Sprouted Grains: Not So Fast!

Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Understandably, the baking and cereal products industries are very excited about sprouted grains these days. Well, it is a new, healthy and otherwise compelling narrative about whole grain foods and other seeds, like beans. Major companies such as Kellogg’s (Kashi) and J.M. Smucker (Enray) have already committed themselves to what they perceive to be a band-wagon growth opportunity. Raw food enthusiasts are big on sprouts. But, call me contrarian! There is ample reason not to get too excited too quickly about sprouted grains. They provide a good story line, but nutritional claims, cost, product safety and consumer awareness remain serious barriers to growth. New market exuberance may be premature.

“Sprouted grains” was a big big topic of discussion at the recently concluded AACC International’s (i.e., cereal chemists) Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN (October 19-22). On the plus side, sprouted grain breads and other cereal products have been gaining a lot of attention, at least in the food press. The arguments for sprouted grains are primarily nutritional, though good taste very importantly factors in, as well. Sprouting is the process whereby seeds, when moisturized, arouse themselves from dormancy and reconfigure themselves for rapid growth. The seed’s fiber, starch and phytates break down, releasing antioxidants, sugars and minerals. Starch breaks down into simple sugars that either sweeten the sprout and can be flushed away reduce glycemic value. Some vitamin contents are increased. The process typically involves soaking seeds between 1 – 4 days to induce sprouting, followed by a heat-kill step to knock out enzymatic activity, and milling to create a flour.

Here are some of the concerns cited at the conference:

  1. The process of adding water, holding, kilning (i.e removing the added water), and milling is expensive. Yes, the beer industry can do it, but beer isn’t cheap and it enjoys deservedly high margins. Sprouted grains are not low cost ingredients.
  2. Yes, nutritional value is enhanced, but by what standards? Bob Hanson of Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., noted in a highly detailed and engaging presentation that sprouting is a highly variable process for which nutritional value will vary greatly according to the length of time and other sprouting conditions used (i.e., was the seed germinated for four hours or four days?). Developing uniform, standardized levels of nutritional enhancement for which suppliers and nutritional labels will be held accountable remains a major challenge. Plus, as pointed out by retired-but-not-really nutrition professor Julie Jones, an academic for whose intellectual rigor and honesty I retain enormous respect even when we disagree, given the cost and use level of sprouted grains, how will their enhanced nutritional value make a significant dietary difference? We don’t know, for example, how effective the released polyphenolic antioxidants (likely released from the breakdown of arabinoxylan bran structures) are in human physiology. Nor do we know how to balance the potential cancer-inhibiting actions of phytate against the mineral-releasing breakdown of phytates during sprouting.
  3. Probably the most important challenge is safety. Grains and beans come in from the field with imbedded toxins and trailing pathogenic microbes. In some cases, the microbes are imbedded inside the seeds. Sprouting provides an ideal medium for their outgrowth. The beer industry resolves this by boiling the seed wort; the baking industry has no such option. According to University of Nebraska food science professor Andreia Bianchini, kilning of the sprouted grains does not significantly reduce microbial counts. Although reading between the lines of the Hanson presentation suggested to me that Briess has resolved this problem to its own satisfaction, the consensus appeared to be that sprout safety remains a serious liability issue for the industry at large. I have no doubt that good solutions exist (I can think of some off the top of my head), but much work still needs to be done.
  4. Finally, there is consumer awareness and demand. Sprouted grains are not new – they’ve been percolating in the cereal foods industry for at-least a decade, promoted by companies such as Food For Life Baking Company’s Ezekiel bread, which has developed a loyal following. A look at Internet chatter trends for “sprouted grains” provides the following profile:

Sprouted Grain TrendAlert OCT-15This graph shows a steadily increasing rise in total Internet chatter (blue line) over time, combined with low VIC TrendAlert™ volatility (red line). Accelerating growth in Internet chatter combined with low volatility is indicative of stable growth and should be promising. That’s the good news. However, at this time, the term “sprouted grain” is generating only 25,000 to 30,000 Google hits per month. Compare that to “rice” (~1.2 million hits per month) or “quinoa” (~600,000 hits per month), and you realize quickly that “sprouted grain” has a long way to go before it becomes the talk of the town. Internet chatter matters.

