‘No industry left untouched’: India’s Hemp Horizons banking on food innovation amid vast growth potential

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Indian hemp specialist firm Hemp Horizons has predicted a 10x growth in the local industry and is gearing up its own food product innovations. ©Getty Images
Indian hemp specialist firm Hemp Horizons has predicted a 10x growth in the local industry and is gearing up its own food product innovations. ©Getty Images

Related tags: India, Hemp, Cannabis

Indian hemp specialist firm Hemp Horizons has predicted a 10x growth in the local industry and is gearing up its own food product innovations.

Hemp Horizons is one of the largest hemp contract manufacturing firms in India, and was one of the first to enter the industry back in 2017 when initial approvals of hemp under Ayurvedic regulations were passed.

According to the firm’s Founder Rohit Shah, the industry has already been seeing significant growth over the past few years, but he expects to see even more moving forward when the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) passes regulations governing the use of hemp as food​ this year.

“We expect to see a 10x growth for the industry moving forward fuelled by the regulations, combined with the medical cannabis side and rising awareness around CBD,”​ Shah told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“Hemp Horizons is glad to be in the right place at the right time – we also just got our seed round of funding last year, and we want to use the funding to take advantage of this growth by increasing current capacity, not just for current first generation products (hemp seeds, hemp oil, hemp powder) but also second generation products.

“We will be looking at a lot more innovation for hemp food products, from flavoured protein powders to hemp butters to hemp milk, energy bars, pastas and more.

“The prospects for the hemp market are huge at this time as the possibilities are endless – I believe no industry will be left untouched by hemp after this, in the food space as well as others from cosmetics to textile to cars to construction and so on.”

Hemp Horizons is currently also the largest white labelling company doing contract manufacturing for the hemp industry in India – over 90% of Indian hemp brands currently use its services, which puts it in a very choice position to capitalise on the hemp boom.

“The firm has our own manufacturing facility with a capacity to process over 15 tons of hemp, which no one in the industry currently has – we manufacture for over 90% of the Indian hemp industry covering all seed-related products from powder to oil to hearts,”​ said Shah.

“We want to take this a step further, and also move into the cultivation part of things so as to give people assurance of traceability, especially as we also have plans to enter the medical cannabis industry moving forth. I expect we will be able to start using our own cannabis end-2021 to early-2022, and we will also have seven to 10 medical cannabis SKUs coming up this summer.”

Regulations and challenges

Shah added that the FSSAI regulations for hemp have finally come underway as the Indian government has realised the significant financial and economical losses in not putting these forward.

“The government has started recognising hemp and cannabis particular as important to the economies of India, and that they must legalise these or stand to lose some US$5bn over the next five years,”​ he said.

“Without the new regulations, there are many listing and marketing restrictions preventing the industry from flourishing – for instance, Amazon and other e-commerce channels don’t want to list hemp products due to the unclear regulations where FSSAI hasn’t approved but the Ministry of AYUSH said yes; plus we’ve also seen a lot of problems trying to market on social media like Facebook, Instagram and so on.

“It has been a continuous learning process figuring out what works and what doesn’t, but these new regulations will open all the doors up for hemp food products to be listed in all retail stores and platforms and restaurants and so on.”

With both regulations opening up and COVID-19 having driven an increase in demand for hemp food products, Shah has pegged the next decade as the time to watch for the industry.

“The next 10 years are going to be very interesting for the industry, particularly as hemp is so versatile – already the three core first generation products are used as key ingredients for many products, so as more innovation comes along and second and third generation products emerge this year, it’s a really exciting time to be in this space,”​ he said.

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