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Hemp industry needs aggressive approach

“The gluten-free aisle in the store is getting bigger.”

– KELLEY FITZPATRICK

Kelley Fitzpatrick grabbed attendees of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance annual meeting and snapped them to attention, espousing the nutritional values of hemp like a televangelist.

“You have to be aggressive with your research,” Fitzpatrick, owner of NutriTech Consulting, told the meeting in Winnipeg Nov. 12.

While the benefits of hemp are documented, she said the industry should be promoting it as the perfect food and pushing for more published research to support the claim.

The population is aging, she said, and with that, chronic disease is reaching epidemic proportions. As more people turn to the health-care system, costs soar and consumers are realizing that they are better off trying to prevent some of the side-effects of aging.

And where consumable hemp products and their health benefits are concerned, this is the opportunity to “get a little more ballsy,” according to Fitzpatrick. “Let’s look at nutrition!”

Consumers are ready to hear about healthy alternatives, so she urged industry to “give them these products.”

But processors also need to be aware that people still love convenience and “taste rules.”

Hemp has high omega-3 content proven in clinical studies. Omega-3 is commonly known as the “good” fats that promote better health and are a good addition to a weight loss regime. Fish oils have dominated in this market, Fitzpatrick warned, but they don’t have to be in competition. “There is plenty of room for everyone.”

Cardiovascular disease risk can be reduced by 39 per cent and the fatty acids contained in hemp may also reduce diabetes, she said. But industry stakeholders need more scientific facts to support these claims.

And while scientists test hemp as a food, Fitzpatrick said they should also look at testing hemp-based cosmetics and creams. There is already science indicating hemp can help reduce eczema.

Hemp, she said, is also poised to take its place as part in a major up-and-coming food trend: the move toward “gluten-free” products. Celiac disease, which attacks the intestines and prevents absorption of nutrients, causes its sufferers to react to gluten in food as their body tends to fight it like an infection.

As awareness of the disease grows, many choose to avoid gluten altogether just because of the perceived digestive issues. “The gluten-free aisle in the store is getting bigger,” said Fitzpatrick.

Two processors in Manitoba produce food and cosmetic products. And Farm Genesis in Waskada hopes to build its small health food business that features hemp seeds and protein powders.

Brad McKinney said that company is nowhere near ready to build a plant. “Our focus is on sales right now,” he said.

But Farm Genesis hopes to “sustain future farm growth, employment opportunities, and new startup industries for our families, farms, and rural communities with a strong research and development component to their growth.”

That’s research Fitzpatrick would encourage. “Capitalize on these opportunities and support clinical research,” she urged.

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