WASHINGTON, DC — The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a non-profit trade association consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, has released final estimates of the size of the U.S. retail market for hemp products in 2011. Data supporting the estimates shows that retail sales of hemp food and body care products in the United States continued to set records in 2011, reaching $43.5 million. Sales of popular hemp items like non-dairy milk, shelled hemp seed, soaps and lotions have occurred against the backdrop of increasing grassroots pressure to allow hemp to be grown domestically once again for U.S. processors and manufacturers. Sales in conventional retailers in particular are estimated to have grown by 11% in 2011.
The sales data, collected by the market research firm SPINS, was obtained from natural and conventional food retailers, excluding Whole Foods Market and certain other establishments, who do not provide sales data — and thus underestimates actual sales by a factor of at least three. According to the SPINS data, combined U.S. hemp food and body care sales grew in the sampled stores by 7.3%, or $2.98 million, over the previous year ending December 26, 2011 to a total of $43.5 million.
Due to significant sales excluded from the SPINS data, such as The Body Shop, Whole Foods Market and restaurants, as well as the fact that many unreported leading mass-market brands of suntan lotion and sunscreen products include hemp oil, the HIA estimates the total retail value of hemp food, supplement and body care sales in the U.S. to be in the range of $130-152 million for 2011.
“The HIA is confident that the total U.S. hemp food and body care market over the last year  accounted for at least $130 million in retail sales,” says David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps which uses hemp oil in its top-selling products.
“According to data released by the Canadian government, hemp production in Canada almost doubled in 2011, with total acreage growing to 38,828 acres,” says Eric Steenstra, HIA Executive Director. “The HIA estimates the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. at $452 million, when including clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products. Steady growth in hemp product sales, combined with a substantial increase in acreage in Canadian hemp fields, further validates U.S. farmers’ concerns that they are being shut out of the lucrative hemp market that Canadian farmers have cashed in on for over a decade now,” continues Steenstra.
In August of 2012, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced S. 3501, the Senate companion bill to H.R. 1831, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011. If passed, the bill would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis. The language of the Senate bill mirrors that of H.R. 1831, which was introduced in the House earlier in this session. The full text of the bill, as well as its status and a list of co-sponsors, can be found at: https://www.votehemp.com/legislation.
“Introducing this bill is the first step towards a common sense policy on hemp that helps create American jobs,” says Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). “It is vital that all advocates for industrial hemp redouble their efforts to win support in Congress, if we are going to reestablish this economically important crop.”
Note: As of June this year, the market research firm SPINS has adjusted their original estimate of 2010 U.S. retail sales of hemp products from natural and conventional food retailers to $40.5 million.
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Vote Hemp is a national non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow hemp commercially.