Late last year the New Zealand Government announced that hemp seeds as food would be legalised much to the delight and dismay of consumers. Some Kiwi’s have been late to the party and condemned the change to legislation but is this due to a lack of knowledge and do organisations and the government need to provide more education on hemp?

November 12 saw the new regulations regarding the consumption of hemp come into effect. The Beehive announced that hemp seeds would be treated just like any other edible seed. “The Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015 will be amended to allow the sale of hemp seed as food. Hemp flowers and leaves will not be permitted,” announced Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor.

Hemp seeds are considered to be the most nutrient dense seed on the planet. Not only are the seeds filled with minerals, three teaspoons can provide consumers with 100 percent of their daily magnesium intake. With all these health benefits it's surprising it has taken this long for changes to be made.

Countdown's Scott Davidson, general manager, merchandise has embraced the change in legislation and acknowledged the health benefits of hemp. "Recently there has been a change in legislation regarding hemp products and there are several health benefits from the seeds including boosted heart health, reducing inflammation, a good source of protein, unsaturated fat, as well as minerals and vitamins."

However, many New Zealander’s still don’t know the difference between hemp and cannabis and assume that they are one and the same. It is important to note that industrial hemp is an entirely different strain of the cannabis plant and has no psychedelic effect.

While other countries have embraced hemp, the stigma remains in New Zealand, and this comes down to a lack of education.

Cameron Sims of Plant Culture, a hemp start-up hoping to educate consumers on the powerful plant, believes that New Zealanders have been late to the party. “I think a lot of people still don’t understand how it is different and why. New Zealand is one of the last countries in the world to get up with the play.”

Education will be important for the future of the ihemp industry. New Zealand retailer Foodstuffs has recognised the health benefits of the seed and embraced the change in the law. “Hemp products are relatively new to New Zealand supermarket shelves; only becoming legal in November 2018. It is a highly regulated food, but with significant health benefits,” explained Antoinette Laird, head of external relations, Foodstuffs NZ.

“We’ve seen innovative, local suppliers introduce New Zealanders to hemp, including The Brothers Green. As a result of being named the 2018 winners of the FoodStarter competition its hemp seed oil is now available on New World South Island shelves.”

Many New Zealand companies have embraced the protein-packed seed, HempFarm NZ promotes environmental sustainability and stands by the numerous health benefits of hemp products as does Kiwi brand New Hemisphere and Australian brand Coyo.

Countdown names customers are the driving force behind what is stocked in-store and hemp is no exception. "We’re expecting to see more cookies, smoothie powder and other new food development using hemp in the near future. Customers are often the driving force behind the changes in store so we regularly review our product ranges to ensure we have the right stock in the right stores for our customers and hemp will be no exception," added Davidson. 

Hemp plantings are at an all-time high across the country and with restrictions around the plant only predicted to loosen in the future, consumer education has never been more important.

“We’ll start to see more hemp suppliers innovate with hemp seeds and oils, starting a food revolution and encouraging food entrepreneurs to create change,” added Laird.