KANSAS CITY — Now that PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, NY, has shown confidence in the hemp category, other food and beverage companies could follow. Concerns over legal issues should be few, provided products do not contain cannabidiol (CBD), but taste will demand attention.

The US Food and Drug Administration does not allow CBD in foods, beverages and dietary supplements since it is in Epidiolex, an FDA-approved drug. Yet hemp without CBD may not be a problem since the FDA in December 2018 said it had “no questions” about the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status for three hemp seed-derived food ingredients.

What about flavor?

PepsiCo in February launched Rockstar Unplugged infused with hemp seed oil, spearmint, lemon balm and about 80 mg of caffeine. It comes in three flavors: blueberry, passion fruit and raspberry cucumber.

Flavors and flavor-masking agents may offset unwanted flavors in hemp.

“Hemp oil has a distinctive flavor,” said Larissa Campbell, manager of research and innovation at Allen Flavors, South Plainfield, NJ. “While the exact profile can vary between suppliers, it can be grassy, dirty or nutty. Overall, most hemp oils can be described as earthy, which can be challenging to work with in products such as soft drinks.

“The earthy flavor profile can dominate many other flavors. One of the best ways to overcome this profile is utilizing flavors that complement them. Spice flavors, such as turmeric, ginger or rosemary, complement the earthiness of hemp oil. Pairing these trending flavors with a fruit flavor like grapefruit creates a rounded, cleaner flavor profile.”

Flavor issues are less challenging in other beverage categories.

“Within coffee products, utilizing a robust, roasted coffee flavor will mitigate the earthiness of hemp oil,” Ms. Campbell said. “The leading profile of the product would be the roasted bitterness of the coffee. In addition, a touch of sodium can help mellow this out as well.”

Flavor-masking agents may work in conjunction with flavors to create a desired flavored profile, said Brian R. Wilson, application lab manager for Prova, which has a North American office in Beverly, Mass. Hemp also may impact a product visually.

“In terms of coloration issues, the inherent color of hemp protein ranges from drab olive all the way to off-white and lends well to food and beverage products flavorings within the chocolate and coffee ranges,” he said.

Burgers and bread mixes

Hemp burgers and bread mixes are available commercially.

Hemp Way Foods, Evergreen, Colo., offers burgers, crumbles and Italian breakfast sausages that feature hemp in the frozen food aisle.

“To me (hemp) has a little bit of earth flavor but very heavy in the nuttier taste,” said Carla Boyd, who founded the company in 2014. “I sprinkle it on everything. I sprinkle it on salads and smoothies. I even make a hemp hummus with it.”

A 4-oz serving of hemp burger with organic hemp hearts and hemp protein contains 10 grams of plant protein and 8 grams of fiber. Garlic, Himalayan sea salt, organic spice and organic black pepper provide flavor. Lentils and organic brown rice assist in achieving a meat-like texture.

Hemp N’ Seeds, Morgantown, Pa., offers four bread mix varieties containing hemp: keto with 10 grams of protein and 20 grams of fiber per serving, premium artisan whole wheat with 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, multigrain rustic French with 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, and German farmer rye with 7 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.

Hemp contains all nine essential amino acids, said Richard Charpentier, founder of the company, which is targeting the at-home baker.

Hemp N’ Seeds uses different whole grains to mask the off-notes of hemp and blends different flavors as well, Mr. Charpentier said. White bread would present more challenges than whole wheat bread.

“Can you make a bread 100% with hemp? No, you can’t,” Mr. Charpentier said. “So you are going to need other ingredients.”

New technologies from manufacturers of hemp protein and hemp food products are improving the color and flavor of hemp.

“They have found ways to make it a little more yellow,” Mr. Charpentier said. “The flavor is not as aggressive. Hemp oil by itself is not as pleasant. They are coming up with ways to change the flavor and make it more palatable.”

Click the slideshow to see the latest hemp-based innovations.