Not a lot of great stories start with, “I had the best conversation at a trade show.”
But in Hilary Kelsay’s case, a casual meeting led to an innovative business venture – and exciting new options for people interested in eating better.
In 2017, Kelsay was handling the sales and marketing duties for humble honey co., a company operated by her husband, a Richland beekeeper. At a food product show, she met a group of hemp farmers seeking possible partners to put their hemp into food.
“I was impressed with how passionate they were about hemp,” she said. “They truly believed in it.”
After a long discussion about the value and many potential industrial uses for hemp, especially its powerful nutrient and sustainability profile when used for food, Kelsay learned that there really weren’t a lot of farmers growing hemp for food in Washington or other states; most of the focus was on CBD.
“I came home excited and said ‘we’ve got to do this,’” Kelsay said. “So I formed a team of entrepreneurs who also believed in the possibilities of hemp, especially in food.”
In less than a year, this effort led to Humming Hemp, a business that creates hummingbar hemp protein bars and raw hemp hearts, which are the whole seeds after the shell is removed. The company also creates hemp protein powder and cold-pressed extra-virgin hemp seed oil.
Humming Hemp has already secured distribution agreements with several regional and national grocery chains, including Kroger, which owns QFC and Fred Meyer stores in the Northwest.
“We’re seeing great success with these, especially in the Midwest,” she said.
Starting this month, Humming Hemp items can also be found at Huckleberry’s locations in Eastern Washington.
There are five flavors of Humming Hemp hummingbars: almond and chocolate; honey and cinnamon; lavender pistachio and blueberry; pumpkin seed and spice; and seed and date.
All five feature a base of American-grown hemp hearts and raw USA honey sources from humble honey co. They’re certified RAW/CLEAN, gluten-free, dairy free, paleo, and non-GMO. Each bar has 12 grams of complete protein and all 20 amino acids. This moves them into the ‘superfood’ category in terms of nutritional benefits.
Kelsay hopes that, rather than being seen as a specialty food item, shoppers will make Humming Hemp products a pantry staple as a healthy option for families concerned about eating well.
Part of getting families excited about Humming Hemp items includes educating them about the hemp plant, which has plenty of uses, from fiber to food to being able to benefit and restore soil health.
It is in the same genetic family as hops and cannabis. However, legal industrial hemp has less than .3 percent THC, a compound responsible for the traditional marijuana ‘high.’ This is why hemp products can be sold nationwide, while higher THC products are restricted to certain stores in legal-use states.
Humming Hemp doesn’t include CBD, another natural compound in cannabis believed to have healing properties. CBD isn’t allowed in commercial food products in Washington.
Kelsay, a mother of three, spent several months creating the recipes for hummingbars. The actual bars are produced in Spokane Valley by Bumble Bar, which has been creating organic, gluten free and ethically-sourced plant-based bars since 1995. Bumble Bar also began creating granola in 2017.
The hemp sourced by Humming Hemp comes from several small family-run farms, mainly in Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Colorado, all of which use sustainable and regenerative farming practices, and avoiding chemicals and pesticides, since hemp is naturally disease- and insect-resistant.
“We’ve been able to bring it all together,” Kelsay said. “Hemp has become our passion as well.”
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