Chris Wiegert joins the show to talk about his unique role in the pulse crops industry. As both the chief business development officer and chief sustainability officer of Healthy Food Ingredients, Chris has a great sense of various pulse markets and the ins and outs of maximizing value from these crops. Based in Watertown, South Dakota, Chris and his team at Healthy Food Ingredients contract organic, identity preserved and other specialty pulse, small grain, and oil seed crops.
“All of our facilities are food grade, so we're primarily in that food space, but we're in the middle. We're taking that product from the farmer, we're putting it into whatever form that end-user wants it in and then we're sending it to the end user to make the final food typically.” - Chris Wiegert
Chris discusses what customers are demanding when it comes to pulses including allergen free, identity preserved, and other specialty markets. We also talk about the importance of sustainability to consumers and food companies. This is an area of agriculture that is becoming more and more data-driven, and one that is important for everyone who works with pulse crops to understand.
It's really a specialty market because you're probably trying to hit a spec, whatever that is, or we're looking for zero toxins or zero heavy metals or something like that. It's a specialty market all the way through, even if you don't consider the crop a specialty crop.” - Chris Wiegert
A big part of that specialty market that has really emerged in recent years is allergen free products. When you’re talking about something as important and as specialized as allergen free, Chris says the entire process from farm to consumer needs to be aligned. Ensuring this type of allergen-free designation takes a lot of communication with growers. As does another type of speciality market: identity-preserved or IP. It seems incredibly tedious to know exactly where every shipment of pulses comes from. Chris says they’re not necessarily tracing it back for potential problems, but for potential opportunities. Having this information provides them with the opportunity to market the farming practices to the consumers.
“Our real niche is working with a customer based on what they feel is important and let's see if we can get all the way to the farm to help it.” - Chris Wiegert