By Sophia Walter and Alex Powell
Beans and legumes have grown in popularity over the past couple of years as an increasing number of consumers turn to vegetable-based protein and fiber sources. After 2016 was named the International Year of the Pulse, recognizing pulses as one of the most sustainable and nutrient-dense foods available, it led to the extensive global promotion of beans and legumes. Pulses are now seen as a realistic solution to the increasing global food and nutrition security concern.
In 2015, an unexpected opportunity came to Powell May International (PMI) in the form of sweet lupin, which was introduced to us as the future of the food industry. Little did we know, this nutrient-dense and highly versatile bean would be exceeding our expectations less than one year later.
The story of the sweet lupin bean begins in Chile, where it has been grown for centuries as a main crop for livestock as well as local human consumption. The bean is typically milled following harvest, producing cost-effective and highly nutritious flour as an ingredient for cattle feed and daily meals for the local populations. We decided to focus on milling the beans and promoting it as flour, for baked goods, dips, snacks and meat-alternative applications.
Although the two main sweet lupin origins are currently only Australia and Chile, the crop can thrive in a variety of climates, as it easily grows in different soils and temperatures. We recognized the potential for it to eventually being grown in Canada as a sustainable crop. Sweet lupin can then provide Canadian farmers with more rotation crop options as well as a potential alternative to soy beans, all while supporting the Canadian food industry.
PMI decided to collaborate with the University of Guelph and local farmers to conduct a Canadian growing study on sweet lupin, taking into consideration temperature, soil nutrients, water, and farming practices. The greenhouse portion of the study was successfully completed, with plans to plant a few acres of sweet lupin in spring 2017. Once the 2017 field-study is complete, we will be able to determine the overall yield capability of the crop. Thus far, the growing study has predicted that sweet lupin can be successfully grown in Ontario and nation-wide.
The original sweet lupin flour we were presented with was originally milled in Chile immediately after being harvested. Since sweet lupin does not need to undergo additional processing due to its lower alkaloid content, PMI decided to bring the beans from Chile and have them milled by a local processor in Ontario. This ensures we have more flexibility surrounding the milling process as well as control of which facility is processing the flour.
The prominent feature of sweet lupin is its superior nutritional content. The results of a thorough nutritional analysis from a third-party lab surpassed our expectations, coming back at just over 41 per cent protein and 30 per cent total dietary fiber, with both soluble and insoluble fiber present. Sweet lupin is also in complex carbohydrates, placing it low on the glycemic index, making it an excellent option for those looking to regulate their blood sugar and weight.
Sweet lupin is also a valuable source of calcium and iron, which are both often overlooked by consumers. The nutritional profile of sweet lupin flour makes it an excellent option as a flour replacement or to enhance the nutrition of gluten-free products.
In addition to the growing study with the University of Guelph, PMI is also currently working with Niagara College students in the Culinary Innovation and Food Technology Co-Op program. They will be using sweet lupin flour and beans in a concept-to-launch product development process. The students have been challenged to develop sweet lupin products in a range of pre-determined categories, from entrée meals to bakery and snack products.
As a team, the students will perform research, ideation and formulation of the products, followed by development and testing. Once the formulations have been confirmed, the students will complete the packaging, labeling, costing, and marketing strategy needed for the concept to go from the lab to market.
Powell May International’s NutriPulse Sweet Lupin Flour was launched in the fall of 2016, and with successful marketing of the product we are able to take it from innovation to successful commercialization. The opportunities of sweet lupin will only continue to accelerate in 2017 and 2018, as we look forward to product launches and continuing our work with the University of Guelph and Niagara College.
Building a strong manufacturer and customer network continues to contribute to our strength of supplying globally sourced ingredients. As Powell May International grows we focus on these strengths, which add to our value of providing natural, functional ingredients and innovative product development solutions.