Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Rapid Pulse of Pulses

The Rapid Pulse of Pulses
by Avinash Shrikantia

2016 has been quite the year for pulses in the food and dietary supplement industry. The UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulse and since then, the industry has gone nuts (1). Companies and startups have innovated pulses into snacks, chips, cereals, pastas, and many other forms of common foods (Banza Pasta, Maya Kaimal Chickpea Chips, My Vega Pea Protein, Brami Snacking Beans, and Tolerant Foods Legume Pastas). At 2016 IFT, “Made with Pulses”, a new logo developed by the Global Pulse Confederation, was launched to help food and beverage manufactures increase consumer awareness and the use of various pulses given the increase in our diet. Some companies are already on board to use the logo on their brands, few of which are expected to hit the shelves at the end of 2016 (2).
 Pulses are classified under legumes and members of the Leguminosae family as beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas and are known to be rich in amino acids along with having a high protein content (3). Certain pulses when mixed and eaten with grains such as rice are considered a complete protein. These ingredients have been used for many years through many cultures, namely it’s heavy use in Indian cuisine for thousands of years as a source of meatless protein. The term “pulse” includes all legumes (mainly soybeans, peanuts, and green beans and peas) except those that are used for oil extraction and green beans for consumption. The Food and Agriculture Organization division of the United Nations classifies 11 pulses as “primary” with the most common ones seen on US grocery shelves as kidney beans, pinto beans, mung beans, dry peas, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lentils (4).
Some common pulse products seen on the markets, aside from the dried beans themselves and dried pea snack are powdered pea-protein to replace whey and snacking products, mainly in the form of chips. Pea-protein has gained considerable attention and growth in recent years, and a 2016 market analysis report by Research and Markets reported that North America is the largest market accounting for 35% of global consumption, followed by Europe at 33% (5). Fresh peas and legumes themselves are consumed heavily in Asia, but the supplemental protein segment of this market is still growing. From a global standpoint, the forecasted compounded average growth rate is 8.83% from the end of 2016 to 2020 if others markets continue to grow and companies innovate further to meet the needs of different markets (6). Driving innovation in this category are mainly start-ups that are focusing on the individual pulse ingredient as the trend for animal-free products grows into different categories of food. Large companies, like Morning Star, known for their veggie patties and other “hamburger-like” food products, are also using a variety of pulses in their formulas and are even making pulses the main ingredient in some products. According to a survey by ingredient company, Ingredion, 34% increase of American household purchases related to pulse ingredients was in conjunction with a 74% increase in new pulse product launches from 2010 to 2014, and the number of new products keeps growing (7).
Growth in this category can also be attributed to the increasing social awareness of healthy living. With an increase in healthy eating trends, convenience is vital given the perception of difficulty and expense associated with eating well, the FAO declaring 2016 as the year of pulses to drive innovation helps increase consumer awareness. Consumers need to be eased into eating well into order to sustain the habit of eating well. By introducing pulse products through familiar means, allows for easier consumer acceptance in the long term. Innovative examples of the brands that have capitalized on this are: Hippeas and their organic chickpea puffs, Brami’s lupine bean snacks, Other Bean hummus, Beanitos’s variety of different bean chips, and Banza, whose line of chickpea pastas range from penne to spaghetti. There are many more brands that are making cereals, snack bars, gluten/bread replacement products, and many sports performance supplement brands developing better vegetarian based protein than the large amounts of pea protein in the market (7).
As appetites change and food trends come and go one thing that remains certain for the next few years is the need for convenient and healthy food. A relativity new need that’s gained a lot of investors and traction in 2016 was the use of pulses in food products for added nutritional and health benefits. Another need is using pulses in animal-free products that try to mimic properties of meat products, like vegetarian burgers, and chicken alternatives as well as its use in the sports nutrition industry an alternative to whey protein. As stated by the UN General Assembly, 2016 is the International Year of the Pulse and the industry reacted with a plethora of products. However, since there are a variety of pulses, it’s safe to assume that many more companies innovating on this front will release products incorporating them. As we close out this year, the industry looks to 2017 to see how this trend will take shape into the following year and what new pulse ingredients will be used as innovation in this category grows.



Monday, November 28, 2016

How to have a local Holiday Meal?

