Hemp growing indigenous start-up Kanapu Hemp is on the cusp of releasing a breakthrough product that will put it on the map.
Started in 2017 by co-founders Isaac Beach and Kirby Heath, and Simon and Lou White, the company is founded on organic and regenerative principles that embrace Te Tiriti O Waitangi, and care for the whenua (land), and people.
Currently Kanapu hemp crops are grown on Māori land at Waimārama (25 hectares of organic industrial hemp, now in year three), and in Ōtāne (2,500 hectares of regenerative industrial hemp that’s spray and pesticide free) on land owned and leased by the Whites.
Kanapu see growing hemp as a solution for Maori land owners, says Kirby.
“What we’ve found is an opportunity to not only benefit the whānau, so that they have fantastic healthy land when Kanapu no longer grows there, but it’s also an opportunity to untie our people from leases that might not be beneficial for them.
“We’ve found a gap where we can serve our people and the community,” she says.
Kanapu is vertically integrated. It’s the farmer and the manufacturer, and currently produces two food products – hemp flakes and hemp seed oil – in small batches (for freshness) from its Havelock North premises.
But things are set to get a lot bigger with the launch of hemp milk in early 2024. Kanapu hemp milk will be the world’s fourth, and New Zealand’s first hemp milk product.
“We have been intentionally moving into the value-add area of production, where there are less steps to consumption,” says Kirby.
“The consumer knows how to use milk. So instead of producing an ingredient product, we’re moving into more familiar territory for the end consumer.
“We’ve been working on the milk for a long time, since Covid-19, but we like to take our time with things and get them right. We’re about to take the leap and launch the product.
“The milk is our hero product, and should put us on the map. We have our own R&D arm based at Massey University and a food technologist who develops our products.
“We’ve just had our final trial and it’s tasting very, very good,” says Kirby.
With a distribution partner in place, Kanapu will pilot its 1 litre creamy chocolate and creamy original hemp milks in Hawke’s Bay through cafes, bakeries, service stations, and other non-supermarket channels, to understand where the product is moving, and how it is moving, before expanding to the next region.
Kanapu’s secret sauce for success? Kirby says it’s the fact that the company is indigenous and treaty-based.
“We are what we would consider to be an example of a treaty-based partnership business in New Zealand.”