The Niche Ingredient That's Ready for the Mainstream
Hemp; The Niche Ingredient That's Ready for the Mainstream
No longer bound to the shelves of specialty health food shops - hemp is going mainstream. With brands like Nutiva, Bob's Red Mill, and Manitoba Harvest taking the lead, niche brands and national retailers alike are getting on board the hemp train - and for good reason.
The nutritional benefits of hemp speak for themselves. As consumer demand for plant-based proteins continue to grow at an astounding rate (29% in the past two years), it's no wonder innovative new hemp-based products are popping up on shelves of supermarkets across the country and around the world.
At Blue Sky, we believe that to know hemp is to love hemp. And although there are still a lot of misconceptions and stigma around the plant, innovators from a wide range of food sectors are starting to embrace hemp as a healthy, economical and sustainable ingredient.
We believe that with more education on hemp's versatility, earth-friendly credentials and lowering price-points - this remarkable niche grain will become unremarkably mainstream (and we think that's a very good thing!)
So, if hemp is so great - what's been holding it back?
Getting over the stigma
Is this really still a thing? Apparently so. After years of prohibition, hemp has been grouped with its 'naughty cousin' marijuana. And although both derive from the cannabis plant, industrial hemp plants contain no more than 0.3% (by dry weight) of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive substance found in marijuana. Marijuana typically contains 5 to 20% THC.
What about CBD? CBD does exist in industrial hemp, but is found within the flowers and leaves. Hemp foods including hemp seeds, hemp seed oil and hemp protein are made from the seeds of the plant which do not naturally contain CBD or THC.
In short - you can't get high on hemp.
Traditionally, hemp foods have been expensive in comparison to other plant-based proteins and grains. But this is changing fast. Here in Canada, we have been growing hemp legally since 1998, but with prohibition from our southern neighbours, demand has been low and niche.
Only since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill has farming hemp become legal in the US. As a result, hemp demand has skyrocketed and farming hemp has become much more sophisticated and cost-effective. As Canadian hemp farmers - we have a 10-year experience advantage - just saying.
Blue Sky contracts up to 20,000 acres of prime farmland in Western Canada. At full capacity, our state of the art facility is able to process 5,500 tonnes of hemp grain and over 400,000 kg of hemp biomass for CBD. These efficiencies enable us to deliver high-quality hemp foods at exceptional prices (but more on that in a bit).
And what's propelling Hemp into the Mainstream?
Hemp for Health
In their range of forms and functions - hemp seeds are extremely nutrient-dense but low in calories and carbohydrates and contain a cocktail of minerals, vitamins, lean proteins and all 9 essential amino acids - with a nearly perfect ratio of fatty acids. Hemp seed (unlike soy) contains no sugars or trypsin inhibitors to interfere with the digestion of proteins, making it 90% digestible. Blue Sky Hemp is naturally free from the top eight allergens and glutens - it is certified organic, kosher and non-GMO, and complements Keto, Whole 30, Paleo, and Vegan diets.
The benefits to consumers are numerous and include improved blood cholesterol, decreased blood pressure, and reduced dermatitis.
How Hemp Stacks Up
Hemp For Food & Beverage
Food and beverage brands that are looking to differentiate their product line with a health forward, versatile, easy to use and sustainably sourced ingredients - look no further. Blue Sky has been working with a number of ingredients buyers, food technologies, and food and beverage marketers to understand their business needs and to ensure that our hemp products not only help to meet growing consumer demand but are also easy to incorporate into processing lines.
Hemp Seeds (Hulled and Dehulled - Hemp seed hearts)
- Characteristics: Hulled hemp seeds are whole seeds after the crunchy outer shells have been removed. This removes the source of insoluble fibre, increases the protein level and decreases the carbohydrate content. It also makes them more tender to eat.
- Flavour Profile: Small, creamy nuts with little green specks and a light nutty flavour
- Applications: Food manufacturers use shelled hemp seeds (hearts) in granolas, nutrition bars, snacks, pesto and directly processed to make hemp milk. Use hemp hearts just about anywhere you'd use a sesame seed, pine nut, or any other nut or seed.
- Characteristics: Hemp Seed Oil is cold-pressed, extracted and filtered, resulting in a characteristic green oil with an earthy aroma and flavour profile. They are high in healthy omega-3 & polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Flavour Profile: earthy, grassy Function Smoke point only 20F below
- Applications: Hemp seed oil has long been used in a wide variety of applications including nutritional, food and beverage manufacturing, cosmetic formulations, and industrial purposes. For food -Hemp Seed Oil can be used anywhere you would use extra virgin olive oil - salad oil, lightly sauté, pesto, smoothies and more.
The press cake is derived from the leftover from the cold-pressed hemp seed oil and contains a nutritious shell and heart. This is ground and sifted to create protein 50, 33 or 23% protein powders - or flour.
- Characteristics: High in Iron and Magnesium Healthy Omega-3 & Polyunsaturated Fats & Gluten Free
- Flavour profile: Nutty, earthy, grassy
- Applications: 5% to 33% of baking mixes. Use as a cornmeal, protein powder or flour for baking, pasta, smoothies, pestos. Product innovations using hemp protein are being seen in everything from coffee to beer, to frozen desserts and protein gels.
Unlike other plant-based ingredients - hemp protein:
- Is non-allergenic
- Has high water binding capacity
- Emulsifies easily
- Has a neutral, flavour, no need for expensive flavour masking agents
- Has an appealing texture
Hemp For More Sustainable Supply Chains
Farmed hemp in its own right is an incredibly earth-friendly crop. Without going on...
- Hemp cleans the air. When grown on a large scale as we do at Blue Sky, the hemp plant absorbs carbon emission from the environment. Basically, hemp sequesters or 'traps' carbon from the air into plants.
- Each ton of hemp output captures around 1.63 tons of carbon from the air.
- Hemp requires significantly fewer pesticides and provides much larger yields per hectare when compared to other crops and can re-establish soil fertility.
- Hemp can be used as an earth-friendly alternative to concrete, steel, plastic, and wood and can produce eco-friendly and sustainable fuel.
For any food brand concerned about the sustainability credentials of their suppliers - Blue Sky has a 'label worthy' back story. At Blue Sky - we are committed to delivering a Better World Fuelled by Hemp and one way we do this is through Whole Plant Utilization.
We have invested in a first-of-its-kind, the end-to-end system allows us to harness the full value of the grain for superfoods, flower for CBD extraction and the stalks for a wide variety of sustainable industrial products whilst adhering to the most rigorous QA standards in the business. These efficiencies enable us to deliver high-quality hemp food, hemp biomass and CBD extracts at a lower cost to customers and our planet with a zero-carbon footprint.
If you're interested in working with Blue Sky to source high quality, sustainably sourced hemp food ingredients book a call to discuss how we can help.