findings support the view that there is a real opportunity for manufacturers to use pulse-based ingredients to differentiate and innovate – whether by capitalising on macro-trends such as natural and simple labelling, or appealing to consumers via specific nutritional messaging around protein or gluten free.
And with new developments in pulse-based ingredients continuing to open up new applications that haven’t been possible until now, it has never been easier to keep your NPD on the pulse.
Find out more about our research in our latest Infographic.