How to have a local Holiday Meal?

by Luz E. Rivera

The big holiday season is just around the corner, and we all should be planning how we are going to prepare all the big meals. If you want to try something different for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, maybe having a local holiday meal might be a good idea. But, what is a local holiday meal? To answer this question, we can use Thanksgiving as an example. First let’s imagine that we are in 1621, and we are planning to celebrate the First Thanksgiving Meal.
So, let’s think… would we be able to go to the supermarket and buy stuff? – No! We must harvest our vegetables and hunt our meat. Some of us will go with some of the Plymouth colonist and hunt birds, others will go with some Wampanoag Indians and hunt deer. Others will stay and harvest corn and pumpkin and collect some seafood like, lobsters. As far as we know, according to the Thanksgiving History, we would not have ovens nor ingredients from England, so we would have to stay local and use Native American ingredients such as, molasses, herbs, onions and nuts and used other cooking methods like roasting over a smoldering fire.

In 1621, Turkey wasn’t the main dish, because the Plymouth colonist returned from hunting with other birds such as, goose, swan and duck. However, turkey was indeed a common food between the Pilgrims and the Indians, it was a wild plentiful bird in the region. One of the main reasons to have a Thanksgiving celebration at that time was to celebrate the first autumn harvest. Local grown vegetables were served at the table, carrots, corn, potatoes (white and sweet) and beans. Lots of indigenous fruits, especially whole cranberries, were used for the First Thanksgiving Meal, no sauces were made. And of course, Pumpkins! However, due to the lack of butter and wheat flour, no pie was prepared.
Ok, this might have been a little too local, but we get the idea, let’s get back to the present. Today, a local Thanksgiving will require us to get ingredients that are produced close to where are sold, and knowing where our food comes from. To centralize in a specific region all the activities related to food production, processing, distributing and marketing is what typically makes local food systems. However, the term is not universally defined and depends on consumer perspective. But, why we want to do buy local?
There are many reasons to buying local, maybe the most common is to secure freshness of products. However, the more important point related to Thanksgiving and other holidays is supporting our local economy. Supporting local farms, which usually start as small family farms, grow, process and distribute locally to help stimulate local and rural economies. Unlikely large industrial farms, most local farms run according to sustainable standards, which in a very general way means, not damaging the environment or threatening human or animal health. Buying local not only gives us the opportunity of knowing where our food comes from, it also can give us the advantage of knowing the farmer (the producer), ask questions and educate ourselves about how our food is produces, all face to face. There is also a USDA initiative that uses consumer interest in where their food comes from and help farmers and ranchers to expand their market opportunities: the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF). More importantly, it can bring us together with our community and feel more connected with our food.
So, let’s get back to the main question, how to have a local holiday meal? Here are some tips that you might know or not, to ensure where your food comes from:
1.     Get to the farmer’s market!
Direct from the farm to the consumer, this is what a farmer’s market is all about. This will be the best opportunity to get to know the farmer or producer of your food and ask all the questions you might have. Going to a local farmer’s market can be a very fun experience. You can find almost everything and more that you might not have think of. From veggies to cheese, even wine! If you prepare with time and search all your closest farmer’s markets you may be able to find everything for your traditional holiday dishes, at affordable prices. There is a USDA, Local Food Directory, that can help you find all the national farmers market regardless of what part of the country you are.

2.     Finds stores that have local produce!
If you are not able to catch your closest famer’s market, don’t worry! You can still find local produce. Big well known stores such as Whole Foods Market, have locally grown, raised and produced. Their definition of local varies according to their stores. But, for example, California is divided by areas, which makes it more specific to find products from closest areas. Here you may also be able to get everything for the big celebration, even a local raised turkey, for Thanksgiving. However, because it is a big standardized store, you might spend more money.
3.     Hunt a Turkey! – not really…
Although this might be a really option for people that are into hunting, and there certainly are some areas according to the state where you find and hunt turkey. There is another option. There are some stores where you can find a local free-range heritage turkey, and there is even a store finder from the Mary’s free-range Turkey, which also gives you information about preparation and cooking advises. You might also be interested in searching for local farms that have turkeys available, however, you might require reservation to get a turkey, especially on Thanksgiving. Turkey is not the only one meat that you can find locally. Searching in the USDA KYF web site might help you find what you are looking for. Also, don’t forget to ask on the farmer’s market.
4.     Get seasonal!
If you are not able to get to the farmer’s market or whole foods, you can at least make an effort to buy seasonal products. Luckily for you, must of Thanksgiving dishes are made with seasonal products, like Pumpkins! You might increase your chances of getting ingredients that are grown local by buying only seasonal products.