Sprouted grain is an interesting and promising ingredient category with a compelling narrative. Here’s my take: its time hasn’t yet come!

Free-Range Eggs Are Not Free

Fried Egg Photo

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

McDonald’s announcement this year that it plans to switch all of its eggs to “cage free” and “free range” AND buy only antibiotic-free eggs and chickens pretty much sets the agenda for consumers and the egg industry for the foreseeable future. No doubt, other foodservice operators will follow. Egg producers that hope to compete will have to adapt. This may be good for social justice warriors (SJWs), but let’s face this future with eyes wide open: this will create serious new challenges for consumers and industry alike.

First, there is the cost factor. Fact is, free-range farming is not as nearly as efficient as caged production. Square acreage, bird density, predation, heightened stress, pecking, and cannibalism all take a toll on efficiency. So, eggs will cost more…considerably more. It will also increase the cost of products that contain egg or egg ingredients. That’s all probably doable for middle-class SJWs and those fortunate enough to rank higher up on the economic security spectrum, but it will also hurt the poor and all other families living paycheck to paycheck. Eggs are one of nature’s most perfect foods, nutritionally speaking, so why would we deny anyone access thereto?

Next, there is the safety factor. One of the reasons that traditional egg producers have been obsessed with controlled-environment production is to keep avian diseases out of the environment. There is avian flu, which has been devastated poultry production worldwide. Avian flu is transmitted to livestock fowl by wild birds and by mammals: not surprisingly, it is especially prevalent during spring and autumn, when migrating flocks of birds let fly. Controlling avian flu is difficult enough in a battery-cage system, it will be even more difficult in cage-free, free-range environments. Especially when antibiotics are proscribed. Avian flu decreases the supply and increases the cost of poultry products.

Then there is Salmonella enteritidis, which is transmitted to poultry (and eggs) via insects, small mammals and contaminated feeds. According to the Center for Disease Control, salmonella infections cause, on average, one million illnesses in the United States, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths. At present, the major focus of concern regarding salmonella infections has shifted from poultry to fruit and vegetable (and some grain) products. This is only because much progress has been made toward controlling S. enteritidis in eggs by imposing tight controls on egg production, processing and handling. Although annual incidences of S. enteritidis have been on a downward curve, there is a good chance of reversing this trend as environmental controls on egg production are loosened. Inevitably, this will result in more liability exposure for egg producers, retailers and foodservice operators. This, too, will increase the cost of eggs. I yield the point, though, that the data thus far regarding salmonella contamination in free-range eggs is contradictory (it’s may be up in the U.S. but it appears to be unchanged in Europe), but we are still very early in the transition process and data collection is spotty.

Don’t get me wrong! Individually, our chances of contracting salmonella remain very small. But for the millions of us in America that do contract it (fever, cramps, diarrhea, death)…major bummer! To the extent that it is connected to eggs, this will not help egg consumption. I would like to think that a corporate giant such as McDonald’s has properly thought these issue through, but my own experiences with corporate decision prevent me from taking this for granted. Can a fast-breakfast food company really survive and thrive with higher egg prices?

For background, I am the co-developer and co-founder of the technology and company that pioneered in-the-shell pasteurization technology (now, National Pasteurized Eggs, of Lansing, Illinois), which stands to gain greatly from this trend. Today, I own zero, zip, nada interest in that company, although I do retain pride of accomplishment. These views are entirely my own.

Cage-free, free-range eggs are the new normal. Be safe!

