You don't have to be lifting weights to drink protein; Nowadays, people look for protein powders for their overall health and well-being too. Despite that, there are only soy-based or dairy-based (whey) options in the Japanese market. Oh, and let's not forget that the number of people with soy and dairy allergies is on the rise....
Today, we are sharing a new third option - ASAKARA PROTEIN. It's not only free from soy or dairy, but also produced in a sustainable manner. We asked their Founder and CEO, Masaru Hashimoto about their brand, values, and product story.
Q1: What is ASAKARA PROTEIN?
We are the company that imports organic hemp seeds grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides in the Himalayas (on the India-side), to create ASAKARA PROTEIN.
It is a protein powder free from additives, and is flavoured with only oats milk powder and maple sugar. We have been selling this Original Flavour since April 2022.
Q2: Could you share with us your mission and company values?
When I travelled to India 8 years ago, I was taken by surprise not only at the difference and richness in culture, but also that there was poverty in the country on a level I had not seen in Japan.
From this experience, we wanted to build our company with the mission to support the lives and well-being of the locals living in India, using agricultural business as a way to achieve this.
It's not that I was particularly interested in hemp back then. I accidentally ran into it when I was working for my previous company. I was part of a project that supported R&D (research and development) and QC (quality control) for food and pharmaceutical companies in India and the U.S, when a client asked that we look into the nutritional components and residual pesticides / chemicals of hemp.
For the particular hemp crop we researched, we found that it was grown in India using only natural fertilisers (such as the faeces of cows). Upon further inquiry with the farmers, we saw that they practiced agriculture in a way that took care of the land, as well as their surrounding environment. That was the moment where I felt like we could support both the livelihood of the farmers, and the health of Japanese consumers by selling this hemp as a product.
Even after establishing a partnership with these farms as a producer of hemp for ASAKARA PROTEIN, we are careful to ensure they are able to continue their sustainable farming methods that are good for them and the land.
In addition, we also use a portion of our profit to help the farmers more proactively by offering learning opportunities regarding organic farming, farming tools, as well as financial support. In this way, we hope to support them and their land in a long-term (and sustainable) manner.
Q3: Why hemp for protein?
From an environmental perspective, hemp is a versatile and nutritionally dense plant that grows well and fast with little resources such as fresh water and land. It is also resilient enough to grow well without the help of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. On top of that, the plant can be used in many ways; For example, we use the hemp seeds for our product, but the stem can be processed to make fabric as well as plastic pellets or paper.
Nutritionally, hemp seeds are rich not just in protein, but also contains over 30 nutrients such as fibre, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and folic acid.
Lastly, because we strive to support the farmers and their livelihood with the aforementioned program, you could also say that this hemp product also supports a solution for poverty.
In this way, I feel that promoting hemp can play an important role in solving for various social issues such as poverty, climate change, and health.
Q4: What does "Sustainable" mean to you?
In Japan, the word "Sustainable" is still a new (or imported) concept that many may feel is too complicated or difficult for them. But for me, it is simply making better choices for the planet in your day to day life when making consumption choices, or even just going about your day. For example, you could pick up some trash that you see on the street, or refuse plastic bags when shopping at stores. Choosing products made in an earth-friendly way like ASAKARA is yet another option, and I'd be delighted if you would try it out!
You can purchase ASAKARA PROTEIN on The Épicerie. It's healthy and good for you, the planet, and the people who make it, and works well as a drink or even in foods. You can head over to their official website for recipe inspirations on how to incorporate it in your cooking! (Japanese only).