Eric Bartsch is the division head for global food ingredients at AGT Foods based in Bismarck, North Dakota. He’s been with the company for 16 years and through that time they have grown from just a couple factories to now over 45 facilities and $2B in sales. Processing peas, lentils, chickpeas, fava beans and dry edible beans has been their primary focus since they were founded in 2002. While they have ventured into some grain-based products since that time, they still remain focused and bullish on the future of pulse crops.
“There's a lot of things that we've had to establish. Protein checking in peas was non-existent 20 years ago. And now it's where we're checking protein on every load to be able to supply some of the high end markets that we are today. You know a lot of major investments in protein manufacturing plants, in processing, in food manufacturing plants that are incorporating pulses is really at an all time high and continues to grow.” - Eric Bartsch
Eric discusses how much has changed in pulses to make them more attractive to a wider variety of consumers who want tasty and nutritious foods. This has had big impacts on what buyers are looking for from these pulse crops in terms of flavor and functionality. He talks about how that information gets passed from the consumer to the producer and back, and the role AGT Foods plays in facilitating that connection. He also talks about some of the opportunities ahead for the industry, and why he is more optimistic than ever about the market potential for these crops.
“That's really one of the initiatives we took when we built our Minot plant, is how do we transform pulses into ingredients that can be incorporated into everyday food. So now you look at the market and there's all kinds of gluten-free pasta made from lentils, chickpeas, and peas. They’ve become mainstream where it's become a very large market…So there's many ways to where we've taken pulses, transformed them into an ingredient and incorporated them into everyday foods that consumers are familiar with” - Eric Bartsch