Some worthwhile copy/past links for perspective:

Jay-Russell, M. and Payne, M.  Are free-range eggs safer? Special to CNN August 26, 2010

 U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Draft Guidance for Industry: Questions and Answers Regarding the Final Rule, Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis in Shell Eggs During Production, Storage, and Transportation (Layers with Outdoor Access

The Power of Near-Real Time Food Trend Volatility Analysis

Is your food company busy addressing rising Vegan, Vegetarian, DASH, Anti-Inflammatory, ABS or Paleo diet trends today? If not, why not? These are among today’s top-10 diet trends driving consumer food choices.

Although Internet and social media analysis techniques are still in their infancy, these “big data” bases should not ignored: they best reflect what consumers think and say about their food choices. Think of the Internet as a very large consumer survey population that can be sampled at-will, at very low cost and on a near-real time basis. Internet chatter analysis also reveals trends not easily discernable using conventional analysis techniques, such as retail product scanning, new product placement tracking and consumer surveys…in near-real time! There is the problem of information clutter, however: the Internet has a very low signal-to-noise ratio and it can often be difficult to discern between what is important or relevant and what is not. Also, Internet search engines are fickle and just finding the most applicable search terms can be challenging.

This post references work undertaken at BEST VANTAGE Inc. (www.bestvantageinc.com) to establish new tools for consumer trends analysis, drawing on techniques developed by the financial industry. Previous work undertaken on this challenge is referenced here and here. In this posting, we demonstrate how volatility analysis, using our VIC™ internet chatter volatility indices, can rapidly prioritize emergent trends not readily detectable using conventional market analysis tools. The earlier warned, the faster that companies can adapt to and capture the high ground of new consumer opportunities.

Why volatility? Volatility is a leading indicator of change. Whether in nature, societies, economies or financial markets, “volatility” marks rapid exchanges of material and information that signal impending change. Internet chatter surges or wanes as individuals adapt to new information and adjust their demands and expectations accordingly. Internet chatter volatility denotes activity and information exchange: it does not explain the underlying reasons for change, which requires a more forensic analysis of the Internet database. Thus, a surge in Internet chatter signals that change is pending and that a more in-depth analysis of the underlying reasons for volatility is likely warranted.

In the chart below, the VIC™ volatilities of the top 9 diet trends (out of 40 analyzed) are presented together. It is clear that, already in late-2009 (six years ago), interest in vegetarianism surged, followed by a surge in vegan diet-related chatter beginning in 2013. These are the markers that should have signaled to the processed food, foodservice and food ingredient companies to closely track these diet trends and adjust their product lines and strategic plans accordingly. This period (2009 – present) also exhibited very significant spikes in Internet chatter volatility pertaining to high-protein, low-carb Paleo and ABS diet-related Internet chatter.

Top-9 Trend Volatility

A look at annualized growth trends in Internet chatter suggests how rapidly these four trends will remake our industry. Between 2013 and 2014 alone, BEST VANTAGE observed the following growth rates (i.e., velocity) in Internet chatter, presented along with 5-year annualized growth rates as benchmarks.

  • Vegan Diet (1-yr: 590%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 89%)
  • ABS Diet (1-yr: 315%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 115%)
  • Paleo Diet (1-yr: 159%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 101%)
  • Vegetarian Diet (1-yr: 152%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 85%)

Internet volatility and velocity analysis should not be used in place of conventional market tracking techniques. They do offer powerful early indicators of emergent trends, helping companies to know where to look and how to respond to the most volatile index of all, consumer behavior. In a future posting, I will explain the value of using Internet chatter volatility and velocity analyses as strategic decision-making tools.

Gainers and Losers: Dietary Trends and Proteins

Diet trends rank high in consumer consciousness and food and beverage purchase decisions. This can be direct or indirect, as social clusters exchange information and influence each other’s food preferences: friends influence friends. Some diet trends reflect value systems (e.g., veganism); some reflect self-actualization (weight-control diets); some reflect health concerns (e.g. gluten-free diets) and still others draw on scientifically generated, whole-health recommendations (e.g., the DASH diet). Two key questions are: which diets predominate in the consumer consciousness and how will they affect consumer food and beverage choices?

