Chickpea puffing power could drive new niche markets

Author: | Date: 07 May 2013

Soumi Paul Mukhopadhyay

Australian grain growers could potentially capture a share of the growing global healthy snack food market by specifically growing chickpeas with desirable “puffing” qualities.

Grains Research and Development Corporation-funded research being undertaken at Charles Sturt University’s School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, is exploring the ability of Australian chickpea genotypes to puff when subjected to high temperature for a short time without oil – a process which results in a light, crisp and tasty product.

PhD student Soumi Paul Mukhopadhyay, under the supervision of CSU Associate Professors Paul Prenzler, Chris Blanchard and Anthony Saliba, and Dr Jenny Wood from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, says puffed chickpeas are already a common snack food in India, and because they are not fried they are ideal for western societies’ health-conscious populations.

Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay said that while the suitability of different Indian cultivars of desi chickpeas for puffing had been studied and reported, knowledge of Australian desi chickpea performance in this respect was lacking.

Her research project was established to benchmark the puffing potential of Australian desi chickpea genotypes against common Indian cultivars, and to screen Australian genotypes for puffing quality.

“If an Australian chickpea puffs to the same extent, or better than the Indian cultivars, it could be marketed in a way that would achieve price premiums and increase demand, thereby improving the value and export potential of Australian chickpeas in general,” Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay said.

“By investigating the range of puffing abilities in a selection of current breeding lines and understanding their desirable sensory attributes, the Australian chickpea breeding program will be able to actively select for chickpeas suited to this end-use.”

The work being undertaken by Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay is part of a larger GRDC-funded study to improve the quality, export potential and optimal market positioning of Australian desi chickpeas in the Indian sub-continent and globally.

A component of Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay’s research involved screening Australian genotypes for puffing quality, and considerable variation was found in puffing output. Of the 11 Australian genotypes screened, five showed puffing potential.

“Preliminary results from these puffing studies show that some Australian chickpea genotypes have puffing ability. One variety in particular was identified as the best puffing genotype, with 51% seeds puffed,” she said.

“This result in itself is an important discovery in recognising that Australian chickpeas do puff. A better understanding of the seed attributes that are important for puffing will help the Australian pulse industry to capture the growing healthy snack food market in the Indian sub-continent and globally.”

Following on from Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay’s initial study, the successful puffed chickpea genotypes will now be taken forward to be included in sensory and consumer evaluation, one of the important aspects of the whole project.

“Our next step is to understand consumer acceptance for puffed chickpeas. Sensory and consumer evaluations with both Indian and Australian consumers will elucidate key like and dislike drivers for each country.

“If relevant sensory quality attributes can be identified, it would be helpful for pulse breeders to select those traits. This would in turn facilitate the establishment of guidelines for selection criteria in chickpea varietal development in light of consumer preference.”

A better understanding of the consumption pattern and the key attributes behind Indian consumers’ preferences towards Australian chickpeas is essential, according to Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay.

“Knowledge about the use of Australian chickpeas will lead to better strategic planning of future demands and allow us to anticipate changes in future market trends.”

She said further research was also needed to understand the morphology, structure and chemical composition for understanding the reason behind poor puffing output.

Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay said the global snack food market was expanding rapidly. “Puffed chickpeas can fill the demand for healthy snack foods in the future. Good puffing performance is important for a better consumer experience as well as for industry profit.”


Caption: Soumi Paul Mukhopadhyay’s research project was established to benchmark the puffing potential of Australian desi chickpea genotypes against common Indian cultivars, and to screen Australian genotypes for puffing quality. Image courtesy Toni Nugent, EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

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Soumi Paul Mukhopadhyay, CSU
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