Hemp cultivation, while new in modern times, has an ancient history that dates back to the earliest days of humanity. Some even speculate that hemp may have been the first-ever cultivated crop ultimately leading to civilization as we know it. While the world today seems focused on the individual components extracted from hemp biomass, another, more primitive, form of hemp consumption is also making a comeback.
In previous articles, we have explored how industrial hemp can help reduce our carbon footprint with hempcrete, how hemp fibers are gaining attention in the fashion industry, and how hemp plastics may benefit our entire planet. However, hemp as a superfood is quickly trending in the food production industry.
This week, Cannabis Tech spoke with Hilary Kelsay, founder and CEO of Humming Hemp, to talk about the market for hemp in the food chain and how she skipped over the smaller, natural food supply chain and went directly to mainstream grocery. Armed with a contract with Kroger, Humming Hemp, is moving into nearly 1,700 locations nationwide.
While hemp has previously held a certain stigma, Kelsay feels the tide is turning, because of the drive for whole-food, plant-based foods. At a time when the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat products are taking the food industry by storm, plant-based proteins are getting more press time than ever. Factor in other trending dietary restrictions such as paleo, gluten-free, low-glycemic, keto and others, healthy, whole foods are in high demand.
Hemp as a Superfood
Kelsay and her husband are familiar with the food industry through their joint venture producing honey. However, after learning about the hemp industry at an expo, Kelsay wanted to use her experience, acquired through the honey business, to help the American hemp farmer bring their product to market. “I mean, why wouldn’t we?” she questioned.
There is no question, however, that maintaining health starts with consuming a healthy diet. The human body is a complex set of systems that requires specific nutrients to function properly. A superfood is defined as a food dense in nutrients that help these systems perform at optimum levels and keep our bodies healthy. Everyday superfoods include blueberries, spinach, broccoli, chia seeds, almonds, and, of course, hemp. Nutrients, which define superfoods include:
- Antioxidants – thought to help fight cancer
- Healthy Fats – to prevent heart disease
- Fiber – for diabetes control and digestive issues
- Other Phytochemicals – plant-based nutrients
How Hemp Stacks Up
Amazingly, hemp could be the world’s most perfect superfood. Kelsay stated, “As a complete plant-based protein, hemp contains all 20 amino acids, including nine essential amino acids that humans need and can’t produce on their own.” Per their website, Humming Hemp tells us that hemp, besides being a perfect protein, the plant also contains,
- 10 times more iron than spinach
- 23 times more vitamin B1 than pork
- 50 times more magnesium than broccoli
- 3 times more potassium than chia seeds
- More protein per ounce than chicken
- 50% fewer carbs than almonds
- A perfect balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids
- Rich in Gamma-Linolenic acid, a rare Omega 6
“There is no other plant on Earth that is such a natural source of omegas. You would have to take a minimum of 2 other superfoods, to even start to come close to the nutritional profile of hemp,” Kelsay included. “In fact,” she continued, “this nutritional profile only comes from hemp. It can’t be matched by chia seeds, flax, oats, granola, wheat germ, soy, almonds, acai, seaweed, spirulina, or any other superfood.”
Today, Humming Hemp has a national distribution chain for its hemp pantry staples, which include a variety of raw hemp food products. As one of the first to market with an American grown hemp food, Kelsay took an unconventional approach by taking a natural superfood health product to conventional retailers first.
However, despite having a national audience, Kelsay found that the household adoption rate was less than anticipated, so she started to innovate ways to make hemp into a form the American food eater recognizes and is used to eating. So, Humming Hemp recently introduced the hummingbar™. Powerful Nutrition™, provided by American grown hemp hearts and raw American honey. Kelsay explained, “All the macro and micro-nutrients come from the base of hemp hearts and honey to make what we believe is the most superior protein energy bar on the market.”
Correcting Decades of Deficiency
Before the late 70s, feral hemp grew all across the United States, in ditches and pastures throughout the countryside, and was a standard part of our livestock’s diet. Cattle, goats, chickens, and even pigs all ate feral hemp at one time in US history. However, with the DEA’s Cannabis Eradication Program, which started in 1979, most of this natural plant was destroyed, altering the diet of livestock and humans alike. As hemp regains momentum in American agriculture and makes a mainstream push into the American diet, one can only speculate how the return of these macro and micro-nutrients provided by hemp may benefit consumers.
Humming Hemp is just another example of the broad spectrum of opportunities presented by the hemp industry. Not only in the overall wave of the consumer health and wellness market, but as a resurgence of possibilities for the American farmer.