University of Guelph students create pulse mix for healthier meat

University of Guelph students have created a product made from pulses - lentils, beans and peas - that can be added to meals to replace animal protein in burgers and meatloaf.

U of G student was inspired by her dad’s love of hamburgers

Fiberger can be used in recipes that call for ground meat to decrease the amount of animal protein. (Pulse Canada)

Caileigh Smith's dad loves a good hamburger.

But the University of Guelph food sciences student was concerned about what a diet high in animal proteins could mean for her father's health.

The idea to make a healthier burger had been brewing in her mind for a while, and when she enrolled in the product development course in the final year of her undergraduate degree, Smith and her teammate Evie Helps came up with the idea of what they eventually called "Fiberger."

Fiberger is made using a blend of different pulse flours – from lentils, chickpeas and green peas – and mixed spices. The product reduces the amount of meat needed in a recipe, but the pulse flour mixture re-adds enough protein to balance the dish and increase the nutritional content of whatever you're making.

"The idea is that you add this to ground beef or ground meat and mix it up in the way you would normally prepare ground meat," Smith told CBC News. "This is kind of a cool way to introduce pulses into a normal diet, but not really make any significant [menu] changes."

Pulse ice cream?

In February, Smith and Helps won a national pulse competition, called Mission ImPULSEible, at the Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology conference in Burnaby, B.C. It was sponsored by Pulse Canada.

Six teams from different provinces showed off their pulse products to a panel of judges, which included chef Vikram Vij from CBC's Dragon's Den
University of Guelph students Caileigh Smith, left, and Evie Helps recently won a national competition for their pulse product, Fiberger.

Smith said there were a range of different products, including sauces, granola bars and even ice cream.

"It reminded me a lot of gelato," she said of the pulse ice cream, which used a method that extracted liquid from the beans, peas and lentils, which was then whipped and frozen.

But, it's still bean and lentil and pea ice cream?

"It's really delicious," she said with a laugh.

Average consumer 'at a loss'

She said the problem with pulses is people who are unfamiliar with them aren't really sure what to do with them.

"That is a huge deterrent. People who know what pulses are, are going to make their curries and everything, but the general consumer is at a loss and a lot of people don't feel a meal is complete without an animal protein," she said.

Fiberger, though, isn't about replacing meat with pulses – it's about combining the two.

"There's a tonne of products that are available for vegan and vegetarian people, so we wanted to make one that wasn't as extreme and really brought it to the average consumer," she said.

Marketing the product

Helps plans to continue her education by studying veterinary medicine while Smith will begin working towards her master's degree at the University of Guelph this summer. She plans to focus on the business aspect of taking Fiberger to market. 

Winning last month's competition means the Guelph native now gets to take Fiberger to an international conference this summer in Chicago. She'll also get to see similar innovative products from winners of pulse competitions in other countries including Australia, India and China.

"We'll be making the same presentation [and] preparing samples," Smith said. But the international conference is meant "to really showcase all the different products that are pulsable – possible," Smith laughed as she stumbled into an unintentional tongue-twister.


  • An earlier version of this story had incorrect information about Helps' future plans.
    Mar 04, 2016 7:54 AM ET


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.