CEO and product developer at Møllerup Gods Henrik Rendbøll initially began cultivating hemp for the stem, a highly fibrous material used for textiles and as a planting substrate. With the revenue from this, he began experimenting with the food possibilities, starting with four basic products – whole seeds, shelled hemp hearts, oil and flour.
“By making these different fractions, it became really easy to work with as an ingredient,” Rendbøll said.
Møllerup Gods (which translates as Møllerup Estate) cultivates a Finnish hemp variety suited to the Danish weather, working with seven different farms that are both certified organic and conventional. The company grows and processes the hemp itself, always harvesting and processing batches during the same period, and using mechanical means which never exceed 40° Celcius. Demand has skyrocketed, and it increased its growing area from 30 hectares in 2015 - the year it started - to 500 the following year.
“We now have everything from bread mixes to pesto sauce, beer and gin, marzipan bread, granola and cereal bars. Even goats’ cheese and salami with roasted hemp seeds,” Rendbøll added, all of which have been developed and launched in the 18 months, including a range of skincare products.
Working in collaboration with Ørbæk Brewery and Distillery it produces red and black ales brewed with hemp flour and a craft gin with organic hemp for flavour.
It also makes a mixed beef and pork salami with whole, roasted hemp seeds for a crunchy texture.
“We go out to meet and talk with different manufacturers to help them understand the raw material and how they could use it in their production,” the CEO said, and reactions have been good with manufacturers creating new products and sending it back to Møllerup Gods in order to fine tune the recipe.
“I just got back a product from a big chips producer and they have just made a hemp, tomato and spinach [extruded] snack. The idea is that you don’t have to make hemp the main ingredient in a product. You can add a small amount – 5, 10 or 20% - and you improve the nutritional quality or flavour of that product. We want to add a little bit of hemp into a lot of different products to improve people’s nutritional intake.”
Stealthy, healthy hemp
As part of this stealth health drive, the firm manufactures marzipan with 5% hemp protein and 15% shelled hemp seeds that are tailored to elderly people who often suffer from both protein and fibre deficiencies. It sells these to retirement homes.
“Snacks work better with this [population segment]. Sometimes elderly people have difficulty eating large amounts so if we can get a lot of nutrients into the products they snack on during their coffee break then we can help.”
Hemp seeds contain around 25% protein, 27% fibre and 32% oil as well as all essential amino acids, and a good fatty acid profile with 1.8% omega 3, 5.3% omega 6 and 0.8% omega 9.
Each product can be produced to organic standards depending on customer demands, Rendbøll said, adding that most demand for organic currently comes from caterers and food service.
Retail strategy: We wanted to bring this to the mass market
When looking for buyers, Møllerup Gods decided to bypass smaller, health food shops and target larger retailers.
“We only sell in big supermarkets. A lot of people were already buying hemp in specialist shops and online so our strategy was to make it easy for ‘normal’ people to be able to buy hemp, and they don’t go into specialist shops. Our focus was always to bring this to the mass market, and right now my mission is to help industry to develop new products with hemp in.”
In addition to selling via its online shop and in major Danish bricks-and-mortar outlets, Møllerup Gods currently exports around Europe including to Sweden, Germany, Holland and Spain.
It also exports hemp leaves to Germany. “Even though it’s classified as industrial hemp, which means there is less than 0.2% THC in the leaves, it’s illegal to sell the leaves in Denmark.”