One way to track consumer diet preferences is through the Internet. Internet chatter provides a “big data” measure of what society is talking about, ergo its priorities. On May 5th, Daniel Best of BEST VANTAGE Inc. will demonstrate how Internet chatter analysis, using tools developed by the financial industry to analyze stock market activity, can be utilized to quantify and prioritize dietary trend activity in a presentation titled “Proteins: Quantifying the Odds for Market Success” [Global Food Forums’ Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar, May 5-6 in the Chicago area].

The presentation’s prioritization and analysis of forty diet trends should help companies identify and react to major trend shifts on a near-real time basis and also help them avoid Black Swan events. For example, the graph presented below ranks leading diet trends by their average annual growth rates over a 10-year period. But how should these 10-year trends influence near term-decision making? The tools presented should help quantify and rationalize strategic planning protocols as well as provide guidance on how to better engage in the battle of ideas on the Internet. Internet chatter analysis will provide valuable insights into consumers’ protein preferences, with respect to sourcing, processing and consumption.

10-yr Annual Diet Trends

Taking stock of consumer food trends

Can tools utilized to analyze the stock market be similarly applied to the Internet? Both the Internet and stock market represent large “big data” databases reflective of consumer sentiment and valuation judgments. Food companies’ futures hinge upon their ability to rapidly analyze and respond to continuously evolving consumer trends. However, Internet data is plagued by low signal-to-noise ratios and search engines can be highly erratic. In a presentation titled “Proteins: Quantifying the Odds for Market Success” (Global Food Forums’ 2015 Protein Trends and Technologies Seminar, by Chicago, Illinois on May 5-6), Daniel Best of BEST VANTAGE Inc. will demonstrate how Internet chatter-based volatility analysis can be used as a near-real time tool to red-flag trend shifts for food companies. He will suggest ways to exploit such data to advantage and help reduce Black Swan risks. For example, Internet traffic analysis indicates that while the “Paleo” Diet (unfavorable to dairy, soy, cereal and legume proteins) has been rapidly rising in consumer consciousness, it has also been highly volatile since late-2010, suggesting that major shifts are underway. This contrasts with the gluten-free trend, which has exhibited rapid and steady growth but low-volatility in Internet chatter, an indicator of category stability.Paleo Trend

Daniel Best (BEST VANTAGE Inc.) to speak at April 2014 “Proteins Trends and Technologies” Seminar.

Daniel Best will speak at the Global Food Forum’s 2nd Annual “Protein Trends and Technologies Seminar” (April 8-9, in Arlington Heights, IL) on the topic of how to establish practical working criteria in choosing between different protein ingredient options.

The food industry will soon face a plethora of different protein ingredient selections, even as global demands for protein are soaring. Best’s presentation, “Sooo many proteins, so little time: how to choose” is designed to help food, beverage and nutritional industry professionals make clear-eyed choices based not just on protein functionality, but business and legal considerations as well.

The first day (April 8th) of the two-day Protein Trends and Technologies Seminar, “Strategic Insights for Business Growth”, will emphasize marketing, business and regulatory aspects of the surging protein ingredients industry. The second day, “Formulating with Proteins”, will focus on the technical and quality challenges of incorporating protein ingredients into finished food, beverage and nutritional products. For more information on this conference and how to register, please visit:

http://www.cvent.com/events/2014-protein-trends-technologies-seminar/agenda-623c7a87b9584acb8826206606a2bf85.aspx

Note: This 2nd Annual Seminar continues 2013’s highly acclaimed “Proteins” seminar hosted by Global Food Forums, a complete Conference Report on which can be downloaded from this Link:

http://www.globalfoodforums.com/wp-content/uploads/2013_Protein_Trends__Technologies_Seminar_Report.pdf

