Paul Benhaim, of Hemp Foods Australia, is optimistic about 2017 after finding new hemp growers.
Paul Benhaim, of Hemp Foods Australia, is optimistic about 2017 after finding new hemp growers. Digby Hildreth

Hemp seeds legalised: Local company set for mass expansion

A BANGALOW business has global expansion plans following the long awaited approval of legislation today making hemp seeds legal for food consumption.

Hemp Foods Australia is the largest producer of hemp food products in the Southern Hemisphere despite hemp seeds being illegal to eat in Australia until now.

The company's founder and CEO Paul Benhaim launched the business 17 years ago after discovering the nutritional qualities of the seed.

But until today, it has only been able to sell its products domestically for skin care purposes, with a consumption warning label attached.

That has now changed with the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation finally giving hemp seeds the tick of approval during today's Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.

It opens the flood gates for a whole new range of hemp-based foods with the use of hemp seeds in everyday food products.

Mr Benhaim has been speaking to restaurants who are planning hemp menus, large retailers who are interested in stocking its products, and a role call of household food brands which want to incorporate hemp seeds into their foods

These include everyday foods such as non-dairy milks, cereals, breads, pastas, snack bars, and sauces.

"We expect that particular part of our business to grow substantially," Mr Benhaim said.

The company is also developing a range of its own finished food products currently under development set for launch before the end of this year.

The market for Australian hemp foods is expected to quadruple in the next few years.

Globally, it is already worth $1 billion annually.

Mr Benhaim said his goal was to see hemp seeds become a mainstream part of many different food products, "not just (for) vegans, vegetarians, and body builders".

"Not only does it taste good, it's extremely nutritious for you because of its Omega 3 and Omega 6 content and highly digestible protein."

In great news for the local economy, Hemp Foods is planning to add several more people to its current 12-strong full-time workforce.

It has just finished installing seven new silos on top of its existing storage facilities, and is planning a new purpose-built facility nearby to expand even further.

The company's long-term goal is to become the world's largest certified organic supplier of hemp grain.

Mr Benhaim said he was both "very excited" plus a "little bit scared".

"We won't have long to celebrate, we have to get straight into the hard work," he said.

"Thankfully we have an amazing team which have been dedicated to this for a number of years... and we hope to expand that team as soon as we can."

The legislation change is also great news for farmers, who will benefit from new long-term supply contracts thanks to the security provided by change.

"We intent to really focus on teaching farmers how to become sustainably organic," Mr Benhaim said.

"We've got a great farming team who are based in Victoria."

Benefits of hemp seeds

- High quality, concentrated protein

- High quality 'good fats'.

- The only food to contain Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils in the most nutritional proportion.

- A natural source of B vitamins, vitamin D3, minerals and magnesium.



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