Seeds of change: exploring the benefits and business potential of hemp
The legalisation of recreational cannabis in Canada late last year prompted discussion all around the world about regulations surrounding the drug. As the second and largest country in the world to take the step, the expectation that many more countries will soon follow suit sparked a flurry of discussion in the FMCG space. Everyone from Coca-Cola to Marlboro were reported to be in talks about potential cannabis products.
While recreational cannabis use is still prohibited in Australia, many businesses here are instead embracing hemp since it was legalised as a food product in late 2017.
Changes to the Food Standards Code permit the sale of low-psychoactive hemp seed as a food in Australia. The seed therefore must contain less than 0.5 per cent of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Hemp seed has been available to eat in countries like the US, Canada and the UK for many years but only now is the full extent of its health benefits being recognised.
Australian businesses keen to tap into health-conscious consumers have incorporated hemp into a variety of products including beverages, food supplements, oils and skincare.
Inside FMCG chatted to a few of those businesses who are flying the flag for hemp.
Hemp Oz is a Sydney-based company that offers hemp-infused water, kombucha, protein powder, oil as well as pure hemp seeds.
Founder John Leith discovered the benefits of hemp after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
“I was recommended to have fermented foods and drinks which led me to discover kombucha. At the same time, I found out about the amazing superfood hemp, and it didn’t take much imagination to put the two together,” Leith says.
Since then, Leith has led the development of the Hemp Oz range and has built up relationships with health and nutrition professionals leading the way in research around diabetes, gut problems, food intolerance, renal disease and wellness.
“All this is just a start. I know that so much more is possible. My vision is to take nutrition into the future by delivering profoundly healthy sugar-free soda drinks to help create a better informed and healthier society,” adds Leith.
The Hemp Oz range is available at more than 120 stockists across Australia.
Australian skin specialist company SkinB5 provides a range of natural products that promote healthy skin.
Founder and managing director Judy Cheung was looking for a plant-based protein element for her superfood product when she came across hemp.
“We need protein to build skin structure. I realised the nutritional content in hemp is superior and it’s very well balanced. Steak has about 20–30 grams of protein per 100 grams while hemp has about 33 grams. In addition, it contains a lot of the minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids our bodies need.
“Hemp is one of the few sources of gamma-linolenic acid or GLA, which not only helps to soothe dry flaky skin and reduce skin inflammation, but it also boosts the immune system, so it can really help people suffering from inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis,” Cheung adds.
Besides the health benefits, Cheung says there’s an important environmental aspect for choosing hemp.
“Hemp is one of the most sustainable crops on the market and it’s very important to support our Australian farmers that grow hemp and supply not just to Australian brands like us but to the world,” Cheung says.
The Clear Skin Superfood Booster contains a combination of 63 powerful nutrients including organic hemp protein, marine collagen, probiotics, enzymes and vitamin B5. A teaspoon per day can be added to food or taken with water.
Cheung plans to incorporate hemp into more products in the future because she says the young customer base is looking for new, exciting and on-trend products.
The Australian Primary Hemp journey began with four good mates, a passion for agriculture and an interest in developing a sustainable food source that could be grown and produced in Australia.
It is now one of the country’s largest producers of Aussie-grown hemp.
“Hemp has a very short cropping cycle, it only takes roughly 100 days or so to grow. There are also varieties that are less day-length sensitive, meaning they can be grown at different times of the year,” says Georgina Beasley of Australian Primary Hemp.
The company produce four core products: hemp seeds, hemp oil, Hemp Balance and Hemp Boost, all of which are hypoallergenic, vegan, dairy free, GMO free and do not contain any additives.
“We are passionate about providing all Australians with healthy and nutritious products that are grown and produced here in our backyard. Likewise, we believe in creating a sustainable new cropping alternative that can be profitable for farmers in this time of hardship in the agricultural industry,” Georgina adds.
While the customer base is mostly the more “health-conscious” consumer, Georgina says it’s now about getting the rest of “mainstream Australia on board so that hemp can become a household pantry item”.
“At the moment, it seems to be all about education. People aren’t reluctant once they know the benefits and background information about the product.”
This article first appeared in the January issue of Inside FMCG’s quarterly magazine. The April edition is coming soon. Subscribe to the digital and print edition here.