In a joint research project, PortugalFoods and Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP) found that over 27,000 new legume products entered the global market between 2013 and 2017.

In Europe particularly, lead researcher Carla Teixeira noted a 39% increase in pulse products, the highest international growth rate.

Regional data showed that the UK exhibited the highest levels of new product development (NPD), which accounted for 19% of total legume product launches in Europe. France (14%) and Germany (13%) also saw meaningful rises in new pulse-based products, such as peas, beans, soybeans and lupin beans.

The research indicated that since 2013 the European food industry has witnessed a surge in the quantity and variety of legumes products entering the market, crediting the rise to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) ‘International Year of Pulses’ campaign in 2016 (IYP2016), which sought to raise awareness of the health benefits of pulses, as well as the industry’s positive impact on sustainable development and food security.

UCP researcher Ana Gomes said: “It is clear that the European food industry has increased the number and type of products that incorporate legumes in their composition, suggesting that the IYP2016 was successful at making legumes more available to the European consumers.”

The study operated under the framework of the EU’s ‘TRansition paths to sUstainable legume-based systems in Europe’ (TRUE Project).

TRUE Project deputy coordinator Professor Marta Vasconcelos said: “This study brings valuable information for TRUE, which also aims to increase pulse consumption in Europe by developing new legume-based products. We now have a good baseline on which to grow in the next four years.”

The surge in the legumes market can be attributed to rising health and environmental awareness among the average European consumer, with product development reacting to a change in social values according to the research.

The majority of NPD centred on bringing in legumes to the meat substitutes market. The study found that there was a 196% increase in vegan-friendly pulse products and a 73% rise in gluten-free claims.

“The product sub-categories with the highest increment were meat substitutes, with an amazing growth rate of 451%, pasta, with an increase of 295%, and bean-based snacks, growing by 128%,”​Teixeira said.

The legumes processing market signalled that while green beans were still the most processed as of mid-2017, overall their production has decreased by 23% since 2013, whereas chickpea and lentil numbers increased by 47% and 8% respectively.

The Global Pulse Confederation (GPC) announced that 10 February 2018 was ‘Global Pulse Day’ which celebrated the production of pulses and their important benefits for consumer health and the environment. The GPC invited anyone wishing to celebrate the day by hosting a legumes-themed event and sharing it on social media.