LAS VEGAS — It’s not hard to discern the main ingredient in Planet Based Foods’ new line of plant-based burgers, crumbles and patties. Hemp is written in large bold letters directly on the packaging.
The products debuted at the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show, held Feb. 6-8 in Las Vegas. Other ingredients used in the formulation are pea protein and brown rice to maximize nutrients and fiber without any waste, according to the company. The frozen food line includes five varieties, including two burger flavors, a breakfast sausage patty and two crumble flavors.
Braelyn Davis, co-founder, president and CEO, said he and his father, co-founder and chief innovation officer, Robert Davis, who is a food scientist, have been hemp “fanboys” for a while. some time and that the product line has been in development for the past eight years.
“Table conversations around hemp were common,” Braelyn Davis said during an interview with the Winter Fancy Food Show. “Not just from a sustainable and nutritional standpoint, but to be used as a raw material. Robert has been very tuned into this all my life.
The two founders raised initial capital, started working with hemp seeds as the main ingredient.
“We watched Impossible (Foods) do their thing, we watched Beyond (Meat) do their thing, and we watched white space open up,” Braelyn said. “Consumers are increasingly aware that just because it’s vegetarian or vegan doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.”
Enter hemp seeds, which Braelyn describes as a nutrient-dense ingredient perceived to be clean and sustainably sourced.
“Hemp is a big point of differentiation,” he said. “We are the only ones to do this where hemp is the first ingredient. It’s a big differentiator. Also, the claim of durability. We beat anyone who tries to talk about other ingredients as being sustainable. If you look at the kcal produced per square foot with hemp, there is no other plant product like it. We are going to position ourselves over the next two years where people understand that. We plan to be the pioneer in helping validate hemp for the superfood that it is.
Another fact supporting the launch is that the perception of hemp has changed over the past two years, Braelyn said.
“In my conversations two years ago about this, I should have spent all my time talking to you about the fact that a hemp burger isn’t weed,” he said. “Now I don’t really need to say that.”
The lack of stigma also made it easier to raise capital. In December 2021, the company raised approximately C$8.1 million ($6.3 million) and began trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange in January under the symbol PBF.
“That was our seed to kick off this year,” Braelyn said. “We will probably do another increase at the end of this year or next year.”
The money will be used to support the rollout of burgers, patties and crumbles, but also the introduction of other applications like taquitos, hand burritos and breakfast sandwiches. Braelyn added that the product line could one day include hemp-based vegan cheeses, non-dairy creamers and shelf-stable items like plant-based jerky.
“We’ve developed a lot of intellectual property (intellectual property) around hemp,” he said.