Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA ahead of the Supply Side West trade show, where AIDP is launching proteins from hemp and sacha inchi, director of protein and branded ingredient sales Alan Rillorta said food manufacturers are keen to experiment with new non-GMO, vegan proteins, which are typically used in combination with more established proteins to balance out flavor, texture, and amino acid profiles.
Adding hemp or sacha inchi to your ingredients deck can also help you build a more appealing story around your brands, just as adding chia and quinoa can give products a more premium, 'foodie' vibe, he added.
“What’s exciting is that they are both ancient and modern, in the sense that they have been around for years, but are still new to many US consumers, and R&D teams.
“Sacha inchi is often referred to as the Inca nut or Inca peanut, as it was consumed by the Incas, while hemp was a big cash crop in the US until its association with marijuana caused it to fade, but it’s really staging a comeback now.”
And when it comes to sustainability, which is becoming more important to manufacturers as proteins are often pitched against each other when it comes to their environmental impact, hemp tends to come out very well, as its cultivation requires few “pesticides, herbicides or petrochemical fertilizers”, he claimed.
Industrial hemp is not the same as marijuana, and it won’t get you high
For those unsure about its legal status, meanwhile, industrial hemp – a safe and legal food ingredient permitted in the US market - is not the same as marijuana, and it won’t get you high, he stressed.
However, this is a topic many potential customers are still confused about, he added.
"The problem is that hemp comes from Cannabis sativa, [the same plant species as marijuana], but contains little to no THC [the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that delivers the ‘high’]."
However, while it is legal to sell and consume foods and beverages containing hemp seeds in the US (the world's largest consumer of hemp products), the US is the only major industrialized country that largely outlaws domestic hemp production, so it is typically sourced from Canada, Asia or the Middle East, said Rillorta.
“We get ours [AIDP has a 70% hemp protein concentrate] from China, but I think everyone is hoping that the laws change in the US."
As for its nutritional profile, hemp protein - which he says has most potential in bars, ready to drink beverages and ready to mix protein powders – is high in arginine, which sports enthusiasts like as it is a vasodilator (arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, which helps expand blood vessels and decrease blood pressure).
While it is low in lysine, it works well in combination with other proteins higher in lysine such as pea, he said.
Sacha inchi protein, meanwhile, is starting to creep into some US foods and beverages (the Label Insight database features 62 products containing Sacha Inchi in some form), although Americans are less familiar with it than they are with hemp, said Rillorta.
“What’s interesting about sacha inchi [AIDP has a 60% protein concentrate] is that it has a PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score) of 0.87,” (To place this in context, whey has a score of 1.0, the highest scores, while soy protein concentrate is around 0.97 to 0.99, pea is around 0.7 and rice around 0.5).
‘Silkier’ pea proteins
AIDP is also launching new hydrolyzed wheat proteins and ‘extra smooth’ versions of its rice and pea proteins. RisaPro XS and PeasiPro XS, which Rillorta said boast a "silkier" texture designed for improved taste and mouth feel, particularly in beverages, ready-to-drink applications, and high protein content powder shakes.