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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
U.S. hemp retail sales are growing at double digits.
U.S. hemp product sales are growing fast. The Hemp Industries Association (HIA; Summerland, CA) estimates 21.2% retail sales growth in 2014 for hemp food and body care products, putting the 2014 total at $200 million. If other hemp-based products are added to the mix-clothing, auto parts, building materials, etc.-the total 2014 U.S. retail market is even higher at $620 million.
In food and personal care, popular products like non-dairy milk, shelled seed, soaps, and lotions are driving growth. Loosening regulations around hemp agriculture are also helping to spur the market, including the 2014 Farm Bill that enables U.S. hemp growing for research purposes and the 2015-proposed Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would allow U.S. growing for commercial use.
Sales of food and personal care have steadily trended upward: 7.3% (2011), 16.5% (2012), 24% (2013), and 21.2% (2014). Growth has been quicker in conventional channels (26.8%) than in natural channels (16.3%).
These numbers may even underestimate the market size. The association says that because its 2014 estimates from natural and conventional retailers exclude data from some key sellers like Whole Foods Market and Costco, actual total market sales may in fact be 2.5-times higher. (HIA’s sales estimates are supported by market researcher SPINS.)
The United States leads global hemp sales for food and body care. “The U.S. is unquestionably the largest market for hemp products,”HIA executive director Eric Steenstra tells Nutritional Outlook. “We don’t have any detailed figures on sales of hemp products in Europe, but indications are that they are significantly lower and more focused on textiles and industrial materials.”
Grassroots and public interest in expanding a U.S. hemp market are in broad effect. “Eleven new states have passed legislation, and new businesses are rapidly entering the market now that American farmers in a handful of states are finally beginning to grow the crop legally,” Steenstra said in a press release, noting that in 2014, 1831 acres of hemp were licensed to growers in Kentucky, Colorado, and Vermont for state agriculture and research purposes and that approximately 125 acres of hemp crops were planted last year.
But there is more to be done to expand. “Challenges remain in the market, and there is a need for Congress to pass legislation [the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015] to allow farmers to grow hemp commercially in order for the market to continue its rapid growth,” he added.
On the state of the 2015 bill, Steenstra tells Nutritional Outlook, “The Industrial Hemp Farming Act has 54 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and six bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate. Momentum is building, and we are hopeful that Congress will pass the legislation this session despite the difficult legislative environment in Washington.”
The simple fact is that consumers want hemp, he says. “As consumers learn more about the benefits of hemp, they are embracing it. Hemp foods are nutritious and delicious and contain a near-perfect balance of omega-6 to-omega-3 essential fatty acids, which doctors recommend for good health. Hemp is an eco-friendly crop thousands of products can be produced from.”
Nutritional Outlook magazine
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