Pulses : a low profile sector surfing on the latest wave of food trends

18-08-2016 Les légumineuses françaises dans la cuisine française
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Sabarot-Wassner currently exports to 70 countries, including Puy lentils

France is not only a major producer and consumer of pulses, but also a key exporter and Sabarot-Wassner is one of Europe’s leading companies in the field.  Based in Chaspuzac in Auvergne, the family business has specialised in exporting cereals and pulses since 1819.

usine Sabarot

Source: Sabarot Wassner SA

AOP Puy lentils are its flagship brand. “Interestingly France was initially the only country eating dark green lentils. Other countries such as India prefer either white or brown lentils, like India,” explains Antoine Wassner, CEO and representing the seventh generation.

Which arguably explains why Puy lentils are now so popular among the world’s most discerning palates. In fact, Puy lentils have a reputation for being enjoyed in the world’s most prestigious fine dining establishments, which has not happened by chance.

“Over the last twenty years we have worked tirelessly to promote Puy lentils to chefs and encourage them to incorporate them in their dishes. In some countries such as Belgium and the UK, their appreciation has extended far beyond the sacred chef’s circle and reached consumers too”.

Currently exporting lentils to at least 70 countries, the work put in by this Auvergne company has clearly not been in vain. From South America to Egypt, Dubai and even India, these small French lentil gems have made quite a name for themselves.

The US is its biggest importer, followed by England and Japan. “We have identified wholesalers in each country and wherever we sell other pulses such as beans, we can also sell lentils. People recognise our brand,” underlines Antoine Wassner. He continues: “Provenance really matters, and “made in France” reassures consumers and is an important quality guarantee.  People respect the way we operate. We attend around ten international consumer exhibitions each year and we are always very aware that food and drink from France is generally very popular.”

lentilles - plat vegetalien

Jumping on the vegan bandwagon

If green lentils are selling so well, to the extent that stocks are low, it is also as a result of vegan and gluten-free trends.  Being vegan is a way of life; a diet that attempts to avoid animal exploitation, suffering and cruelty, for food or for clothes. Lentils are perfectly suited to this trend as they are a good source of vegetable protein to replace animal protein. “Lentils are the perfect “plant steak”. They are high in proteins, but also vital trace elements such as iron. There is more iron in lentils than in spinach”. The other benefit of lentils is that they are easy to prepare.  “They can cook in just 20 minutes, while other pulses such as beans can take as long as 90 minutes.  Great if you are in a hurry.” It’s easy to see why lentils are doing so well. In the future, Sabarot-Wassner plans to export 50% of its total production compared to the 25% it currently sells.  And to this aim, conquering African and South-American markets are two of the company’s core objectives.

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