Chad Rosen, founder and CEO of Victory Hemp Foods, sees opportunity for growers of hemp to sell their crop to food producers in the near future. Photo courtesy of Access Ventures

by Enrico Villamaino

“Hemp Seed Ingredients & What You Need to Know About the Hemp-Based Food Market” was led by Chad Rosen, interacted with participants from across the U.S. during this year’s virtual World Ag Expo.

Rosen, who founded Victory Hemp Foods in 2014 in Carrollton, KY, and currently serves as the company’s CEO, lauded what he saw as hemp’s great potential. “Hemp does have the potential to become more than a specialty crop and become a broad acreage commodity, but it will take a village to reach that point,” he said.

Companies like Rosen’s function as middlemen that work hand-in-hand with hemp farmers, taking the crop directly from the growers in order to extract the proteins and oils that they then sell to food processors. It’s a growing market with a great deal of untapped potential. “Here in the U.S., the hemp seed has been under the potato basket for the last 80 years. Supply chains are nascent. Genetics leave room for improvement. Processing technology is going through a much needed transformation, and formulators who combine ingredients to create food trend products for global food brands are at the beginning of their learning curve developing applications with the next generation of hemp see ingredients,” he announced.

He described in detail why hemp-based foods are becoming more attractive, and why farmers might want to consider growing hemp for what he stated was a burgeoning opportunity for profits.

Hemp seeds are technically nuts and are very nutritious. Hemp seeds contain over 30% fat. They are exceptionally rich in linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. Hemp seeds are a great protein source, with more than 25% of their caloric content coming from high-quality protein. In comparison, chia seeds and flaxseeds contain 16% – 18% protein. Hemp seeds are also a substantial source of vitamin E and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc.

Additionally, the demand for hemp-based foods is growing rapidly. “Demand is going up, not just for food in general, but proteins especially,” Rosen said. “Meat consumption is currently projected to rise by 50% by the year 2050, and by that year we’ll be feeding over nine billion people. It will fall to agricultural professionals to find a way to keep up with this need.” As Third World nations develop and gain more buying power, they tend to move away from more carbohydrate-based meals toward a diet with a higher protein content. Plant-based “meats” are growing in popularity, and Rosen mentioned that even Burger King patrons can order a Whopper made of plant-based protein.

He did caution that growers should look before they leap into the hemp field. “If you’re a farmer thinking about this, we want to talk about what your considerations should be,” he said. Unlike CBD, which is not approved by the FDA for use in foods, hemp seeds, hearts and oils are allowed. “It’s generally regarded as safe and healthy, so there isn’t much of an issue with the FDA as an official regulatory entity.” However, he emphasized that consumer preferences dictate that the more successful hemp growers are the ones bearing the USDA’s Certified Organic or Non-GMO Project’s Verified certifications. Other third party designations (such as gluten-free, vegan and B-Corporation status) are becoming increasingly important in branding a hemp product. “People want the hemp to be more than healthy. They want it to be raised and produced in a way that is in tune with their values.”

He is sure that growers who do enter the hemp market, and position themselves favorably, are setting themselves up for a bright future.

“Hemp is only going to become more and more mainstream,” Rosen concluded. “If you’re a grower looking for a crop that will sell, hemp is only going to see a surging amount of buyers for your product.”