By The FoodBowl chief executive Alexandra Allan




As consumers become increasingly health and environmentally aware, we are seeing an explosion in the hemp industry – certainly for food but also for its incredible benefits and uses in biodegradable plastics, paints, building materials, medicines, biofuels, and textiles. It’s an easy crop to grow good for the environment to boot.

Technically a nut, hemp seed contains all of the essential amino acids required by the human body; making it a complete plant protein. As a food source, it’s protein-rich, an amazing source of the good-for-you fats, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals and is a great source of dietary fibre… and it’s a great ingredient to work with. There are many players in the research and development space, all hoping that one-day hemp will become an everyday ingredient – not a novel food product.

In the food and beverage industry – you can take a single hemp seed and it has the potential to create one of these great base ingredients:

  • Hemp hearts which are a complete source of protein, and one that’s easily digestible, and are low in carbs and unhealthy saturated fat. Plus, you get much-needed minerals like iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc. Considered a minimally processed wholefood – the seeds have a multitude of uses.
  • Extracted hemp protein is a complete protein which has many uses, both dried and as a milk and is a key product in many hemp based products.
  • Hemp seed oil – this is a total superstar. It’s a polyunsaturated fat which is very low in saturated fat. It has an ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

Across the Food Innovation Network we have clients who are working on hemp milks and butters, hemp protein extraction for a variety of uses and we have seen the success of the Hempy Bar – the 2019 winner of the FoodStarter competition that helped Brothers Green take their hemp protein bar to market. Our larger facilities hold Industrial Hemp Licenses to convert hemp to food products and the FoodBowl in Auckland is currently working to obtain a Research License for medicinal cannabis research and development.

The FoodBowl also hosts a regular training workshop on the processing technologies for hemp and cannabis products. It covers the typical product characteristics and current product trends, followed by a more detailed discussion on the processing techniques used and regulatory requirements in New Zealand for manufacture of these products. The workshop is followed by a tour of supercritical fluid extraction, mixing, blending, and drying operations of the FoodBowl.

FoodSouth at Lincoln University in Canterbury has seen so much interest and advancement in plant proteins (hemp included) that they are setting themselves up as a centre of excellence and expertise in the plant protein space.  For hemp growers – this is great news as Canterbury, along with Whanganui, are the largest hemp growing regions in New Zealand.

Likewise, FoodPilot at Massey University is the perfect test bed for hemp product development with access to bright brains and process innovations to explore new ideas. Backed by specialists in horticulture, agriculture, food tech, engineering, post-harvest, consumer and sensory specialists testing, the team continues to support some awesome hemp projects.

Before launching into a hemp-based food product, we recommend the Hemp Seed: Capability Roadmap, a resource developed by our friends at Callaghan Innovation. It’s part of a series of downloadable sector-based capability and is designed for use and sharing by those creating businesses in the hemp industry.

If you want to explore the hemp opportunities, contact your nearest Food Innovation Network hub – check them out here. We can provide you the space and expertise to undertake R&D or try a new process before investing in new technology. Our clients all reap the benefits of our technical expertise and will help you take your ide from concept to commercialisation. foodinnovationnetwork.co.nz


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.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Hot Source, NZ Food Technology or the parent company, Hayley Media.