First published in Westword.
By: SOPHIE WELLS FEBRUARY 22, 2022
“Can you imagine being able to go to any restaurant in the nation and have a delicious hemp burger?”
Becoming a hemp chef wasn’t always in Boyd’s plan, however.
Hemp Way Foods founder Carla Boyd is visualizing. The Evergreen-based company, a maker of vegan hemp-based burgers, crumbles and breakfast sausages, is about to take one step closer to Boyd’s dream after securing a booth alongside the Colorado Department of Agriculture at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago this May.
“It makes me smile from the inside out when somebody can enjoy my food and nourish from it,” she says, but adds that she “never really thought [hemp] was in my forte.”
Her new calling came once her diet had to change. Boyd owned an insurance agency in Colorado when she developed gluten, dairy, corn and soy intolerances. Interested in finding new forms of nutrition, she focused her attention on hemp, and eventually sold her insurance agency in 2010 to advocate and learn about the plant full-time.
Interested in using hemp seeds as the base for vegan recipes, Boyd began developing hemp meat alternatives, with some of the recipes serving as the launching pad for Hemp Way Foods in 2014. After a quiet start in a few Evergreen restaurants and independent grocery stores like Lucky’s Market and Nooch Vegan Market, Hemp Way Foods’ big break came last November, when seventeen Whole Foods Market locations in Colorado began carrying its products.
“It’s amazing to know that people love and trust Hemp Way Foods, and they want to see it become a national success,” she says.
That national success is still in the works, but Boyd has high hopes. Hemp Way Foods was one of ten Colorado food companies selected by the CDA to appear at the National Restaurant Association Show, a three-day event with over 1,300 exhibitors. The conference is touted as the largest annual gathering of the food-service industry in the western hemisphere, and could be a “launching board” for business partners across the country, Boyd says.
Hemp seeds are known for their nutty flavor, relatively high amounts of protein and essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. The food’s nutrition and versatility are its largest selling points, according to Boyd, who wants her meat alternatives on the menu at college campuses and high-end restaurants.
“The crumble can do anything a ground meat can do,” she says, “from pot pies to stuffed shells.”
Partnering with an emerging plant-based restaurant chain is one of Boyd’s main goals, and she sees the national expo as “a really big start.” Looking further into 2022, Boyd plans to create an online cooking show called Cooking With the Hemp Food Lady.