“This seed has been under the potato basket for the last 80 years,” Rosen told FoodNavigator-USA. But, he added, “there is so much value and versatility in hemp seed” for players up and down the supply chain.
He explained at IFT19 in New Orleans earlier this month that when he first started working with farmers in Kentucky to grow industrial hemp, he had no idea how much the seed could offer. But after working with the plant, farmers and food technologists for the past five years, he discovered that hemp seeds are not only a valuable whole food ingredient, but that the byproducts also offer much-needed protein and oil solutions.
The company got its start dehulling hemp seeds to sell to sell at farmers’ markets before quickly scaling up to fill shelves at Whole Foods Market and Kroger, Rosen said.
As it did that, the team “quickly realized that we had a lot of byproduct, and we had to figure out what we would do with the byproducts because the name of the game in agriculture is finding value in all parts of the plant.”
A little research revealed that the broken bits of the hearts from the dehulling process were a “great feedstock for hemp protein, a hemp protein concentrate, a hemp protein isolate, a textured protein” and so on – all of which “have really good applications in the food world,” Rosen said.
To help manufacturers tap into that potential, Victory Hemp Foods at IFT unveiled V-70 Hemp Protein, a white hemp protein that contains all nine essential amino acids, is high in Edestin, has at least 25% of the recommended daily amount of iron, magnesium and zinc per ounce and has 12% fat that is high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Aside from the nutrition, the protein is notable because it has a neutral flavor, which means unlike pea protein or other plant-based options that have strong off-notes, manufacturers do not need to add masking agents. As a result, they can create products with shorter ingredient lists.
“We are seeing this upswell of demand for plant-based foods and in order to reach that market, we have to present the ingredients in a format the formulators can work with,” and that is what V-70 does, Rosen said.
V1 oil offers longer shelf life
In addition to V-70, Victory Hemp Foods also launched at IFT Victory ONE Hemp Heart Oil, a clarified oil that is the balance of the hemp heart and made through expeller pressing.
“What comes through when you expeller press is a lot of the chlorophyll, which makes the oil green and offers a really strong odor and contributes to free radicals, which attack polyunsaturated fatty acids and can shorten the shelf life and lead to rancidity,” Rosen said.
By removing the chlorophyll, V1 oil has a neutral, slightly nutty flavor that allows it be used in a wide range of products from ice cream to skin care products. It also has a longer shelf life.
The pressing does not negatively impact the nutrition profile of the oil, which has an ideal balance of omega-six and omega-three fatty acids, Rosen added.
Balancing price point and economies of scale
At roughly $30 a gallon, the V1 oil is competitively priced against premium vegetable oils, but the protein powder is significantly more expensive than competitors at $7.25 per pound for organic and a few dollars less for conventional compared to pea protein, which comes in around $3.5-$4, Rosen said.
However, he was quick to add that these prices should come down exponentially in coming years as the regulatory hurdles for growing hemp are removed and more farmers plant the crop.
“Hemp is going to be the most competitive, the most efficient competitor on the market due to the fact that we are still in the infancy of the supply chain. So, we have a very high cost of goods with the seed, but some factors that are contributing to the decreased price are the economies of scale … as a row crop and the fact that farmers can monetize different parts of the plant,” Rosen said.
He explained that hemp farmers have three profit centers – the nutritionally dense seed, the flower, which has all the cannabinoids, and the stalk, which is used to make paper and fabric.
With so much going for hemp, Rosen predicts it is only a matter of a short time until hemp is a “huge” crop with a steady supply chain to meet manufacturers, and consumers, demand for its products.