Hemp Fails the Economic “Taste Test” as an Alt-Meat Additive
According to License Producers Canada, hemp has several notable nutritional characteristics, containing 10 amino acids, Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, and a rich source of plant-based protein. This month, PanXchange examines a case study of hemp protein use in retail food products by a company named Craft Foods, and why despite its nutritious and delicious nature, it fails the proverbial economic “taste test” for a large-scale outlet for hemp.
Craft Foods Company emerged as a significant alt-meat producer, serving meatless burgers, sausage, and ground beef substitute products to over 75 major retail locations across New Zealand. Their company is making waves, as their proposed key constituent plant protein by volume in their meat alternatives is protein isolate from hemp. According to Craft, moving from hemp seeds as an additive to a fully hemp-based product, the total consumable protein content in hemp protein isolate is higher than that of animal-based proteins. Craft Foods sees massive potential for their hemp-meat product, especially if the legality of hemp allows them to explore their options internationally in nearby Asia. While this sounds like a win for hemp farmers, PanXchange’s analysis suggests that the lion’s share of the profits will be had by alt-meat-makers and not hemp farmers.
In 2020, the market size for alternative meat products was 1.4 billion in US sales. If hemp were to be introduced as an additive to enhance protein content, no more than 438 tonnes of hemp (less than 150 acres (at 3 tonnes per acre)) would be required to supply the entirety of the United States. This assumes $8 per pound of alt-meat (using Impossible burger retail prices as a reference), 2% or less hemp content by volume, and 100% adoption across the entire alt-meat supply chain.
In New Zealand’s Market, with 65 times fewer people than the United States, 7 tons of hemp could supply the entire country’s supply chain. At 3 tons per acre, this would require just over 2 acres of farmland dedicated to hemp.
Under any likely scenario, there would be vastly less industry adoption of hemp in alt-meat, less hemp ingredient concentration, and more pushback on taste, texture, and price. Unless soy protein isolate (aka heme, the primary component in alt-meat products) is replaced en masse with hemp protein isolate, alt-meat will never be a primary market for hemp products. PanXchange continues to emphasize that the most promising markets are those that use the entirety of the hemp plant and could consume hemp in much heavier quantities instead of ancillary markets for derivative products.