Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada — Manitoba Harvest® Hemp Foods & Oils announced today that it has expanded its relationship with Wild Oats Markets, Inc. to include more than 80 stores in the U.S. This announcement is a good example of how the hemp food industry is taking off now that Americans are discovering hemp’s incredible flavour and nutrition — and now that the haze of legal issues has cleared in favor of the hemp food industry.
The hemp food category is one of the hottest in the booming $43 billion natural products industry — growing by 66% over the past year. Because they are the largest integrated producer of hemp foods in North America — an operation that has been cranking out products in Winnipeg since hemp agriculture became legal again in Canada in 1998 — Manitoba Harvest is poised as a category leader.
“Our products are quickly spreading throughout the U.S., and expanding our relationship with a leader like Wild Oats is a big boost,” says Mike Fata, a Manitoba Harvest co-founder that directs their sales & marketing. Wild Oats Markets, Inc. operates 108 natural food stores in 24 states and British Columbia, Canada. In 2004, Wild Oats reached a milestone and generated record net sales of $1.05 billion.
Manitoba Harvest is an award-winning company that is on a roll. In just the past 4 months, co-founder Mike Fata was presented with the Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) 2004 Young Entrepreneur Award, and more recently, in February, the company’s sales growth was recognized with a Business Achievement Award from the Nutrition Business Journal — a leading natural product trade publication.
In 2004, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) lost its case (vs. the Hemp Industries Association) to ban hemp food sales in the U.S. “The favourable decision and the media attention it gained has helped to drive sales,” says Fata. “The victory cleared up the false ‘drug’ stigma about hemp foods,” he adds. Hemp foods are gaining recognition from nutrition experts due to their impressive profile of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids, protein, fiber and vitamins. Chefs and consumers are seeking hemp because of its pleasant nutty flavor.
Manitoba Harvest contracts hemp seed production on more than 4,000 acres by 20 farmers who are shareholders in the company. The raw seed is processed into hemp seed oil, shelled hemp seed, hemp seed nut butter and hemp protein powder at the company’s 6,000 square foot certified organic processing plant in Winnipeg. Manitoba Harvest is dedicated to quality from ‘seed to shelf.’ “Unlike our competitors, we are able to promise that because we are integrated and control our process from the planting of the seed right through to our end marketplace,” says Fata.
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