Will capitalising on convenience reinvigorate the pulse category?

Date : 22 February 2021

Hannah Skeggs

Nutrition & Scientific Affairs Manager

Capitalising on appetite for convenient and healthy products Whitworths new ‘Protein By Nature’ range encourages shoppers to trial and eat more beans, pulses and grains.

Despite a significant increase in people following plant-based and vegan diets, consumption of dried beans, pulses & grains (BPG) has remained flat.

Getting enough protein into a plant-based and especially vegan diet can be challenging, and as a nation we don’t consume enough fibre. That’s why Whitworths see the category of beans, pulses and grains as perfectly positioned to capitalise on the growing desire to follow these diets.

Consumer insight – a category limited by cooking time

Shopper research has shown a key barrier to purchase is that beans, pulses and grains aren’t seen as easy or quick to cook and prepare. They have stigmas of overnight soaking and just don’t fit into consumers busy lifestyles! People also lack the inspiration and confidence to cook them and often perceive them as bland and boring.

Our Appetite for Change research1 supports this, finding barriers for adopting healthy sustainable diets include:

-24% of consumers preferring the taste of their current diet

- 18% thinking healthy foods aren’t convenient

To encourage consumers to eat more beans, pules and grains, a product would need to provide a convenient and easy experience for the consumer, and a range of exciting flavours.

Creating a new product in a busy category

To cut through category noise, Whitworths set about creating a product that would be different and offer strong health credentials and nutrition claims when compared against the competitive set.

The manufacturer challenged themselves to deliver a range of tasty meals with:

  • 20g protein in each pack
  • low salt
  • low fat
  • source of fibre
  • 9 essential amino acids
  • no added flavourings or preservatives

The meal also had to be portion controlled and microwavable in just 2 minutes to capitalise on the convenience trend – No mean feat.

Particularly challenging was reaching the target level of protein - 20g in a 250g pouch, and this required innovative R&D solutions to resolve.

Fortunately following a taste panel of 60 target consumers at University College Birmingham, and 200 independent consumers the products made it onto shelf late in 2020.

How can the product promote healthier and more sustainable diets?

The products can be found in the Microwaveable Rice Pouch fixture and are currently listed at Tesco and Morrison’s. This location interrupts consumers, allowing them to consider a healthier, protein rich alternative to rice at point of sale - using behaviour change levers of ease and product placement. Click here to learn more about behaviour levers.

Although a convenient product is now available, a challenge remains in getting consumers to try it for the first time. This is especially hard during COVID-19 when shoppers spend less time browsing stores for new products!

Targeting young shoppers and flexitarians, Whitworths have pulled on signposting and influence to promote Protein by Nature. A 20g protein claim is featured on pack and on marketing comms – as protein is known to resonate well with these shoppers.

IGD shopper data2 also shows that younger shoppers buy into the concept that food should make them look and feel better. Last year’s launch plan capitalised on this with an influencer event, social media ads, in-store and online shopper marketing and PR. Five influencers with various target audiences ran live Instagram sessions to engage with the product and were well received.

As this is a very new product sales data is limited, but time will tell whether these tactics drive first trial of BPG and repeat purchase.


IGD, 2020. Appetite for change. Available here
2 IGD ShopperVista, 2019. Health: Shopper priorities and changing attitudes. Available here

How to apply behavioural science shortcuts to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption in the wake of COVID-19