The Blooming Interest of Fortune 500 Companies in Hemp

Published: May 8, 2023

As public interest in the hemp industry develops, Fortune 500 companies are motivated to invest in hemp.


Some of the largest global corporations are opting to invest in hemp rather than cannabis. Although the cannabis market has undergone a spectacular boom in recent years, and analysts expect it to reach $76.12 billion by 2027, these corporations are playing it safe with the legally-uncertain industry.

What makes the hemp sector a worthwhile investment for these Fortune 500 corporations, other than its claimed holistic benefits? 

Its economic benefits, a thriving market, the potential for exponential expansion, and the passage of pro-hemp legislation.

Thus, with investment prospects rising in its production, distribution, and ancillary services sectors, the hemp industry has evolved. It has risen into a multifaceted business with multiple opportunities for potential partnerships and encouraging increased participation in the industry’s development.


The retail fashion industry has been a primary source of global pollution for the past two decades due to its fast and cheap fashion trends. However, the contemporary period of conscious consumerism seems to have shifted the winds of fashion, as businesses now launch clothing lines that appeal to mindful, planet-friendly buyers. 

Levi Strauss & Co. is one of the many big fashion corporations riding the tide of sustainable trends using hemp fibers. 

The maker of the iconic 501 jeans released its line of 55% cottonized hemp jeans in their “Levi’s WellThread x Outerknown” collection two years ago. The brand explains that cottonized hemp is a unique fabric adapted from hemp fiber for the textile industry with cutting-edge technology.

According to Paul Dillinger, Levi’s head of global innovation, the rough, linen-like texture of hemp, which “doesn’t want to be made into something soft, but into rope,” traditionally made its fibers undesirable to fashion retailers. 

Three years after introducing its initial hemp clothing collection with 30% hemp, Levi has managed to break the trend with this “soft as cotton” hemp design.

Regarding the collection’s marketing, Dillinger revealed that he is not worried about consumer acceptance of the products, and from the company’s goals, neither are they. Their goal is for the products to be so similar that “customers won’t even notice the difference.”

“So often there’s the assumption that to purchase a sustainably-made product is going to involve a sacrifice, and that the choice is between something ethically made or something cute,” Dillinger stated. “You don’t have to sacrifice to buy sustainably,” he continued. 

On their website, Levi stated the rationale behind their hemp fashion collection:

“Why hemp? Because compared to cotton, it grows quicker, uses less water, and leaves behind cleaner, healthier soils. Specially designed for Levi’s, this new innovative hemp yarn is soft like cotton – and easily woven into denim styles.”

Ultimately, the brand hopes to produce “100% hemp garments that still feel like cotton.” It is also actively working with various associations, such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, to identify hemp as a more sustainable material.

The denim jeans company isn’t the only fashion retailer on board with hemp. Fashion labels such as Patagonia, Toad & Co., and WAMA Underwear are also in the hemp clothing industry as new production technology allows the discovery of new hemp applications.


Coca-Cola, the iconic beverage corporation, is known for more than just its fizzy sodas. 

The popular brand has made media waves for its “daring” product ingredients, and it appears to be making inroads into the cannabis sector with CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in hemp and cannabis.

Soda sales have been declining, specifically due to a shift in consumer attitudes toward more healthy consumption. This transformation has pushed many existing businesses to explore new ways to stay competitive—one of which is the large CBD sector. 

In 2018, despite holding what appeared to be “serious talks” with some big cannabis corporations, the beverage giant quickly shot down chatter with a statement: 

“We have no interest in marijuana or cannabis. Along with many others in the beverage industry, we are closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world. The space is evolving quickly. No decisions have been made at this time,” stated Kent Landers, a Coca-Cola spokesman.

However, the beverage company isn’t a stranger to the hemp industry. 

Coca-Cola Japan, a subsidiary of the firm, invested with Endian, an Osaka-based beverage company, a few years ago to launch an “instant relaxation” drink incorporating hemp seed extract for the local market. 

As expected, Coca-Cola isn’t the only beverage company that appears to be taking the initiative to invest in the hemp business. With the traditional consumer market decline, several well-known beverage makers, such as Pepsi, Red Bull, and Constellation Brands, have also sought out the food-grade CBD and hemp beverage businesses.


Unilever, one of the industry’s largest global producers, has joined the rising acceptance of hemp among major consumer product businesses. In 2019, the corporation announced plans to launch deodorant products infused with hemp first, followed by a line of CBD-infused products through its subsidiary, Schmidt’s Naturals. 

Months before the first product release, Schmidt’s Naturals CEO, Michael Cammarata, stated that to comply with state laws, the company would offer its distinct line of CBD products in only states that have legalized marijuana.

True to their word, Schmidt’s Naturals hemp deodorant, manufactured from hemp seed oil, is now available for retail purchase at various retailers, including Amazon. However, at the time of writing, there were no results for “Schmidt’s Naturals CBD deodorant.” 

Nonetheless, more well-known brands are entering the CBD market and offering CBD-infused goods to interested consumers. Leading drugstore chains, such as Walgreens and CVS, have announced and implemented their plans to stock CBD-infused skincare products in their stores.


While big corporations are joining the cannabis and hemp sectors by investing in their opportunities through their existing retail and distribution infrastructure, not all may stay in the industry. 

The legal cannabis and hemp businesses aren’t nearly brewing the “gold” outsiders think. This seemingly poor performance is due to the variety of prevalent limiting challenges it still faces. As a result, organizations without the right mindset may quickly become disillusioned with high expectations. 

The industry’s evolution isn’t just focused on satisfying the interests of corporations and investors. It must also address the needs of consumers seeking the market’s purported holistic benefits. It must, therefore, filter new products and businesses to maintain homogeneity of motives and goals in its space.

Author: Deborah Agboola, Content Editor at Mariposa Technology

About Mariposa Technology

Transformative Ideas
The mission of Mariposa Technology is to deliver simple, point-and-shoot scientific testing solutions utilizing handheld Raman spectroscopy and proprietary data powered by advanced mathematics and algorithms, starting with hemp and other varieties of cannabis.

Our vision is a world of agricultural testing that is user friendly, free of solvents and chemicals, with quick and consistent results, all while meeting or exceeding the highest industry standards.

Our technology will bring the power of laboratory-level testing into the hands of farmers, researchers, regulators and more. PAMAP (Predictive Analytical Modeling Application for Plants), our first commercial offering, will empower the hemp and cannabis industry to optimize their crops, delivering real-time precision farming data at the click of a button.

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