When Cheap is Actually Expensive

By Bruce Cohen – Absolute Organix

Reposted from Absolute Oranix’s Blog

June 20, 2012

There’s an Alice in Wonderland reality to our sector: things are often not what they seem. Even the most dedicated student of conscious eating can be unaware of critical information about food production and quality that can have a huge impact on the nutrient content and perceived value of products.

This issue came into sharp focus recently during a discussion I had with Amelia Karg, founder of Hemptons,  one of the leading suppliers of hemp products in SA (now through the Absolute Organix distribution channel). I questioned Amelia why Hemptons protein powder is more expensive than other hemp proteins on the market; how could our sales team justify this to our retailers? And how would they in turn explain it to their customers? I could see the frustration in her eyes as she found herself once again having to clear up the confusion. It turns out that hemp protein is divided into two very different classes: There’s “A-grade” protein like Hemptons which has a protein content of around 60%, and “B-grade” which is about half that.

The reason for the huge difference in protein content is this: Hemp protein is extracted from the seedcake produced during oil pressing. B grade protein is nothing more than powdered seedcake and contains around 30% protein. It really a flour or a fibre. To get A Grade protein, the seedcake has to go through a series of increasingly finely-meshed seives which progressively separate  fibre and carbohydrate from the protein, eventually reaching a 60% protein concentration. It takes time and it takes care because it’s a purely mechanical process and no chemicals or heat are used. (By the way, hemp protein is not a “raw” food – the temp of the seedcake during oil pressing can go as high as 70-80 degrees during pressing.)

Apart from all this extra effort to produce much higher protein content, there’s also the issue of underlying quality. Hemptons products are made only from certified organic hemp seed and the price difference between conventional and organic is significant.

So if  you’re buying/selling cheaper hemp protein powders, you’re very likely getting half the protein content of an A grade organic product like Hemptons. Expect to pay a less – because you’ll be getting a lot less.

While on the hemp front, did you know that hemp seed must by law be irradiated when it enters SA (it is illegal to grow hemp in this country). It means any locally-produced hemp seed products (such as oil or protein powders) have been made from irradiated (i.e. dead) seed. Far as I know, most hemp seed imported into SA is sold as bird seed (canaries sing sweeter on hemp, so the legend goes), but who knows if some of it is slipping into the human food chain. Hemptons products are all manufactured in Canada and then airfreighted into SA. They are never irradiated and can thus hold their organic status.

The hemp protein saga reminded me of a similar challenge we have had in the green food category. There are several green food powders on the market and Absolute Organix represents Garden of Life and its Perfect Food Raw green food. Often enough we have been asked to explain the difference in quality between Perfect Food Raw and cheaper alternatives. In truth, the difference is really, really big because of the way green foods are processed.

The cheaper products are made from dried, powdered vegetables. Nothing wrong with that, but you have to bear in mind that a plant is >90% cellulose (fibre), so what you land up eating in the cheaper products is mostly fibre – expensive fibre! Products like Perfect Food Raw are made from the juices of vegetables, leaving out all the cellulose, so what you’re getting is highly concentrated plant nutrition. Not dried veggies.

In both cases cited above the more expensive products are actually cheaper if you measure them by nutrient “return on investment”. There’s just no substitute for reading labels and asking those “dumb” questions.

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