Hemp evolution: Health Horizons kickstarts India’s ‘second-generation’ product drive

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

India’s Health Horizons has launched what it claims are the country’s first second-generation hemp-based products. ©Health Horizons
India’s Health Horizons has launched what it claims are the country’s first second-generation hemp-based products. ©Health Horizons

Related tags India Hemp

India’s Health Horizons has launched what it claims are the country’s first second-generation hemp-based products - a protein bar and a chocolate powder, with the firm remaining optimistic about growth despite slow-moving regulatory progress.

Health Horizons is the product brand name for hemp-based products made by Hemp Horizons, which is one of the largest hemp contract manufacturing firms in India and also one of the first to enter the industry in 2017 when Ayurvedic regulations made the selling of hemp products legal.

So far, the local industry has been largely dominated by first-generation products which are hemp hearts (seeds), hemp seed oil and plain hemp powder. When we spoke to Hemp Horizons​ earlier this year, the firm’s founder Rohit Shah had already indicated that there is a vast market in India for second-generation FMCG products beyond these three – and apparently, the time is now.

“The issue with the first generation products is that consumers have to go through the hassle of researching how to add the seeds, oil or powder into their diets even after they have bought these to improve health – this is not easy, especially in Indian cuisine where just adding the seeds or using the powder to make bakery products won’t always necessarily result in great taste,”​ Shah told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“So our focus when making these second-generation hemp products – and being the first to do so in India – was to change the format and administration of the first generation hemp products, and produce something convenient for consumers on-the-go which is nutritious and wholesome, and that was the concept for the Hemp Power Bar.”

The protein bar contains just six ingredients which are cashews, almonds, dates, hemp, cocoa and rolled oats, a combination which provides 9.2g of plant-based protein and all three omega-3 fatty acids.

“One of the biggest driver of the sector is the ability to derive wholesome nutrition from a single product, i.e. getting all the omega fatty acids as well as the high protein desired from one source, unlike perhaps only being able to get omega-3 from flax seeds, or only protein from whey powder,”​ said Shah.

“For the Hemp Sativa Chocolate powder, we have managed to take this up another level by increasing the nutritional benefits of the original first generation hemp powder whilst also making it taste better – we added raw cocoa and coconut sugar to this, which increased the protein content per 100g by some 8% to 10% from 24g-25g in the original to 34g in the chocolate variant.”

For both products, Shah believes that the key audience to capture are the 25 to 45-year-olds, particularly those following a plant-based diet and an adventurous and active lifestyle.

A three-pack of 50g Hemp Power Bars currently retails for INR399 (US$5.41) and the Hemp Sativa chocolate powder retails for either INR299 (US$4.06) for 150g or INR999 (US$13.56) for 500g.

Still Ayurveda-regulated

Despite both new products clearly being food items, Shah told us that due to the nature of hemp regulations in India, both of these are currently still being regulated and approved under the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa-Rigpa and Homoeopathy (AYUSH).

“There was a public notification by FSSAI in October 2020 that they would be finalising regulations regarding the governance of hemp seeds and related products, but we have not seen any movement by them since then,”​ said Shah.

“Potentially it should be finalised within six months or less, but so far we’ve been waiting almost a year, so there is no saying exactly when these will be out. That said, even under AYUSH governance, the category is growing massively and we have moved developed these second generation products first even before FSSAI published the regulations so as to build the category and understand how to market and sell these.”

When asked whether he expects any biggest adjustments to be needed once FSSAI’s regulations come out, Shah said that labelling will likely be the area that is most affected, but not necessarily in a bad way.

“It’s the labelling that will be changed, as AYUSH does not allow us to state any nutrition facts on our product labels right now, but under FSSAI we would be able to talk about the protein and omega-3 content and values on the packaging,”​ he said.

“This is really important as these numbers would open up an even bigger audience to the market and its benefits.”

Moving forward

Shah added that although India is still the firm’s main focus, they are already in talks with South East Asian and East Asian markets where hemp is legalised (e.g. Thailand, Japan, South Korea) as well as the United States.

“We foresee hemp being able to become an ingredient in everything from milk to butter to cookies to muffins to personal care,”​ he said.

“To continue our product development for second-generation hemp products, we will be focusing on expanding our range of flavoured powders first, and also the number of protein bar variants to include more fruits or even reduce the number of ingredients used further.

“Hemp is sitting right in the middle of four categories which are seeing major growth: Veganism and plant-based diets, packed products, personal care, and wellness – so massive growth is coming over the next few years.”

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