Go shopping for beauty products, pet care stuff or food and wellness items and you will wonder why everyone is so high on hemp. It seems to be the new hero ingredient for a whole bunch of companies suddenly. In the last five years at least 30 start-ups have come up with products exclusively based on the ancient plant that is the source for cannabis and CBD.

“Hemp is the only plant-based oil with the miraculous Omega 6 to Omega 3. Hemp’s amino acids nourish the skin and restore visible damage, boosting skin metamorphosis and generating new cells. The magic lies in its elixir-like properties for skincare,” explains Nitin Passi, chairman and managing director of Lotus Herbals.

Growing portfolio

In 2021, Lotus launched a new product line, ‘Hemp Youth Glow’ centred on organic cold-pressed hemp seed oil. For its luxury brand SoulTree, Lotus launched India’s first Ayurvedic Hemp Range.

Sublime Life, a clean beauty curator, in its portfolio of 200-plus brands has around 25 brands that have hemp-based products. “Hemis, Health Horizons, Boheco, Herbis Botanicals, Rustic Art, Conscious Chemist, Daughter Earth are a few brands that have a well-crafted range of hemp-infused beauty and wellness essentials,” says Deep Lalvani, founder, Sublime Life.

Petcare brand Wiggles too uses hemp in its food and skincare products. “We have hemp in our dry dog food EveryDawg and Ykibble. Besides these, we have dog and cat treats - Barkstix Chicken & Hemp and Kittystix Salmon & Hemp. We also have an organic balm Heal-O-Rub, Hemp Seed Oil and Cannapaw Pain relief and regenerative therapy oil,” says Anushka Iyer, founder and CEO, Wiggles.

“Hemp and CBD oil are very potent and organic healers. If given orally, CBD Oil helps to relieve anxiety and stress in pets, aids digestive problems, combats nausea, has tumour-shrinking properties. When applied topically it has anti-inflammatory properties, reduces osteoarthritic pain and lubricates joints in senior pets, soothes skin rashes, and maintains healthy skin,” she says.

It is legal

The minute you hear hemp you do wonder about regulations, and also how easy it would be to source it. But Passi clarifies, “In India, Hemp-based medicines and cosmetics are covered under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1985, including Ayurvedic and Unani drugs. In 2015, the cultivation of Hemp was legalised by the Uttarakhand government in the state. Regulations chalk out limits on THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD levels. Hemp seeds from plants with less than 0.3 per cent THC are allowed. The THC levels should not exceed 0.2 mg/kg, and CBD levels should not exceed 75 mg/kg.” He adds that at present hemp companies also operate with an Ayush license, regulated by the DCA, which is also recognised by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade.

Iyer says Wiggles is the first brand to be certified by the Ayush ministry to use cannabis oil for pets.

Not just a fad

According to Iyer, Hemp is also trending because it is sustainable and ecologically friendly. It is also truly versatile and seen across categories, she points out. According to her, there’s some excellent hemp-based sustainable fashion coming out with beautiful clothes. There is hemp-based paper, stationery and so much more in the country right now.

While most of the hemp portfolio is concentrated in the beauty sector, Kolkata-based OG Hemp, founded by Shailesh Ganeriwala, Sarabjeet Rattan and Animesh Thakur flung themselves into R& D around hemp stationery. Their belief was that hemp could be a sustainable alternative to tree-based paper and save deforestation. “Hemp paper is carbon negative. The fun part is the plant grows very quickly. Besides, if you use hemp fibre, very little chemical is used in the process to create paper, unlike tree-based paper,” says Ganeriwala.

OG Hemp now has pivoted to making mono cartons. “Stationery, we found was not very scalable so we moved into packaging,” he says. Now OG Hemp supplies hemp cartons to companies in 20 countries. “Over 62 per cent of revenue is exports,” says Ganeriwala. OGHemp has now got seed funding from the government’s start up mission, and is pretty excited about growth prospects.

Affordability

While, as Lalvani of Sublime Life points out, “Hemp is biodegradable, organic and tremendously sustainable as it requires a lot less water, land and no pesticides to cultivate,” the fact is that sourcing of hemp, and extraction of hemp oil is expensive. “Also, the process is time and labour intensive. Another factor is the increasing demand for hemp in the ecommerce market and a restricted supply but Sublime Life has products ranging from Rs. 250 to Rs 1,700,” he says.

The opportunity size is huge, point out all the players. Passi of Lotus Herbals says that the global industrial hemp market is projected to register a CAGR of over 16 per cent between 2021-2026. “Global Hemp is revolutionising clean beauty and lifestyle like never before,” he points out.

It’s a Hemphatic yes for the product then!

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