Napa Valley (California) Culinary Tour (September 17-18, 2013)

If you can fit it into your schedule, please join the feast. A FREE event open to the food industry: Developed and underwritten by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council together with the Culinary Institute of America, this two-day educational seminar will take place at the Culinary Institute of America’s premier culinary college at the elegant Greystone in St. Helena, California (a 90-minute drive from San Francisco, Oakland or Sacramento airports). The event will explore and create new food, beverage and nutritional product concepts using pulse and pulse-based ingredients.

Please note: although attendance and lodging is underwritten by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, you will still need to provide your own transportation.

Editorial comment: I attended a similar horizon-expanding culinary event in Chicago earlier this year, sponsored by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council in conjunction with Chicago-based Culinary Sales Support, Inc. and I can thus highly recommend attending this Napa Valley event if you can at all fit it into your schedule.

Not only will you gain a hands-on education about a new and exciting growth category and its many, many applications, you will also walk away with many new creative product ideas developed by America’s leading culinary institute. In BEST VANTAGE Inc.’s view, pulses represent a still early-stage product category for the American food and foodservice industries. The stunning rise of hummus as a ($0.5b -plus) retail and foodservice product category in just a decade should alert us all to the future possibilities for this category. The Chicago presentation was replete with ideas for pulse-derived baked goods, salad toppings, sauces, desserts, nutrition bars, soups, meats and beverages. I would expect even more creativity to find expression at this upcoming Culinary Institute of America event in September.

Many of today’s pulse-based product applications draw from recipes originating in South Asia or the Middle East. This is only the first stage. The next stage of development will see the fusion of pulse and pulse-based ingredients into new combinations tailored to American tastes and imaginations. (a wasabi-flavored hummus developed by chefs at the Chicago event offered very interesting retail possibilities, in my view). Be forewarned, however: you may inadvertently waaay overeat. — Daniel Best

To find out more about this event and to register, please follow this link:

August Observations

Here are some quick summary alerts on the following subjects:

  • Food price projections and climate (all good news!)
  • U.S. Food & Drug Agency (FDA) Inspections and GRAS Self-Approvals (uh-oh!)
  • Dietary fiber can aid calcium absorption (who knew?)

Food Price Projections

All good news! Through our friends at Purdue University, we learn that the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is predicting “bin-busting” harvests of corn and soybeans. From our friends at Food Business News (FBN) magazine (, we are alerted to the fact that the price of sugar has been plummeting, due to record high harvests. These events have unfolded as had been predicted by Drew Lerner of World Weather, Inc. at FBN’s (highly recommended!) “Annual Purchasing Seminar” in June, 2012, which pointed to fading La Niña conditions as signaling the beginning of a gradual end to the extended and extensive drought period of the past three years. Current favorable crop conditions are projected to continue into at least mid-2014. This should have a salutary effect on food prices and ease profit-margin pressures on food companies. Hopefully, this also foretells a burst in new food and beverage product innovation as raw material pressures ease for the foreseeable future.,-soybean-yields.html#!

Is More Food Scrutiny Warranted?

The U.S. Food & Drug Agency (FDA) is notoriously underfunded and understaffed and it can’t  (and shouldn’t) try to be everywhere all the time. However, pressures are mounting in terms of proposed import compliance changes and GRAS self-affirmations.

The FDA presented two proposals in July to expand food safety controls on imported foods. This will require more on-site inspections of facilities that export food to the U.S. The FDA anticipates doing this through 3rd party auditors.  This will be very good news for 3rd party auditors but not so good news for international food and food ingredient exporters that will now have to contend with new layers of compliance requirements under the U.S. Food Safety & Modernization Act (FSMA). The rationale for this decision is good, but it will significantly raise barriers for exporters of high-value foodstuffs to the United States. The U.S. is a net importer of high-value foods and, for some categories (e.g., seafood), is almost entirely reliant on foreign sources. Hopefully, this will not dissuade food importers from bringing new and trend-breaking foods and ingredients to our tables just because a full regulatory-compliance infrastructure is beyond their reach. (e.g., acai, quinoa, chia). Think about how this could impact the Free Trade movement, for example – added compliance requirements will require more intermediaries, not fewer.

Note: we include two such auditing experts in our BEST VANTAGE Inc. family of food industry professionals: Richard Stier and Rebeca Lopez-Garcia (Mexico). You can review their bios here:

A bit more problematic is an article published in the August 7th issue of the Journal of American Medical Association [] that alleges that the “potential” for conflicts of interest is rife in the process whereby the FDA allows “self” approval of new foods and ingredients as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).

Unfortunately, the authors of that paper display little appreciation regarding the realities of GRAS affirmations from the perspective of government resources and capabilities. For GRAS self-affirmations of new ingredients, the government makes the suppliers do their own homework in documenting the safety of new foods and ingredients. Self-affirmed GRAS foodstuffs can be foods commonly consumed in other parts of the world or ingredient fractions refined from existing foodstuffs. The GRAS self-affirmation process has opened doors to an explosion of new food and food ingredient offerings to the benefit of the commonweal. Absent any evidence that this system has failed or is broken, tampering with the self-affirmation process can only serve to constrain and bottleneck one of the last remaining creative and dynamic sectors of our economy. So, absent of any such evidence of failure or danger to the public welfare, we say: don’t tamper with a GRAS self-affirmation process that works!

Prebiotics Aid Calcium Absorption

An endearing quality in the field of nutrition is conventional wisdom endures even as established dogma remains ever elusive. Not long ago, it was assumed that dietary fiber (specially soluble fiber) consumption interfered with essential mineral absorption.

Via the California Dairy Research Foundation (, we learn of a Purdue University study that concluded that the consumption of 5 grams per day of prebiotic galactooligosaccharides significantly increased calcium absorption from milk in teenage girls. Obviously, if confirmed, this opens up tremendous new dairy product development opportunities to the public good.

Never, never take anything for granted in the fast-evolving field of nutrition!



Pulse Ingredients as Egg and Dairy Ingredient Alternatives

RandDTrends3smallEgg and dairy ingredients contribute critical nutritional and functional benefits, including adhesion,
gelling, aeration, binding
and emulsification, to a broad spectrum of
products. However, they
do come with some negatives that warrant consideration:

  1. Their use in American food products requires allergen-warning statements to be posted prominently on the front panels of food package labels.
  2. They are also expensive and subject to considerable price volatility.

In this increasingly cost-sensitive food industry environment, the relatively new pulse-ingredients category offers cost-effective alternatives to egg and dairy ingredients, either as partial replacers or 100% substitutes in formulations.

“Pulses” refers to high-protein legume foods, such as peas, chickpeas and lentils. As food ingredients, they offer superior nutrition, functionality, non-GMO appellation, clean-label designation and sustainability appeal. Generally, pulses contain 20-30% protein and are high soluble and insoluble dietary fibers, from which much of the ingredient functionalities (e.g., emulsification, water management) of pulses derive.

On Thursday, August 22, 1:00 – 2:00 PM U.S. Central Standard Time (CST), the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council and BEST VANTAGE Inc. will host the second of four FREE “Food R&D Trends” Webinars that offers practical “how-to” guidance on using pulse ingredients as alternatives to egg and dairy ingredients in food formulations.

Topics to be addressed in this webinar include:

  • Pulses as food ingredients
  • The role of egg and dairy ingredients in food product development
  • The advantages of pulses: formulation; cost savings; labeling and nutrition.
  • How to use pulse ingredients egg and dairy alternatives in food formulation

To Register:
Registration for this FREE Webinar is limited to 250 participants, so please use the following link for more details and to reserve your place:

This Webinar has been made possible through a grant from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.