Research always produces a pile of reports and other paper documents. Three years of it at Pulse Canada was no exception.
But instead of producing another thick document, as the final report of its Pulse Innovation Project, the national organization has found a novel new way to share their findings: an upbeat, 10-minute video.
The video, titled The Pulse Innovation Project: Growing Pulse Markets, features clips from medical researchers, food scientists, and food company owners speaking about their contributions, and expectations of the project.
With a lively music soundtrack, the video clearly conveys an unmistakable excitement in Canada’s pulse industry as it moves forward to create new market opportunities.
A premiere screening was held at the Globe Cinema in Winnipeg earlier this month. Invited guests munched on a new Manitoba-made pea snack as they watched.
This seemed the more effective way to tell an exciting story, said Gordon Bacon, chief executive officer of Pulse Canada in an interview after the screening.
“We thought it was a very powerful story,” he said. “We wanted to share it this way.”
The Pulse Innovation Project began in the spring of 2005, with a science and innovation investment of $3.2 million from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
It has brought together health organizations, food companies, research and academic institutions, government and industry in a research and innovation partnership that aims for one common goal: the development of new market opportunities for pulses such as beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas in the North American food sector.
The pulse industry wants to get more pulse ingredients, such as pulse flour, into food products such as cereals, baked goods, and ready-made meals. Canadians eat very low volumes of pulses currently, with mainly vegetarians consuming the largest amounts. Changing people’s food habits isn’t easy or likely, therefore the key to boosting pulse consumption is to incorporate them into foods people already eat.
The Pulse Innovation Project is working on research and product development to help make that happen.
Food scientists at the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI) have worked out product formulations so that makers of foods like spaghetti and baked goods could add a portion of pulse flour to their product and still retain a highly palatable, good-tasting product.
Nutritional analysis shows use of pulse flour significantly boosts both the fibre and protein content of these foods.
A series of human clinical trials looking for more links between pulse eating and human health are foundational to the Pulse Innovation Project. More results from these trials will be released at an industry symposium in February.
Food and pulse-ingredient supply companies, meanwhile, are paying close attention.
Margaret Hughes, whose Portage la Prairie-based company Best Cooking Pulses supplied the pea snack food available at the video release, said food makers need to be given good reasons to use pulses. For one, they’ll want to know what competitive advantage they gain from using them.
They also want to know how to use pulses. “Product makers really need to know the functionality of an ingredient, or how it’s going to work if they put it in a bread or a cookie or a cracker,” she said.
Many companies are also now developing environmental corporate policies, she added. They want to know what environmental message using pulses sends to consumers.
That’s where Pulse Canada’s Healthy People, Healthy Planet initiative (www.healthypeople.healthyplanet.com)fits in. It is a three-year initiative investigating how pulses’ lighter environmental footprint can meet the needs for sustainability in Canada’s food system.
The Pulse Innovation Project has received interim funding for the 2008-09 fiscal year while new programming under Growing Forward is developed. This research has raised many more questions, and there is still much work to do, Bacon said.
“I think that our sector is not unlike a lot of other sectors in agriculture and that is that we don’t have strong linkages to the food industry,” he said. [email protected]