By The FoodBowl chief executive Alexandra Allan
Interest in hemp products has grown among both producers and consumers internationally over recent years.
This has been compounded by a global trend towards reduced regulation surrounding hemp products and it is in alignment with other consumer trends, such as a desire for quick, healthy products, free from animal products or chemical additives. This variant of the cannabis plant has very low levels of THC and an array of uses as an ingredient in food and beverage products – the possibilities are endless.
Popular hemp products in the beverage category include meal replacement and nutrition products. Predominately nutritional smoothies, protein shakes, and protein powders. The selling point of these products is that they are a source of natural, good quality plant-based proteins and fatty acids. Product claims can include low allergen, vegan, high/added protein, gluten-free, and GMO-free and organic if certified.
Hemp seeds are also incredibly nutritious, many people consider them to be a ‘superfood’ that can be used to make lots of products, including hemp seed milk. Similar to almond milk, hemp milk is made from grinding hemp seeds with water. It is a great option for those who do not respond well to dairy.
Hemp leaves can be used in addition to hemp seeds for hemp leaf tea and blended with traditional black, oolong and green teas, and hemp coffee beans are made from ground coffee beans and lightly roasted hemp seeds offering a nutty-tasting coffee while adding countless vitamins and minerals. And who would know that beer and hemp are the perfect match too. That is because hops and hemp plants are essentially botanical cousins. This opens the door to new ranges and flavour profiles in the beverage arena.
A natural use of the hemp seeds is into hemp seed butter. Just like peanut butter, and almond butter, they are made from finely ground pressed hemp seeds and offer amazing nutritional benefits. You will see hemp veggie burgers offering a protein-packed profile based on hemp seeds as the main ingredient. They often also contain superfoods like chia seeds, wild-crafted seaweeds and sprouted beans and grains. For example, the new New Zealand company Food Nation includes hemp in a range of their ‘proudly powered by plants’ products.
People are often more familiar with hemp seed oil and we will be seeing a lot more of it. Its smoke point is low, and it is great for a base for dressings, sauces, and homemade hummus. Watch out for the explosion in these food categories.
Starting this charge in New Zealand was The Brothers Green in Canterbury who created a New Zealand hemp company with a purpose.
”We have chosen New Zealand grown hemp to help people improve their health through plant-based nutrition and support the health of the planet,” they say. The brothers recently worked closely with FoodSouth on a children’s hemp bar for lunchboxes.
So, who is consuming these new hemp products? Global data is showing that there seems to be an even split between male and female consumers. This shows that products should be designed with universal appeal and that the most active consumers are young. This gives your business the opportunity to extend or complement your current range with New Zealand grown products.
For larger manufacturers, The New Zealand Food Innovation Network gives you the opportunity to try a new process before investing in new technology, and reap the benefits of our technical expertise to set up and manage your process flow and advise on the set up required back at your own facility.
Alexandra Allan is the Chief Executive for The FoodBowl – an open access facility operated by NZ Food Innovation Auckland and part of the NZ Food Innovation Network. She has experience in managing client projects as well as oversight on plant operations previously as the Client Solutions Manager for The FoodBowl. Prior to that, Allan has held senior positions at Danone and Horley’s in product development.