Hemp Seeds: An ingredient to watch

What are hemp seeds?

Hemp seeds are a product of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, and while it is
related to the marijuana species, it contains trace to zero levels of the
psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The Hemp plant is used in a variety of ways from producing clothing to fuel and with a long history of being used to treat various health issues due to its purported health benefits. The Hemp plant produces Hemp seed which should not contain the psychoactive drug THC, associated with the Marijuana plant. It is the seed that is used to produce Hemp “Milk” and Hemp oil.

Regulation around cultivating hemp seeds

As can be reasonably expected, there is a strict regulatory framework covering the hemp plant's cultivation. Each part of the plant offers different potential uses and are subject to separate regulation. In the EU, to be considered legal, the plant should contain less than 0.2% THC. Prospective hemp farmers must be granted a license within the UK, permitting them to grow variants with less than 0.2% THC for industrial purposes or the hemp seeds. The application process can be arduous.

Hemp seeds: The next chia?

Hemp seeds can be used in a variety of products; they have a mild nutty flavour and are the most versatile and popular hemp ingredient in new product launches followed by hemp protein. Hemp seeds are suited to being used as an ingredient in cereals, snacks & protein bars offering similar benefits to chia seeds, although hemp seeds are higher in protein and omega-6 whereas chia seeds have more fibre and higher omega-3.

Health benefits of hemp

Technically a nut, hemp seeds contain a powerful combination of nutrients
including omega-3, omega-6, vitamin E, fibre, protein, potassium, phosphorus
and calcium. Protein in hemp seeds accounts for approximately 25% of
calories, compared to around 16% in chia seeds.

The demand for plant based protein has increased with the rise in lifestyle shifts to vegan and reduced meat diets. Hemp, as with other seeds, can play a significant role in many product categories.

An important benefit of Hemp seed is that it is free from all major recognised allergens, including nut, dairy & soy. For consumers suffering from allergies, or making a lifestyle choice to change to a plant-based diet, hemp products such as hemp milk could offer a credible alternative. Hemp seeds and the oil are one of the richest plant base sources Omega 3 fatty acids especially the Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) which represents a good source of ‘heathy fat’. Hemp also contains gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) which is a omega-6 fatty acid and appears at a higher concentration in Hemp oil. Hemp seeds also contain phytosterols; although specific health claims cannot be made which directly attribute disease reduction or prevention to these components in Hemp, studies have been carried out to indicate that these components have been linked to reducing cholesterol, reducing blood pressure and other associated heart health benefits

Is hemp Eco-friendly?

Hemp boasts strong eco-credentials. Claims include extracting four times more CO2 than trees and is relatively simple to grow, requiring much less water and no chemical fertilisers to thrive. The hemp plant helps improve the health of the soil in which it grows and is also naturally resistant to most pesticides, making it an attractive option for farmers. As hemp offers alternative uses including fabric, paper, bio-fuel, and even building material, farming hemp poses an opportunity in various sectors.

Potential hemp-seed products include:

  • Plant-based Milk
  • Hemp Seed Oil
  • Cheese substitutes
  • Protein powder
  • Protein snack bars
  • Granola and Cereal

At Uren, our team can advise on how to develop new products for the plant-based market. We offer various plant-based ingredients, and our New Product Development team can advise on bespoke requirements. For further information, please contact sales@uren.com.