ANAHEIM, CALIF. — A key takeaway from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recent recommendations for a healthier American diet boils down to four words: Less meat, more plants.

“Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact (G.H.G. (greenhouse gas) emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average U.S. diet,” the committee wrote in its 2015 report.

Great timing for dozens of exhibitors showcasing snacks and meals rich in plant-based protein at Natural Products Expo West, held March 5-8 in Anaheim. Though a number of companies at the natural and organic trade show displayed meat snacks and jerky, many other brands introduced products formulated with pinto beans, lentils, chickpeas and the like.

Providing sustainable protein and fiber, the pulses may be delivered in convenient formats like chips or hummus or used as a gluten-free alternative to grains in such foods as cereal and crackers.


Beanitos debuted two new flavors at Expo West.

Sprouting in snacks

The Good Bean, Berkeley, Calif., introduced a new line of tortilla-style chips formulated with chickpeas, navy beans, red lentils and pea protein, plus sweet potato and quinoa. Flavors include sweet chili, jalapeno cheddar, sea salt, cheesy nacho and barbecue bacon. The gluten-free, Non-GMO Project Verified chips contain 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber per serving. The new products join roasted chickpea snacks and chickpea and fruit bars in The Good Bean’s portfolio.

New from Beanitos, an Austin, Texas-based maker of bean-based snack chips, are tortilla chips with a hint of lime and cheese puffs, both made with navy beans. The new varieties contain 4 to 6 grams of protein and 4 to 5 grams of fiber per serving and are gluten-free and Non-GMO Project Verified.

Boulder Canyon Protein Crisps are set to debut from Inventure Foods, Phoenix, in dark chocolate and asiago cheese flavors. With 10 grams of protein from lentils and peas, the baked crisps contain a whole-grain blend of millet, sorghum, brown rice, whole corn, brown teff, quinoa and amaranth. The brand also offers chips made with adzuki beans, which are said to have healing properties.

BeanStalks, the newest innovation from Mediterranean Snacks, Boonton, N.J., contain green peas, cannellini beans and pinto beans and have 4 grams of protein per serving and half the fat of potato chips, according to the company. Gluten-free and made with non-bioengineered ingredients, the varieties include sea salt, cheddar and barbecue. BeanStalks, set to hit shelves this summer, joins the company’s other legume-based product lines, including Baked Lentil Chips, Lentil Crackers, and Hummuz Crackers, made with chickpeas.

“BeanStalks will truly resonate with health-minded millennials, the consumer segment clearly driving snacking growth and better-for-you trends,” said Lonnie Williard, vice-president of marketing for Mediterranean Snacks.

Also new at Expo West from Snack Out Loud Foods, Louisville, Colo., Power Puffs are made with navy beans, brown rice and coconut oil. In white cheddar, sweet and tangy barbecue, and sea salt and vinegar varieties, the snack puffs are free of peanuts, soy, bioengineered ingredients and gluten. Snack Out Loud Foods also showcased crunchy pinto bean snacks, which contain the same amount of protein per gram as almonds (7 grams per serving) with half the calories and fat, according to the company. Flavors include sea salt, tomato basil, ranch, jalapeno cheddar and smoky chipotle barbecue.

World Peas, Austin, Texas, debuted World Peas Fava Crisps, available in ranch, barbecue and vinegar flavors, with 5 grams of protein from fava beans. The company also offers a Green Peas line of crunchy, United Kingdom-imported green peas in ranch, barbecue, garlic, garlic and tomato, curry, wasabi, and Sichuan varieties.


Hummus makers debuted interesting new varieties at the show.

The hummus among us

Hummus also was highlighted widely at Expo West with new flavors and formulations. New organic varieties from Hope Foods, Louisville, Colo., include red pepper and super hemp. Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods, Ward Hill, Mass., unveiled a pair of new hummus flavors: balsamic caramelized onion, and pineapple jalapeno. Chocolate and sriracha are the latest additions to the vegan lineup from Lilly’s Hummus, Portland, Ore., made with organic garbanzo beans and locally sourced vegetables.

Food Should Taste Good, a snack chip brand from Minneapolis-based General Mills, is entering the hummus category with lentil bean red pepper hummus, black bean dip and white bean dip.

Trail mix hummus debuted from Maison Le Grand, Blainville, Quebec, featuring nuts, pumpkin seeds, organic wild rice and a touch of spice. The company also introduced a hemp variety, blended with fresh mint and poppy seeds. The products are packaged in re-sealable squeeze pouches.


Beans sprout up in pasta and cereal products.

For breakfast and beyond

Pulses also star in such center-of-the-plate options as breakfast cereal and pasta. Freedom Foods, Redlands, Calif., launched Pro-Teen Crunch, a ready-to-eat cereal with 3 grams of protein per serving from chickpea flour. Like other products from Freedom Foods, the variety is free from gluten, wheat, nuts, soy, sesame, dairy, eggs and bioengineered ingredients.

Tolerant Foods, Mount Royal, Quebec, manufactures organic, gluten-free pasta featuring only red lentils or black beans. Varieties include penne, rotini and mini fettucine, and each serving has 21 to 22 grams of protein and 13 to 15 grams of fiber per 3-oz serving.

"We really wanted to create a food that had only one ingredient and at the same time was wholesome, nutritious, and great for the body," said Tom Friedmann, founder of Tolerant Foods.

Chickpeas and pea protein in the dry pastas from Detroit-based Banza provide 14 grams of protein per serving, twice as much as traditional pasta.

Modern Table, Walnut Creek, Calif., manufactures meal kits featuring bean-based pasta, sauce and seasoning. Varieties include Mediterranean Green Lentil Rotini, Italian Red Lentil Penne, Teriyaki White Bean and Broccoli Noodles, and Southwest Red Lentil Rotini. At Expo West, the company unveiled two new varieties: Homestyle Mac and Cheese, and Pesto, both gluten-free and made with lentil noodles. The kits serve four and contain up to 24 grams of protein per serving.

The Better Bean Co., Wilsonville, Ore., expanded its line of refrigerated, ready-to-eat beans with the launch of Tuscan white beans with rosemary and fennel, and Southwestern pinto beans with sautéed chili pepper and kale. The protein-rich products, packaged in BPA-free tubs, may be eaten cold or hot as a side dish, entree, dip or ingredient in a meal.

“Every tub of beans is infused with our family’s values and a culture of eating fresh, locally sourced ingredients that are good for our health and our planet,” said Hannah Kullberg, co-founder of Better Bean. “We hope people will reach for our fresh beans and feel inspired to eat more beans. We make it easy to grab our ready-to-eat beans and prepare a quick, nourishing meal for your family with ingredients you can trust.”