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OBG promoting edible beans to consumers

OBG promoting edible beans to consumers

Ontario Bean Growers has launched a video series educating consumers on how to prepare, use, and store dry and canned beans 

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

The Ontario Bean Growers organization has released a series of how-to videos to help consumers make use of dry and canned edible beans. The project has been in the works for two years, Jennifer Mitchell, project manager for the Ontario Bean Growers, told The project launch just happened to coincide with a time when Ontarians are buying more canned and dry products to try to reduce trips to the grocery store during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had done a usage and awareness study with Kynetec, just trying to get an idea of what people thought about beans, what the demographic was that were eating beans,” Mitchell said. Kynetec conducts market research in animal health and agriculture.

The study identified some barriers to consumers choosing edible bean products.

“People don’t eat dry beans because they take too long, they don’t know what to do with them, or they’re too much work. Some people don’t want canned beans because they associate them with negative health attributes. They think high sodium … when, in reality, if you rinse and drain them you can get up to 40 per cent of the sodium off, and so many canners are now doing no-salt-added canned beans,” Mitchell explained.

The Ontario Bean Growers wanted to “address some of these barriers, and give people some new ways to start incorporating beans into their diet,” she added.

The video series includes how to prepare both dry and canned beans, as well as options to puree and blend them with other foods.

“People don’t necessarily recognize the versatility of beans,” Mitchell said. Consumers can “take a can of white kidney beans, rinse them, drain them, and puree them and throw them into your pasta sauce, and your kids won’t even know they’re there.”

The beans add protein and fibre to the meal. Another option is to “mix (pureed beans) in with mashed potatoes, that’s an idea we’ve thought would be great in long-term care homes and hospitals.”

For times like now, when consumers are trying to spend less time at the grocery store, blending beans helps stretch groceries to cover more meals.

“If you have a pound of hamburger, if you add a can of beans in you can extend the volume that you have, so you can feed more people, or feed fewer people for more meals,” Mitchell said.

The final video provides instructions on how to store and freeze beans, which often may be sold in large quantities.

Consumers can “just rinse them off, pat them dry, and then put them in a freezer in a baggie or jar,” Mitchell explained. Then “if you’re making a soup you can just take out your container of frozen beans and dump them into your soup near the end. They’ll thaw out right in the soup and heat up and you’re good to go.”

When it became clear that the timing of the launch would coincide with a time when consumers would be making efforts to stay home and shop less, Ontario Bean Growers ramped up their social media approach and “launched a contest to encourage people to show us (cooking with) beans,” Mitchell said.

“You’re stuck at home, why not try something new,” she added. The contest is using the hashtag #BetterWithBeans.

In terms of long-term impact of COVID-19 on demand for edible beans “it’s really too early to see if things are going to change or not. Acres for this year are about the same. In 2019 we had about 130,000 insured acres and everything is lining up to be about the same this year,” Mitchell explained.

Short-term spikes in demand don’t necessarily mean consumers will have a long-term need for more product.

“What we’re hearing from our dealers is they wonder if the current demand is really just a pull forward from retailers on their current contracts. So, if people don’t continue buying beans, sales will drop off in the summer and fall,” Mitchell explained.

“But, if people keep eating what they have bought and continue going to stores and buying more, that’s when we’re going to see the difference,” she added.

Through the how-to videos and #BetterWithBeans contest, the Ontario Bean Growers hope to help consumers incorporate more edible beans into their diet long term.

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