Daniel Best (BEST VANTAGE Inc.) to address “Gluten Free” Product Development Breakfast Meeting

The Chicago Section IFT is sponsoring a Technical Breakfast Seminar on “Gluten-Free Products” from 7:00 – 10:00 AM at the Mintel Group, Ltd.’s Chicago office on April 3rd, 2014. The Mintel Group is a leading global market research organization. Daniel Best will present on “Gluten-Free Formulation: As Good…or Better?”, describing how the rapid rise of this category offers opportunities to develop products that are qualitatively better than the gluten-containing products that they are designed to replace.

Gluten-Free products may still be early-stage, but they are here to stay and, as was the case with “Organic”, could set new standards for quality that will dramatically expand their appeal. The ultimate success of this category will depend upon the ability of product developers to design added ingredient and nutritional integrity into their products to guarantee their long-term success. This presentation will provide examples of how new ingredients are being used to contribute superior value and performance to gluten-free products.

Additional presentations at this technical breakfast include:

  • The Rise of Gluten-Free: Trends in the US Free-From Market”, by Stephanie Pauk, Global Food Science Analyst, Mintel
  • Expand Your Gluten-Free Formulating Toolbox” by Jennifer Williams, Senior Application Scientist, Penford Food Ingredients

To learn more about this Technical Seminar Breakfast meeting and how to register, please visit this site:

http://www.chicagoift.org/meetings/April32014TechnicalSession.html?utm_source=CSIFT+February+2014+FoodBytes+Newsletter&utm_campaign=Feb.+2014+Newsletter&utm_medium=email

U.S. “Whole Seed” versus “Whole Grain” Labeling Alert

440px-3_types_of_lentil

Our position is that whole-seed beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, flaxseed, mustard, sesame, walnut, pine nut, almonds and other whole seeds should also qualify as “whole grains” under FDA regulations.

[UPDATED] For FoodNavigator summary of this issue, please follow link at the end of this post.

Should a “whole seed” definition apply only to cereals (members of the grass family) or to all seeds (including flaxseed, sesame, beans, chia, lentils…)?

This is still an open question with major consequences for the food industry and consumers alike. Resolution of this issue will determine to what degree non-cereal seeds (grains) will be used in many of the new foods currently under development in the United States.

Although the official Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) comment period ended years ago, the word is that they are still looking for guidance on this matter. Here is how to make your opinion regarding “whole grain labeling” regulations…matter.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) first proposed a definition for “whole grains” in 2006, to be followed by a requisite 90-day comment period. Today (December 2013), a working regulatory definition remains elusive. There is still time for our industry to contribute to this debate.

Earlier this year, attendees of the Nutrition Division luncheon at the AACCI Annual Meeting (Oct 1-4, Albuquerque, New Mexico) learned that the FDA had communicated to a AACCI Nutrition Division delegation that: a) it wanted to make resolution of a “whole grain” definition a priority and b) today, seven years after the formal closing of the 90-day comment period, it was still open to comments that would help the FDA arrive at a proper decision.

This has enormous implications for the U.S. food ingredient and food manufacturing industries. Here are the how, why and what thereof:

