Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada — The hemp industry will converge on Winnipeg later this month to discuss the bright future for this thriving category. “Hemp-reneurs,” farmers and scientists from all over North America are planning to attend the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance 2005 Conference “Crossing Borders” at the Greenwood Inn on September 29 and 30. Why Winnipeg? “Manitoba is the heart of hemp seed production,” says Mike Fata, co-founder of Manitoba Hemp Foods & Oils — one of the partners for the event. “We have the perfect climate, grain farming infrastructure and historic hemp culture to lead in the marketplace,” he adds.
According to data from SPINs, a leading market research firm, the hemp foods industry grew by more than 60% in 2004. New marketplace data is expected to be reported at the Conference, but in anticipation if Manitoba Harvest’s 2005 growth is an indication of industry-wide business climate, the boom shows no sign of slowing down. “We are on track to double our sales from last year to more than $2.5 million in 2005. That is up from the $50,000 the company sold in its first year of 1998.
Consumer demand is so hot for hemp food products this year that it is outstripping current supply. “In the past month, we have had a bunch of other hemp food companies contact us to see if we can supply them with hemp seed to hold them over until the harvest this fall,” says Fata. “We planned ahead for this kind of explosive growth and now we are on track for our best sales month ever,” adds Fata. The booming international demand for healthy hemp foods has enabled Manitoba Harvest™ Hemp Foods & Oils to expand their employment and production line to 3 shifts working 24 hours per day. The busy Winnipeg company has also added a new oil press machine and other manufacturing equipment to increase the capacity of their operation, which has been certified organic.
Since Manitoba Harvest™ is the largest integrated producer of hemp food products in North America, they can distinguish themselves from their competition by controlling production from “seed to shelf.” Because of this advantage, they are better able to ensure price stability, freshness and quality for their customers. Their new processing expansion will help them continue to deliver their products fresh on-demand — an approach that allows them to maximize freshness — which is important for ensuring the nutritional value and flavor of hemp foods. Unlike standard oil refining processes, their “FRESH PRESSED™” process that their new oil press features does not subject the oil to poisonous chemicals or destructive heat and the exclusion of oxygen and light during manufacturing helps to prevent oxidation and rancidity.
A combination of factors has sparked major interest in hemp foods. A favourable 2004 court decision for the Hemp Industries Association in the U.S. ended a 2-year legal struggle by ruling that hemp foods are legal because they do not contain THC, the drug found in marijuana, — a distant “cousin” to hemp. Increased coverage in newspapers and popular trade and consumer magazines on the many nutritional benefits and rich nutty flavour of hemp foods is helping to grow market demand. “Foods and supplements that offer omega-3 essential fatty acids like hemp are hot right now because medical evidence touting the health benefits continues to grow,” notes Fata. Hemp foods also have a strong digestible protein profile, soluble and insoluble fiber content, and an abundance of vitamins and minerals. “We are getting the word out and more and more people are learning that hemp is a nutritional powerhouse,” says Fata. “Education has been a focus for us from day one,” adds Fata, who had his in-store demonstration prowess profiled in Entrepreneur Magazine earlier this year.
Manitoba Harvest™ has been receiving impressive accolades for their excellence in the food industry. In May 2005 Manitoba Harvest™ was honoured by Food in Canada Magazine as one of the Top Ten Emerging Food & Beverage Entrepreneurs. In October 2004, he was presented with the Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) 2004 Young Entrepreneur Award. In February 2005, Manitoba Harvest’s meteoric sales growth was recognized with a 2004 Business Achievement Award from the Nutrition Business Journal — a leading natural product trade publication.
Manitoba Harvest™ contracts more than 4,000 acres of hemp seed production in Manitoba with 20 local farmers that are shareholders in the company. They process the raw seed into hemp seed oil, shelled hemp seed, hemp seed nut butter and hemp protein powder at their 6,000 square foot state-of-the-art kosher certified and USDA certified organic facility. Manitoba Harvest™ products are distributed to more than 2,500 stores and are also sold in bulk to manufacturers of bars, cereals, cosmetics and other products. For more information, please visit www.manitobaharvest.com or call Mike Fata at 1-800-665-HEMP (4367).
Other topics on the agenda for the 2005 CHTA Conference “Crossing Borders” include: Fibre Uses and Markets; Hemp Food Research; Protein Study; Testing and Analytical Tools; American Trends and Regulatory Advances; Feral Fibre and its Possible Implications; Statistical and Regulatory Review; and Successful Hemp Crop Production.
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