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Q&A with Natalie Moubarak, founder of +hemp

natalieAfter a $100,000 investment and an 18 month development process Natalie Moubarak has succeeded in her mission to bring Australia’s first true hemp water to market.

With the main ingredient* only legalised as a food in Australia late last year, Natalie was knocked back time and time again by beverage manufacturers and distributors. Persistence paid off and +hemp is currently stocked in 65 retailers including selected IGA supermarkets and BP stations.

Natalie spoke to Inside FMCG about her quest to get the product to market and her blind faith that hemp would be legalised as a food.

Inside FMCG: What inspired you to create this product?

Natalie Moubarak: I’ve had psoriasis for more than 15 years and I got to the point where I had to do something about it, as steroid creams were the only thing that would soothe the pain. After extensive research on hemp and its benefits, I came up with a concoction to mix hemp and moisturising cream and it has helped with my psoriasis greatly.

From there, I kept myself up to date with the legislation process of hemp and hemp-based foods. I wanted to be the first person to make Australia’s first true hemp water and share the health benefits of what hemp as a food has to offer.

Inside FMCG: Have you noticed personal health benefits from drinking hemp water?

Hemp-based water is different to hemp-infused water, which can be found in many retailers today. +hemp uses organic Australian-grown hemp oil rich in omega-3 and omega-6 essential acids, which is then mixed in water with natural emulsifiers. It also has gamma linolenic acid, antioxidants and amino acid. It’s an extremely convenient way to access the benefits of hemp. From drinking +hemp and reaping these benefits, my psoriasis is more settled. Apart from consuming hemp water, I also apply the same hemp oil that is in +hemp onto my scalp, which has really helped significantly.

hempwater

Inside FMCG: You were knocked back by 13 beverage manufacturers and 19 distributors, what made you stick with it?

Getting knock backs was tough but I stuck with it because I remembered what got me started in the first place. I wanted Aussies who may have gone through a similar situation with psoriasis, other health conditions or those who just want to be healthier, to know that +hemp is there to help. I wanted to create an accessible product to bring to the market which would suit even the busiest of people – everyone needs to stay hydrated and drink water after all, so what better way than to get this and added nutrients.

Inside FMCG: You took a huge risk, investing time and money in developing a product when the main ingredient was not yet legalised as a food. What gave you such a strong belief that it would be legalised?

I immersed myself in the legislative journey of hemp and hemp food and did plenty of research around the topic. I followed updates, involved myself in petitions and even joined the Greens party so I was informed. I did take a risk – albeit a rewarding one – by just having a gut-feeling that it was only a matter of time before it became legalised in Australia.

Inside FMCG: What advice would you give to people in the process of trying to bring a new product to market?

It’s cliché but I would say you should never give up. Every step in bringing +hemp to the market was a challenge and there would be times where I felt I should give up. Luckily, I had a strong support system – you should also surround yourself with people that push you to keep going.

I was also told to change a lot of things about +hemp for it work in the commercial market, such as adding sugar and preservatives to make it taste better and last longer. However, I stood by my product and kept it all natural by working with a food technologist to make it work. If you believe in your product, I think you can get it off the ground exactly the way you envisioned it.

Inside FMCG: What’s next for your business?

I plan to release new flavours later this year and to eventually expand the business globally. I’m also looking to make +hemp and its benefits accessible to more Aussies by stocking it in more retailers nationally. Other forms of hemp food are already in cafes and health food stores, so I think there will be an even larger demand for hemp water and hemp food when people are more aware of its health and nutritional properties.

*Hemp is a strain of the cannabis plant, it contains negligible traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent. It was legalised as a food in Australia in November 2017 after a major review by Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

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