  1. The original FDA proposal would only allow cereals (taxonomic members of the grass family) and “pseudocereals” (a very loosely defined term) such as amaranth and quinoa, to be included under this definition. Other whole-seed flours, such as flaxseed, sesame, chickpea or dry bean flours, would not be included even though they are a) more nutritionally rich than cereals and b) utilized in foods in very similar manners to those of cereals (which meets one definition for a “pseudocereal”). There is strong support among some in industry and academia for a broader “whole seed” definition that includes all whole-seed ingredients.                                 [ line space]
  2. Regulatory and nutritional interest in “whole grains” is driven by a recognition that the outer pericarp (bran) layers of the seed are rich sources of nutrients and that removal of the bran during milling diminishes the nutritional value of the seed.  This is true for all seeds, not just cereal seeds. Ergo, the guiding principle behind developing whole-grain definitions should be based on nutritional, not taxonomic, considerations. It is in the public interest to promote consumption of whole seeds…all whole seeds… versus refined or otherwise fractionated seeds.                                                               [line space]
  3. Exactly what constitutes a “whole grain” will have enormous implications for food formulation: for example, one proposed definition of a whole-grain food claim would mandate that a minimum of 8 grams per 15-gram serving (dry breakfast cereals) or 30-gram serving (cookies) be in the form of “whole grains”. If this definition is limited to cereals and “pseudocereals” (which also remain undefined) and allowing for other necessary “functional” ingredients in the formulation, this leaves precious little room for the use of other whole-seed ingredients such as flaxseed, sesame, pulse or even whole nut powders, in the formulation. Yet all of these non-cereal “whole seeds” generally contribute considerably more nutritional value to foods per unit weight than do cereals, as the recent upsurge in the use of such ingredients in gluten-free foods has demonstrated.                                                [line space]

As of now, there have been precious few letters submitted on behalf of a whole –grain definition that includes non-cereal seed ingredients. The flaxseed industry associations (Ameriflax, Flax Canada and Northern Crops Institute) are the only exceptions. Only ADM has submitted a letter supporting the inclusion of pulses, a fast-growing and nutritionally rich category, within whole grain definitions. From suppliers of sesame seeds, nutmeats, chia and others….nary a peep!

The gluten-free industry should especially be interested in expanding the definition of whole grains to all seeds, given the use of such whole seed ingredients as flaxseed, pea, bean and nutmeat flours as alternatives to gluten-containing wheat and barley cereal grains.

A list of letters already submitted can be found here:

http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/06d0066/06d0066.htm

 The ADM letter in support of designating pulses as “whole seeds” can be found here:

 http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/06d0066/06d-0066-c000012-01-vol1.pdf

To those industries, associations and individuals that do have an interest in broadening the definition of “whole seed”, there is still time to make your voices heard to the benefit of improving nutrition, enhancing the public welfare and stimulating product innovation.

Please send your letters to:

Division of Docket Management (HFA-305)                                                                   Food & Drug Administration                                                                                         5630 Fishers Lane – Room 1061                                                                                 Rockville, MD  20852

Re.  Federal Register Vol. 71 No. 33: Docket 2006D-0066

For link to December 6, 2013 FoodNavigator-USA Summary of the issue:

http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/content/view/print/854110 

Ireland’s Food Harvest 2020 initiative seeks North American food and beverage investment, targets New Zealand meat and dairy

Ireland Invest2

“Ireland is open for food, beverage and ingredients manufacturing businesses!”, that is.

Ireland has committed to become Europe’s food manufacturing center and gateway to the EU, said representatives of Enterprise Ireland at a well-attended meeting hosted by Enterprise Ireland and the “Food Industry Team” of the Chicago law firm, Freeborn & Peters LLP on November 5th, at Chicago’s University Club.

Ireland’s government and dairy and meat industries, meanwhile, have targeted New Zealand as their benchmark competitor in a decisive effort to transform Ireland into a global, export-driven dairy and meat powerhouse producer, as part of an ambitious plan dubbed Food Harvest 2020. Noting that the EU represents about 25% of the world’s consumer spending power, Enterprise Ireland representatives David Butler and Jonathan McMillan affirmed the Irish government’s commitment to lure American food, beverage and nutritional products manufacturers to Ireland through incentives and bolstered support structures.

“Once in Ireland, you will have full access to the EU”, they noted.

Citing the 2012 IMD World Competitiveness Rankings report, speakers pointed to Ireland’s:

  • No. 1 worldwide rankings for investment incentives, skilled labor, flexibility and       adaptability
  • No. 2 ranking in the world for openness to foreign investment
  • No. 2 ranking in Europe, for overall productivity and business environment.

