The non-CBD hemp industry, in general, is behind in breeding, as compared to corn and soy. There’s a lot of work on the agronomy side of the business, especially in CBD-void hemp ingredients that are used for nutritional purposes.

Hemp Genetics International helps farmers choose the best variety for a specific environment, end use and geographic location. This is critical to eliminating the bitterness often associated with hemp, especially hemp-derived CBD ingredients.

Marc van Burck, director of global business development, HPS Food & Ingredient Services, said that quality hemp comes from proper field management and processing. It’s all about seed variety.

“What we as an industry need are the right varieties for farmers to use,” Mr. van Burck said. “You need to use varieties bred for nutrition. And they must be harvested at the right time for quality.”

Crops must be commercially viable for farmers to grow on large-scale agriculture plots. This also requires consistent genetics that are easily harvestable.

Chad Rosen, founder and chief operating officer, Victory Hemp Foods, said that, up until now, the challenge in formulating with hemp-derived ingredients was their format. He recognized that the scale of this new sustainable, commodity crop would come if the ingredients “offer manufacturers compelling taste and performance advantages” in the plant-based space.

“We look at it as an oil seed,” Mr. Rosen said. “We fractionate them into oil and protein, and we do it in a way that doesn’t use harmful chemicals. We increase the functionality of the protein to fit into a variety of [food and beverage] categories.”

Hemp seeds are about one-third protein, providing all nine essential amino acids, which makes hemp a complete protein, much like soy and animal protein. Many hemp grain products are GRAS and exempt from food additive tolerance requirements.

Victory Hemp Foods developed a hemp heart protein that has high-water binding capacity. The V-70 ingredient may function as a healthier flour alternative in baking applications. It can be used to replace some or all of the more heavily processed, less nutritious all-purpose flour in some applications. It is produced after hemp seed oil is extracted from the shelled seed, yielding a protein-rich hemp powder. The end result is a clean, flowable powder with a smooth mouthfeel.

“The use of hemp flour in food formulations is increasing, largely because of its near-neutral taste and robust nutritional profile,” said Melissa Mitri, a registered dietitian working with Victory Hemp. “It can be added to any baked good recipe to create a clean label product with a more superior nutritional profile.”

Naturally vegan and gluten-free, it is also allergen-friendly. It blends well with starches, such as potato starch or rice starch, for gluten-free applications.

In general, it is recommended to replace 30% to 50% of the all-purpose flour in the original recipe with hemp flour. A higher percentage of flour may be replaced for muffins and cookies, while bread recipes work better at the lower end of this range.     

The cannabis and CBD market is growing as these substances continue to gain consumer acceptance and the FDA sorts out their regulatory future. Ingredient suppliers are making progress on the agriculture and ingredient side so that when the dust settles on this volatile market, the baking industry can be ready to meet the growing demand.