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Beans will play a key role in the transition to a healthy and sustainable food system

Beans will play a key role in the transition to a healthy and sustainable food system

May 2, 2023

Beans are an exceptionally healthy and sustainable food source. They are affordable, have a long shelf-life, and contribute to the food security of smallholder farmers. Yet they are desperately underutilized. The time is ripe to shine a spotlight on these unsung heroes, and the important role they play in limiting the impact of the climate crisis, restoring nature and tackling inequality.

This is why the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and other partners such as Unilever, have launched 'Beans is How', a campaign to double the global consumption of beans and other legumes by 2028. It is an effort to change the perception of beans globally – making them aspirational to consumers, favorable for investors, profitable for farmers, and a priority for policymakers. As a founding partner, WBCSD supports the mission to elevate beans as a crucial part of the solution to the global food system crisis.

“I am really excited about this partnership between WBCSD and Beans is How," said Emeline Fellus, Director Food & Agriculture, WBCSD, and Beans is How Bean Board Member. "Legumes are probably one of the most untapped opportunities provided to the food and agriculture sector, to contribute in a systemic way to delivering healthy, affordable, equitable and sustainable diets to all. I am proud to be a member of the Bean Board and will work hard to ensure that WBCSD and its members do their part in contributing to the aim of doubling bean consumption by 2028.”

Beans, peas, and lentils – together known as legumes – contribute in multiple important ways to the health of people and the planet.

The production of beans, peas and lentils sustains and promotes regenerative agricultural practices, as the crops have a small carbon footprint (bean production results in 90% fewer greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere than beef per 100g of protein) and natural nitrogen-fixing properties, which reduces dependence on synthetic fertilizers and improves soil health.

Legumes are among the most nutritious foods available to humans, as they are a source of protein, fiber, vitamins like folate, minerals like iron, and bioactive compounds like antioxidants.

Beans are also affordable to sell and consume, typically offering farmers higher profit margins while combatting malnutrition and contributing to food security.

However, legumes are currently far from living up to their full potential, and their consumption has declined over the past few years. This is partly due to changing dietary habits, low yields, misconceptions, and lack of knowledge. There is a widespread belief that beans are 'only for vegetarians' or 'a poor man’s food', and many people are unfamiliar with how to best prepare and cook beans.

There is therefore a great opportunity, and a key role for private sector actors to play, in stimulating the production and consumption of the tiny but mighty bean.

Global product developer and WBCSD member Griffith Foods has seized the opportunity and embarked on a journey to create flavor and texture excitement with beans, while enhancing the consumer experience. By combining beans with familiar flavors from around the world, they have created products ranging from sauces and seasonings to patties and even desserts.

“We are using beans to pioneer the future of food, enhancing textures and common flavor profiles from around the globe such as chorizo, falafel, tonkatsu, curry and mole, to deliver innovative products that meet the needs of today’s consumers,” a spokesperson at Griffith Foods stated.

Another WBCSD member, Nestlé, is creatively integrating beans across many of its products, including the recent launch of a plant-based Gerber baby food, using organic beans in combination with grains and vegetables. These products offer nutrients to our youngest bean-eaters.

“Plant-tastic purees, pouches, and meals provide at least 10% Daily Value of protein per serving," a Nestlé spokesperson added. "They also help achieve climate goals – all Gerber Naturals jars and pouches and Gerber Organics, many with bean-based ingredient lists, are certified by the Carbon Trust.”

Beans and other legumes offer a rare triple win across health, sustainability, and affordability. WBCSD therefore helps companies take action to develop and promote beans and other plant-based foods, through for example its Plant-forward Behavior Change Toolkit, Protein Impact Framework, and bespoke trainings for companies – such as on ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) reporting on alternative proteins. Through Beans is How, WBCSD and its members are increasing public awareness and access to beans while investing in research on nutrient-dense and climate-smart species, in order to transform the global food system for future generations.

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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