The organic dynamism of Ireland’s food sector has already been evident in the U.S.: witness the rapid and decisive market share carve outs in the American food and food industry supplier network by Irish companies big (Kerry, Glanbia) and small (Megazyme) that occurred during the 1980s and ‘90s. One must remember that Ireland (pop. 4.8 million) is a country that punches well over its weight.

Ireland offers a natural base for American food and beverage companies, maintained Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney. Coveney went on to explain that in anticipation of the removal of EU milk production quotas in 2015, Ireland’s 5-Year Food Harvest 2020 Plan will launch a multi-pronged effort to upgrade its agricultural supply chains through government incentives and human capital and food technology investments, with a strong emphasis on sustainable agricultural practices and green technology applications.

Freeborn & Peters attorney John Shapiro noted that the increased confluence of U.S. and EU food quality and safety expectations and regulations will further smooth the entry of U.S. companies into the EU and that the EU is too large a market to ignore. Also, both sides of the Atlantic share similar business environments, cultures and consumer and regulatory trends (e.g., sustainability, increased protein consumption and “clean labels”).

Dairy and meat: high hurdles and major makeovers

Minister Coveney noted that, while Ireland’s milk and meat production lags well behind New Zealand’s, “New Zealand and Ireland share very similar production conditions”. Both countries, for example, rely heavily on pastured herds, which raises the possibility of value-added marketing of the nutritional and environmental benefits associated with pasture (versus intensive feed-based) milk and livestock production. Both Ireland and New Zealand place a high priority on agricultural sustainability and environmental initiatives.

New Zealand produced 19,173 million liters of milk in 2011/2012, versus 5,198 million liters for Ireland over the same period, according to the UK-based DairyCo Marketing Information. That is a high hurdle to overcome.

Food Harvest 2020 delineates aggressive development targets that require increasing milk production by 50% by 2020, together with 40-50% increases in beef, pork and lamb production, said Coveney.

In separate comments made to BEST VANTAGE Inc., Coveney allowed that there were many structural differences that needed to be overcome. Irish dairy herd sizes are still very small, averaging 50-99 head per farm, and milk production efficiency is very low. Plus, pasturage is expensive and underutilized in comparison to New Zealand and EU dairy powerhouses, such as Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands.

“However, all these hurdles are surmountable. We view this as a great opportunity for growth through structural improvements,” said Coveney, himself a former livestock manager.

Much of the anticipated growth in herd expansion is expected to come from improved land utilization and feed optimization. Given Ireland’s reputation as Europe’s “Celtic tiger”, it would appear foolhardy to underestimate its ability to meet its Food Harvest 2020’s targets.

Asked if the placement of increased “sustainability” burdens on Irish meat and dairy producers and would hamper rather than enhance agricultural efficiencies, Coveney strongly disagreed. “That’s what the farmers thought would happen at first, but when they began to see how sustainability considerations actually improved their efficiencies and saved them money, their attitudes changed.”

— Dan Best is the President of BEST VANTAGE Inc.

For more information:

http://www.teagasc.ie/aboutus/director/DairyUKPaper26June2013.pdf

http://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2011/1004/CompetitivenessofMilkProductionweb230611.pdf

http://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/

http://www.freeborn.com/industry/food

Pulses in foods…summarized.

BEST VANTAGE Inc.’s fourth and final “How To:” Pulse WEBINAR, sponsored by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council through a grant conferred by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, was presented November 7th, with a record number of attendees. All four webinars in this series will be available for review in .pdf and/or presentation format in the near future at the link provided at the end of this post…so please stay posted.RandDTrends3

Although the focus of this webinar was on extruded products, ranging from pasta to puffed snacks, the presentation also reviewed previously addressed bakery, battered and fried products and beverage formulations as well the overall trend toward more pulse consumption in Western societies. Please note also that, whereas these webinars addressed peas, chickpeas and lentils, there have also been significant developments in the use of dry bean (Phaseolus sp.) – derived ingredients.

