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Health-conscious consumers are increasingly turning to plant-based protein to fuel their bodies with fewer calories and fat. What’s more, foods like peas, beans, legumes and pulses use less water than other protein crops, making them a sustainable choice.
With 8 grams of protein and just 117 calories per cup, peas are a small but nutritionally mighty vegetable to watch. The Hartman Group, in Bellevue, Wash., which tracks emerging food trends, has identified pea protein as “a key player in the ‘less meat,’ ‘soy-free’ movement.”
Meanwhile, pulses, which are beans and peas, including lentils and chickpeas that are harvested dry, are receiving acclaim on the global stage. Citing the nutritional benefits, affordability and sustainability of pulses, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulses (IYP).
Snacks With Benefits
Pulses, the edible seeds of legumes, are also cause for celebration at Harvest Snaps, the line of produce-based shelf-stable snacks from Calbee, which are often merchandised in the produce section.
“There are a lot of benefits to eating plant-based protein,” asserts Steve Kneepkens, VP of sales and marketing for Fairfield, Calif.-based Calbee North America, “but you can talk about protein all you want; the product has to taste good or people won’t buy it.”
Calbee is extending its line of Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps and Lentil Bean snacks to include two new flavors: Harvest Snaps Black Bean Mango, Chile, Lime and Harvest Snaps Black Bean Habanero. Both flavors are launching this month.
“We went with bolder flavors in an effort to bring more men into the category,” reveals Kneepkens, who adds that currently 55 percent to 65 percent of Harvest Snaps’ customer base is female.
At least 60 percent of each product in the Harvest Snaps line is made from beans, pulses or legumes. To communicate the benefits of these plant-based foods, the company is preparing to release a white paper on sustainable plant protein.
It’s also revamping its website, www.harvestsnaps.com, in time for the back-to-school season this September. “We’ll offer education on why proteins from better-for-you pulses are important, as well as tips of the day for better living,” explains Kneepkens about the site, which will also feature Pierre Legume, a new character to appeal to kids.
“There will be a big social element to our digital web page as well, where people can share fitness and health-and-wellness stories,” he continues. “We want to be right in the center of better-for-you living.”
Convenience is key when it comes to encouraging consumers to eat beans as a snack or side dish. Pero Family Farms, in Delray Beach, Fla., offers two green bean packs that are healthful and easy to pop in a lunchbox.
Green Bean Organic Snack Snips feature organic green beans cut in bite-size pieces and accompanied by organic ranch dip, while Green Bean Snack Snips with Greek yogurt ranch dip have just 40 calories per serving.
From Fine Dining to Healthy at Home
Southern Specialties, in Pompano Beach, Fla., has been growing and importing French green beans for more than 25 years, and so has seen the evolution of its product from a specialty item in white-tablecloth restaurants to a nutritious and delicious veggie for everyday dining at home.
“Today, French beans are still sought after by consumers who are interested in having a flavorful, nutritional product that has great appearance on the plate,” says Charlie Eagle, VP of business development, regarding Southern Specialties’ Southern Selects hand-trimmed beans.
Featuring just 31 calories, one cup of green beans contains 2 grams of protein, and vitamins A, C and B-6, as well as iron and magnesium.
To further entice time-strapped consumers to get more French green beans in their diets, Southern Specialties offers a convenient 8-ounce microwavable bag and a 1-pound bag, as well as a 2-pound bag with a handle that plays well in club stores.
“Our increasingly extended line of microwavable 8-ounce Southern Selects French beans, yellow beans, English peas and sugar snap peas has been very successful,” notes Eagle. “Customers really like the convenience factor.”
When it comes to sugar snap peas, which are a popular snack item and a versatile ingredient, he observes that families are gravitating to larger-format packaging.
Attracting specialty bean and pea shoppers doesn’t only boost the produce department’s bottom line, adds Eagle: “We recognize that consumers who purchase French beans and other specialties also typically buy more expensive cuts of meat or seafood, cheeses, and wine, which means a higher basket ring.”
“You can talk about protein all you want; the product has to taste good or people won’t buy it.”
—Steve Kneepkens, Calbee North America