Pioneering the plant-based future with hemp – article

Hemp is a sustainable, innovative crop that is poised to meet the needs of today’s consumer.

March 14, 2024

5 Min Read

Today’s shoppers are living in an era where sustainability and plant-based nutrition are no longer just trends people like to speculate about—they’re imperatives. In fact, nearly three-quarters of Gen Z and Millennials show concern for the environmental impact of their food choices, according to the 2022 Food and Health Survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC). In the same survey, 52% of respondents reported that they followed a diet or eating pattern in the past year, with the top 2022 diets including clean eating (16%), mindful eating (14%) and 12% reporting engaging in a plant-based diet.

These findings align with the growing trend of consumers being motivated by environmental sustainability when making food and beverage purchases. Consumers often look for labels on food that indicate environmental sustainability or a reduced carbon footprint, demonstrating a demand for transparency in how food production affects the environment. This includes how workers are treated. Approximately 45% of Americans consider it important to know that the workers who produce, distribute or serve the food are treated in a fair and equitable way, seeking transparency in the social sustainability of their food choices as well.

“Consumers are now demanding a product that's transparent, not overly processed and doesn't have 50 crazy ingredients in it... and has value to it that goes beyond just being a delicious product but creates a whole treasure trove of wonderful benefits for the planet, for our country, for our farmers and for our bodies nutritionally," says Braelyn Davis, co-founder of hemp-based product maker, Planet Based Foods.

Plant-Based 2.0: A Less Processed, More Transparent Future

From its start in 2010, Planet Based Foods has been driven by ideals that represent a new wave in the food industry, challenging the status quo with its hemp-based products. Rooted in conversations between Davis and his father, a food scientist, the father-son duo transformed their vision for sustainable, plant-based foods into creating a company founded on the principles of environmental stewardship, health and regenerative agriculture.

At the heart of Planet Based Foods is the concept of Plant-Based 2.0–a commitment to products that are not only less processed but also proudly plant-based, standing on their own merits without trying to mimic animal products. This approach resonates with the growing segment of consumers seeking healthier, more sustainable food choices that align with their values.

Nearly six in 10 Americans (59%) agree that their generation has a greater concern about the environmental impact of food choices than other generations, with 57% concerned about food waste. Actions taken to reduce food waste include eating leftovers (44%) and planning meals before shopping (42%).[i] In fact, Gen Z's unique perspectives on food and health, including a focus on emotional/mental health benefits from foods, indicate a holistic approach to nutrition that aligns with the principles of Plant-Based 2.0.[ii]

A Commitment to Sustainability and Nutrition

As pioneers in using hemp as a core ingredient, Planet Based Foods highlights this underutilized crop's versatility and nutritional benefits, positioning the brand as a leader in the plant-based 2.0 movement. The founders were inspired by hemp's potential not just as a food source but as a means to sustainably clothe, house and nourish people. Recognizing hemp's environmental benefits, such as soil regeneration, carbon sequestration and water efficiency, Planet Based Foods made it its mission to incorporate these ideals into its business model. From hemp Ice Creams to the convenient handheld offerings like the hemp taquitos, the brand’s products are a testament to the company’s commitment to offering nutrient-dense, environmentally friendly foods.

By focusing on hemp's nutritional and environmental superiority, Planet Based Foods is not just offering alternatives; it is redefining the plant-based market. “I was raised in a household that had a strong emphasis on sustainability,” says Davis. "Hemp helped us create a company that promotes the health of people while also advocating for the planet. Hemp can not only house people, it can clothe people and it can feed people... You can compound that with the fact that when you use hemp as a rotation crop, it actually irrigates and heals the soil."

Despite the initial stigma associated with hemp, Planet Based Foods persevered, leveraging the shifting perceptions towards hemp and cannabis as opportunities to educate and innovate. "More and more people were resonating with it outside of it being used as a cannabis... They started seeing it as a medicine and beyond that, as a superfood,” shares Davis.

The company's strategic pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic, from restaurant distribution to retail, illustrates its adaptability and vision. Its expansion into national grocery chains, including Kroger, and the introduction of new products like hemp ice cream illustrated how on point the brand was to meet the increasing consumer demand for transparent, low-processed, plant-based foods.

The Future of Food

Beyond the brand’s product line, Planet Based Foods is dedicated to fostering a food system that supports economic viability for farmers and regenerative agricultural practices. By championing hemp as a rotation crop, Davis and his father aim to address soil depletion and provide a sustainable income source for American farmers. This vision extends to the brand’s advocacy for food security and reduced dependency on imported crops, highlighting the potential of hemp to significantly contribute to the national and global food supply.

“Hemp is by far our hero when it comes to food security and the U.S.’s dependency on other countries. The more we grow and utilize hemp in different ways, the more it diminishes our dependency on outside sources,” shares Davis.

By centering the company’s operations around the multifaceted benefits of hemp, the brand not only offers a blueprint for the future of food but also embodies the change its founders wish to see in the world. Now, as the brand prepares for further expansion and innovation, it’s inviting consumers, farmers and businesses alike to join them in this green revolution. Its journey is a compelling example of the potential of plant-based nutrition to heal not just individuals but the earth itself, leading the charge towards a more sustainable, food-secure future.

“As years go on, we would love to see more farmers and agricultural groups adopting hemp as a rotation crop to help feed the country, if not the world. The idea behind this is ‘how viable are other patch crops out there that farmers can actually make money off of to actually feed people in an effective way?’," adds Davis.

[i] 2022 Food and Health Survey by the International Food Information Council.

[ii] 2022 Food and Health Survey by the International Food Information Council.

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