5.     Grow and raise your own!
This might sound a little crazy, but if you have a big yard with a lot of free space, you may be interest on start a new hobby. Growing your own veggies, and even raise your own turkey! Can be a great project to share with family and friends, it not only will save you lots of money, but also will give you great satisfaction knowing that you are producing your own food. However, this will require a lot of preparation and planning, even from one year before. But, well still an option!
We cannot get back to 1621 to ensure a 100% local meal, however, we have some options that can help us get as local as we want. Let’s get to know our local farmers and eliminate the gap between us and our food. Food has always been an opportunity of bringing people together. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and any other holiday, are the perfect occasion to reconnect with our food and express gratitude by supporting our local economies.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The wine headache….Are sulfites to blame?

The wine headache….Are sulfites to blame?
by Jennie Monfried and Anjali Sarath
            It’s wine o’clock somewhere! The wine connoisseurs of 2016 are hunting their nearest organic grocery stores to find sulfite free wine. Who cares about the price, the undertones, the age, the place of origin, or even the type of wine for that matter… these days the sulfite free label is believed to be the golden ticket to a wine buzz with no headache. In fact, quite a few will pay more just for the “sulfite free” label. Sulfites are obviously to blame for the excruciating headache experienced shortly after drinking a glass of wine...right? Not to break your heart wine connoisseurs of America but actually, WRONG. Sulfites are not to blame for your headache.  Red wine contains about 10 mg of sulfites in a typical glass, with slightly higher levels in white wine versus red. However, ONE dried apricot has about 16.5 mg of sulfites with other dried fruit containing about the same amount. Most consumers don’t only eat one piece of dried fruit, so at the end of their snack, they could end up ingesting sulfite levels in the hundreds. But for some reason, consumers don’t complain of the same headache as when they drink wine. New organic wines on the market contain lower levels of sulfites, less than 10 ppm. But the headache triggering potential still remains with no published literature being able to link the presence of sulfites to headaches.
The Truth About Sulfite Sensitivity
            Sulfites are used as a preservative and antioxidant in different foods, beverages, and in the pharmaceutical industry. Sulfites have been used in wine for centuries to preserve and prevent discoloration. It is estimated that 1% of the population is affected by sulfites, and of that group 5% have asthma.  Of those sensitive to sulfites, the most common side effects are dermatological symptoms such as hives and blotchy skin, gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and nausea, and respiratory symptoms such as bronchoconstriction and wheezing. Although sensitivity to sulfites is an issue for 1% of the population, these symptoms do not include headaches. Moreover, there is no evidence that the other 99% of the population would experience a headache due to sulfites in wine, or any other product for that matter.
Is alcohol to blame?
Although the relationship between alcohol and headaches is not clearly understood, it is believed that the alcohol may be the cause for the wine headache. A great number of people are online searching for the relationship: a google search of the topic yields about 27 million results.  Alcohol seems to feature in a wide variety of headaches from migraines to the very obvious hangover headaches.  Migraine sufferers almost always cite alcohol as a major dietary trigger.  It appears that a combination of many agents could be responsible for the headaches after the consumption of alcohol.   Some things identified as possible causes may be naturally present in wine such as tannins, histamine, or it could just be the alcohol.  The alcohol (ethanol ) present in wine is converted to a compound to called acetaldehyde by enzymes in the liver. Formation of acetaldehyde is associated with hang over headaches.  In some people,  formation of acetaldehyde from ethanol is so rapid that headaches occur immediately after consuming alcohol.  Tannins are naturally present in grape seeds and skins, and may interfere with the metabolism of certain neurotransmitters (also known as chemical messengers) to trigger headaches. The presence of histamines can cause headaches in people who are sensitive.  However, histamine sensitivity or intolerance has other symptoms than headaches and can resemble an allergic reaction resulting in diarrhea, congestion of nose, asthmatic wheezing, irregular heart beat etc.
Save your $$$

So the next time all you wine connoisseurs decide to host Wine Wednesday, save your money. To be exact save your average of $1.23, which is how much more consumers are willing to pay extra just to avoid added sulfites. You may need that extra cash for the Advil and coconut water to get rid of your alcohol-induced headache.