Hemp Protein Powder Called
"The Next Big Thing"
From the May Ď98 issue of Hemp Magazine.
THE NEXT BIG THING!
By Remy Chevalier
The Next Big Thing? Thatís how a chemist at Gena-Pharm, a British company that produces body building supplements, described the potential of hemp protein powder. He had wonderful technical terms to describe all the health benefits such a powder would provide. And yet there isnít any on the market. Why is that?
The best selling protein powders are made from soy beans or whey, a creamy byproduct from the cheese making process. The February, 1998 issue of Muscle Media magazine noted that 140,000 metric tons of whey protein are sold each year. The August, 1997 issue of Whole Foods magazine published a survey stating that 24% of health food store consumers buy protein powder.
Obviously, thereís a wide open market for all kinds of protein powders. Whey is not vegetarian and questions were raised about excessive amounts of synthetic IGF-1 hormones in milk products by Robert Cohen in his book "Milk, The Deadly Poison." According to a source at Veglife, makers of the very popular Peaceful Planet soy protein drink mix, no company is making "organic" protein powders. Hemp seed is by and large free of pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers. According to a recent survey conducted by Gena-Pharm, Veglife believes that it could sell 100,000 pounds of hemp protein powder each year if it was available at competitive prices. The Ohio Hempery, which presses hemp seed oil with Spectrum Naturals is developing a hemp protein.
But one quick glance through Niro Inc.ís equipment catalog and you realize that weíre talking about a very expensive process, requiring a mini-refinery. In my opinion, none of todayís hemp businesses are able to afford this on their own. There needs to be a concerted effort on the part of the hemp industry to organize joint ventures. Richard Rose, maker of HempNut, feels there wonít be enough hemp seed available for a few years to justify such an investment. Thereís also the question of sterilization. It can damage the fragile chains of amino acids that make protein powders so beneficial. Since only sterilized seed can be imported into the United States, quality hemp protein will have to either be made abroad or domestically from imported seed cake. This is what Gena-Pharm would like to do at their Austin, Texas facility.
It all began for me when I embarked on a mission last year. After losing too much weight from biking and running, I came to the realization that I wasnít eating enough protein. Since Iím a semi-vegetarian with "Oprahphobia", I sampled all kinds of protein powders from my local health food store. Thatís when I remembered that hemp seed is almost as high in protein as soy beans. Iíve since learned that it is also a much more complete source of essential amino acids, making it one of the most balanced sources of vegetable protein. Kenneth Jones and Chris Conrad have both published nutritional and medicinal guides on hemp seed. Recent studies have touched off a controversy claiming that soy isoflavones inhibit thyroid peroxidase which could lead to health problems. It is therefore a good idea to hedge your bets and mix and match your proteins.
I started calling hempsters and very few of them knew what I was talking about. Some of them even confused protein powder with plain flour. Thatís when I realized that hemp protein could be an excellent business opportunity!
At an environmental trade show in Washington D.C., I met the CEO of EnerGenetics, who was handing out corn protein cookies made with their cold filtering process. He became very excited about the idea of running a test with hemp seed. His Chinese partners, who have a high regard for hempís nutraceutical properties, were equally enthusiastic. Later, as I was trying to line up investors for the test run, the expense that EnerGenetics had quoted me went from a measly $5,000 to $25,000 and then to an astounding $250,000. This succeeded in scaring off any potential investors. I wouldnít be surprised if a huge hemp protein factory is being built in China right now.
Next, I contacted Jeffrey Gain, a Chairman at the USDA. Along with several back issue of Hemp Magazine, I sent him a letter asking what he thought about the feasibility of hemp protein. Jeff, who is also a member of the North American Industrial Hemp Council (NAIHC), made a keynote speech at the D.C. trade show. Three months later, he wrote back, stating that "the USDA is reluctant to look seriously at this and any of the myriad of opportunities afforded by this incredible crop". In other words, Iím on my own.
I was right back where I started. My sweet fantasies of having my own line of hemp protein powder products evaporated. I even had Bill Morrison, the comic book artist, lined up to lend his popular Roswell character for the label. It was going to be a strawberry flavored hemp protein powder drink mix with the caption: "For Aliens Only!"
Back to reality, I tracked down several people pressing hemp seed oil and asked them what they were doing with the left over seed cake. As of this printing, most of them are selling it as animal feed. I wrote to several producers of body building supplements including Twin Labs, Designer Protein, Naturade and Gena-Pharm. The only response I received was from Gena-Pharm who also sell Teflon coated "Turboshakers", which are used to blend protein powder drinks. I pitched my idea to the head of Gena-Pharmís international sales department, Hadi Ghandour, who loved it. He sponsored a joint promotion which included a questionnaire on hemp protein that was mailed to 200 producers of protein powders. Gena-Pharm is ready to market hemp protein worldwide. They are also willing to help hemp companies pool their resources to achieve this goal. We are looking for partners and Iím writing a business plan so that Gena-Pharm can help finance the operation.
The major cause of malnutrition in the world is a lack of protein in the diet. The president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Gordon Conway, has just published "The Doubly Green Revolution, Food For All In The 21st Century" (Penguin Books). There isnít one mention of hemp seed in the index. Hemp seed should actually be referred to as "hemp grain" in this context, since it is not meant for replanting, but for consumption. The reason for such a blatant omission can be found in another book just out called "Geopolitics and the Green Revolution, Wheat, Genes and the Cold War" by John Perkins (Oxford University Press). In it he describes the "population-national security theory" whereby the United States uses grain as a tool of political leverage in developing nations. Could hemp pave the way for independence from Americaís bread basket?
According to a booklet given to immigrants in the 1700ís it was a crime for farmers NOT to grow hemp. Hemp saw a brief resurgence in its popularity during World War Two. Had the members who spent two years in the Biosphere planted hemp like a NASA study suggested, they may not have had to smuggle in a carbon dioxide scrubber! The potential of hemp protein powder might overshadow any other market for this plant. It could be the straw that breaks the camelís back.
Anyone interested in helping develop protein powder isolate from hemp grain should contact us at the Environmental Library Fund, 25 Newtown Turnpike, Weston, CT 06883.
The Hemp Page of Marijuananews.com is edited by John E. Dvorak, Hempologist & Managing Editor, Hemp Magazine.
John was born in Fort Worth, Texas, but is an eight year
resident of Allston/Brighton, MA, where he is the proprietor of the
Boston Hemp Co-op and Managing Editor of Hemp Magazine. He is a member
of the Hemp Industries Association, the International Hemp Association,
and Mass/Cann NORML.