From its humble beginnings as one of the first cash crops grown by American settlers, hemp is today’s comeback kid, and nothing highlights that better than Hemp History Week (June 4-10, 2018). Now in its ninth year, the initiative is stronger than ever, despite ongoing fierce battles over the legalization of U.S. industrialized hemp farming.
We spoke with Lauren Stansbury, communications manager for the Hemp History Week campaign, about how retailers can continue to cash in on hemp’s success while spreading the word about its agricultural importance.
How has Hemp History Week changed over the last nine years?
Lauren Stansbury: The campaign has grown phenomenally, with hemp becoming one of the fastest-growing niche categories in the natural products industry. As of February 2018, not only do we have legal hemp cultivation in 34 states, we’ve also seen a huge surge in U.S. sales of hemp food, supplements and body care products—reaching $133.6 million in the natural channel in 2017, according to SPINS—with U.S. consumers making up the largest market for hemp products globally.
We’ve also been wonderfully successful both in educating consumers and supporting the retail space, helping to place at the forefront these hemp products that are healthy, nutritious and sustainable. We’re not only giving consumers greater access, we’re allowing these up-and-coming brands to really grow the entire market for hemp, not just for their own personal gains.
What’s the focus for 2018?
LS: Our "deep roots" theme focuses on two metaphors: First, we’re highlighting the fact that hemp has deep roots in the history of our economy and early industry/manufacturing; secondly, we’re looking at the role that hemp can play ecologically in a regenerative organic agriculture model. We’re bringing this full circle: how we can connect not only soil health but the full ecological spectrum that needs to happen on the farm and in the larger food production system ... how we’re taking care of the soil, the pollinators and the people who ultimately are eating and consuming these products.
How can retailers best take advantage of your resources while supporting your work?
LS: There’s no cost to participate in Hemp History Week, but retailers must sign up by May 9. We put a lot of effort into making the campaign physically present in the retail space to drive sales. In 2017, with more than 1,500 retailers participating, our sponsor brands saw sales lifts up to 100 percent year-over-year on promoted SKUs. We help to coordinate market promotion of hemp products during that time (end cap promotions, in-store signage, demos) and to provide consumers with education.
We have Get Involved and Take Action! pages on our website where participants can request literature, submit events, sign petitions and more. This is really a grassroots effort, and we’re looking to every individual to invest in their own communities and spread the word around this issue. Education is really the core component of the campaign.
What’s the most important thing for retailers to know about hemp right now?
LS: I think Hemp History Week is one of many incredible campaigns in the natural products space where we’re wanting to connect the dots with consumers—not just between the healthy foods they’re buying, but also with social justice and environmental advocacy around the agriculture supply chain. The fact that we can’t grow hemp in the U.S. to produce for the largest world market of hemp consumers is absurd. Consumers can be very powerful advocates for legislative change once they have the right information and educational tools.