This most recent webinar #4 addressed the importance of amylose-to-amylopectin ratios in pulse starches and the effects of proteins, dietary fiber, moisture and barrel temperature conditions on the expansion properties of HTST (high-temperature, short-time) extruded snacks and breakfast cereals. The webinar also looked at low-shear extrusion…specifically, the positive contributions of pulse flours on the textural qualities, cooking properties and nutritional value of pasta. Much of this work has been undertaken at the North Dakota State University-affiliated Northern Crops Institute (NCI), which can be linked at www.northern-crops.com

In our view pulses are perfectly positioned to exploit a unique convergence of consumer trends in Western countries, that include: economy-driven price concerns, increased dietary protein consumption; heightened food safety awareness; sensitivity to environmental concerns and growing interest in ethnic-fusion cuisines. These trends will continue to stoke interest in pulses and pulse ingredients for the foreseeable future.

Here is a top-line overview of our four-part series:

 Pulses are going mainstream

Pulses increasingly appear in center-plate entrees, soups, salads and side dishes. New product applications for pulse ingredients include breakfast cereals, nutritional products, sweet baked goods, breads, nutrition bars, extruded snacks, crackers, snack chips, battered and fried goods, beverages and nutritional fitness products. Representative formulations were provided.

Quality standards

Pulses constitute a relatively new growth category in foods and international quality benchmarks have yet to be standardized. North America’s agricultural environment, combined with its production, shipping, handling and technical support infrastructure, has transformed it into a world leader in the production and export of high-quality dry beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas.

Strong consumer drivers

These include: strong demand for high-protein foods; the search for overall improved nutritional value; increased awareness of the importance of Glycemic Index and an aversion to the presence of gluten and other allergenic ingredients in foods. Pulse ingredients do not require allergen warning statements on food packages and examples were provided of how they can replace egg, milk and soy ingredients in a range of food formulations…at (usually) a considerably lower cost. Replacing cereal flours with pulse flours will significantly improve the nutritional profile of products and renders possible nutritional content claims for protein and dietary fiber. Finally, North American-grown pulses are environmentally friendly, as they are used as rotational crops that rejuvenate soils and that require very low levels (if any) of agricultural chemical inputs.

Functional pulse ingredients

Pulses differ from legumes, such as soy or peanut (groundnut), in that they contain significant quantities of starch and virtually no oil. Pulses contain high levels (22-30%) of highly functional proteins (similar to soy proteins) and a significant portion of their starch fraction is in the form of resistant starch. Already, a plethora of highly functional pulse ingredients have been made available to product developers from a growing number of ingredient suppliers, including starches, proteins, dietary fibers, brans and starch-protein combinations. This is only the beginning.

Cost advantages

The relatively low cost of pulses as compared to other protein (milk, eggs, soy) or even starch sources (corn, tapioca) provides a low-cost basis for developing further-processed pulse ingredients. In addition, they exhibit relatively low price volatility, which protects processed foods against commodity price swings. That being said, there can still occur temporary price spikes for the more-highly processed ingredients such as pea protein isolate, which are reflective of rapidly increasing demand outstripping production capacity (as has happened in the last two years with pea protein isolate). Nonetheless, such spikes are temporary and limited to the more narrow pulse ingredient segments. The industry is still catching up to increasing consumer demands for food product attributes that only pulse-based ingredients are best positioned to satisfy. It will take time.

A review of this Webinar #4 was published by Food Navigator and can be found at: http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/Pulses-hit-mainstream-with-improved-nutrition-gluten-free-applications

The Link for the four archived webinars can be found at the US Dry Pea & Lentil Council’s website under the “Food Industry Tab” at: www.pea-lentil.com/archives.