Snacking and protein potential: LCI highlights plant-based opportunities using pulse and legume ingredients
18 Dec 2018 --- In tune with consumer demand for naturalness and clean label, Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients (LCI), creator of functional cereal ingredients for the food industry and a subsidiary of Limagrain, is highlighting trends in snacking and protein enrichment using plant-based ingredients which are derived from pulses and legumes.
LCI generates more than €150 million (US$170 million) in turnover, of which 55 percent outside France. The company has more than 350 employees on seven production sites in Europe and processes 335,000 tons of cereals dedicated to several markets including bakery, snacks, breakfast cereals, pet food and animal feed.
In May, LCI agreed to acquire 100 percent shares of Unicorn Grain Specialties (Unicorn), which has a strong presence in Northern Europe in the cereals and pulses ingredients markets, relying on heat treatment technologies for puffed cereals, cooking-extrusion and flaking.
According to LCI, Unicorn “unlocks the natural functionalities of grains, seeds and pulses,” and as a result, the two companies complement each business structure.
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Elise Grolières, from the Snack & Breakfast Cereals business at LCI, says: “The snacking and breakfast cereal categories are often focused on protein enrichment. We have a lot of solutions for snacks and breakfast cereals, but we are currently more focused on the snacking category.”
“The biggest trends we see are for vegan and plant-based products or ingredients and high protein snacks moving away from traditional potato snack concepts that we are all familiar with. This is quite trendy in the market and every day we are working on new solutions and new ways to improve our snacks without compromising on texture and taste,” she notes.
“Currently, we are focusing on pulse-based snacks using fava beans and lentils. This is quite a new area and something which we plan to launch towards the end of this year,” Grolières continues. “There will be two different shapes of snack pellets using these new pulses, and we also have a whole range of pulses and flours which are less bitter and appropriate for high protein food concepts and applications.”
LCI also recently upgraded its Nutrition and Taste & Colour solutions with a new organic pulse flours range, which are available in three different raw materials: organic red lentil, organic chickpea and organic green pea.
All functional flours in this range are stabilized and thermally treated to facilitate incorporation, reduce bitterness and increase the shelf life of flours, while maintaining all the nutritional benefits of pulses.
“Easily incorporable from 1 to 40 percent, these functional flours of pulses offer functional benefits to a wide range of applications: in baked goods, ready meals, meat substitutes or gluten-free food, they bring flavor and color, improving texture and hydration,” explains Grolières, who leads the Pulses range at LCI.
“In extruded products, they provide better control of product expansion and better shape definition while increasing crispness. They also give excellent results in pasta, soft tortillas or even crackers,” she adds.
Conventional pre-cooked pulses flours are available from seven different raw materials: bean, red bean, green lentil, yellow lentil, red lentil, chickpea and green pea.
“By using our heat-treatment process, starch in pulse flours is partially gelatinized, proteins are denatured, and pulse flours become more functional to create new savory products. In extruded products, they provide better control of product expansion and better shape definition while increasing crispness. They can also be used in soft tortillas, for example, to bring new flavor and color,” states Grolières.
Additionally, access to the maize raw material from LCI’s corn production plant allows the company to offer a wide range of Cereal Pellets.
“We have cut, flaked and 3D technologies offering a large variety of texture/form/recipe combination options, with a particular focus on the gustatory pleasure,” she says.
Although consumers consider that “better-for-you” is an essential aspect, they are not ready to compromise on flavor and enjoyment, notes Grolières. And the company’s Cereal Pellets address the two most significant trends of the snacks world: pleasure and better-for-you, she says.
According to LCI, the Cereal Pellets range is broad and can address our customer needs thanks to a great texture and an excellent cereal taste. Lengthy periods of development have been required for the ‘better-for-you’ range, as removing salt or introducing pulses flour into recipes is by no means a simple matter.
Grolières also notes that although the breakfast cereals industry is declining in Europe, two segments are increasing: muesli and hot cereals. She also says that the cereal bars industry is booming (including cereal bars for sports nutrition). “Puffed grains, maize and spelt, for example, are also ideal for cereal bars and the sports nutrition categories,” she claims. “Many consumers are stepping away from the traditional breakfast bowl and eating in the morning at home; consumers are looking for more convenient ways to eat. The notion that breakfast is important is still high on the agenda, but it’s also important for the industry to follow on-the-go consumption trends, for example.”
Looking ahead to 2019, LCI’s business will continue to focus on protein, snacking, plant-based trends, clean label and naturalness.
Also speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Pauline Arramy, Category Manager for Bakery at LCI also notes: “Clean label is definitely a significant pillar for us, and we expect to see more of this in the bakery category. For example, we launched a clean label solution which helps to decrease the acrylamide level in the end product and in bread, especially.”
The food consumption from organic farming is becoming more and more important in Europe. LCI supports this trend by launching three new organic improvers on its BRICKS range.
“We can also expect to see more organic trends in Europe, especially in France and when consumers buy organic they want transparency and naturalness,” she concludes.
By Elizabeth Green
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