My name is Paul Benhaim, and I have been involved in the industrial hemp industry since 1993.
When I was young I was fortunate to be able to travel to some beautiful and pristine places including SE Asia and the Himalayan region of India and Neapl. It was in these places where I viewed many piles of plastic waste that I was saddened with the realisation that, these piles would only grow. 17 years later and this still continues today, the pile get moved further away so they are more hidden – but they are still there. It was then that I dreamt of a better place – a place where there were no plastics and nature could be enjoyed to be in harmony with our lives.
Through my travels I took an interest in food, as in some of the places I visited such as Laos, Thailand and India – this was the common thread within the community. The part that brought the tribe together to re-connect before their daily tasks were carried out. Often no English was spoken, so I had plenty of observation time to recognise the importance of food. In some of these ‘poor’ places I noticed some of the happiest and healthiest people I had met, compared with the middle-class society I grew up with in England. It was this realisation that led me to studying not only the sociological aspects of food, but to the nutritional qualities offered in these meals. Further details of this journey are offered in my first book H.E.M.P. – Healthy Eating Made Possible.
The end result from this study was understanding omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids where a KEY ingredient to the longevity and health of indigenous people, and the lack of these ingredients was a KEY ingredient to the health issues experienced in so-called civilised western societies
Shortly after this discover my travels took me to Canada where I found my first hemp store run by Dylan Maxwell who was passionate about all the aspects of hemp, hemp for paper, hemp for clothing hemp for fuel (at that time he had been running his car on hemp fuel and biodiesel for a number of years) and hemp food. The hemp food part made me suspect of his facts, so I quizzed him knowing a little about nutrition. He then spouted on about the high content of omega-3 and omega-6 content and that changed my life. I proceeded around the world looking for experts in the field of nutrition and fats, meeting with the likes of Dr Udo Erasmus (Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill) who all confirmed by beliefs. When I quizzed Udo why he did not promote hemp seed/oil products he answered that there was a negative conception of hemp as a drug that he did not want to become involved in. He then confirmed that hemp had absolutely NO drug properties and was not illegal like cannabis in any form.
That was the start of my journey. I returned back to Europe where I naively, yet eagerly offered my time as a volunteer to anyone involved with promoting the health benefits of industrial hemp seed. This eagerness was not met with success – no one was promoting hemp seed in Europe at that time. Having returned from the Himalaya I felt (and still believe) there are no limits to the possibilities that one can create. This led me to sourcing hemp seed form Hungarian farmers who had been growing for centuries. Back in the UK, I found myself with a ton of hemp seed and searched then for a baker. I made up a recipe from what I had learnt on my travels, blended with what I had studied about nutrition. My goal was to create a healthy snack bar – something that contained high amounts of essential fatty acids in various natural forms, yet was sweet enough and ‘normal’ enough for people to eat because they enjoyed the taste. This led to Europe’s first commercial hemp food product.
After some time of selling this product to friends, and local health food stores I ventured into health food trade shows around Europe. One day in Germany I was approached by an American requesting an order which at that time I found massive, ‘how long will it take to supply me with 10,000 bars?’. I rushed home excitedly to the baker I had been working with on Anglesey, North Wales who apologised and told me this was too large for him. He introduced me to another baker who took on production. That baker still produces the bar today. That snack bar moved from a few thousand bars per year to multi-millions of bars per year and it is now sold under numerous labels, in numerous countries and in every major supermarket in the UK and Europe.
The success of this product took me back to focus on my original dream – how do I take essential fatty acids, in the form of hemp seed to as many people as possible. I then found successful brand owners and manufactures of products including bread, pasta, sauces and other snacks. I consulted with them to introduce hemp seed and what I had learnt in the manufacturing process’ and slowly but surely created hemp seed brands for these companies. I then continued to support them through marketing of the products with a delicate balance of information around what hemp seed is.
One of my favourite and fun products was my dream of creating a hemp milk. I already drank this daily and thought about creating a long-life milk for sale, similar to soy milk, but without the hormone affecting ingredients, and with the extra nutritional qualities that hemp seed contained. I developed a milk on a commercial scale but was not happy with the heat treating required for long life, so this led me to finding a non-heat process that used a lot of hemp milk – ice cream. Ice cream was sweet, everyone loved it and I could use just hemp milk as the base. Most people in the UK at this time would be aware of Mr Trippy. An ice cream van I purchased and painted with all the benefits of hemp seed. Sponsored by all the companies I had helped over the years, I travelled around the country around 15 times in one year moving from festival to festival, event to event. I found myself promoting all aspects of the industrial hemp plant – wearing hemp clothes, selling hemp ice cream in various flavours, hemp soups with hemp bread and hemp drinks and much more. This promotional vehicle was far more successful than I had imagined and had queues of young and old people alike queuing for up to an hour to buy all things hemp.
During the peak of my success in the UK a friend at a local university specialising in biocomposites asked me if I had ever wanted to make a plastic using hemp. Had I! This was a dream I felt that would be hard to realise with hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, during the winters when Mr Trippy went into storage I was offered the opportunity to make some compounding trials that eventually led me to investing in what was the first hemp plastic material in the world since Henry Ford originally toyed with the idea. I chose a frisbee as the first product with the idea it could be used as a business card for companies wanting to promote their eco-sustainability. I wanted to see who else was interested in using this material in larger quantities. Although only 25% hemp, the product was expensive in comparison to regular plastics and at that time there was little market acceptance.
I believed a new method of marketing was required, so I produced CD and DVD cases from hemp plastic. I promoted these to the likes of Madonna, Sting, Michael Franti and others who seemed to believe in the eco-sustainability of our planet. Having spent a good deal of money on this, I soon realised the basic truth in our world economy – it’s money driven! If it costs more, these artists management were not interested. Particularly at a time when the digitial music industry was seriously threatening CD and DVDs. Standing up for my beliefs I created two music cd’s based around the 100% hemp didgeridoo with friends playing harp flute and other angelic music, with printed inserts on hemp paper and packaged in these hemp plastic cd cases. They are still selling well today!
During this same time I was of course networking with all those in Europe and North America involved in hemp business’ Everything from textiles, paper and more.
Around this same time (2000) I was headhunted by a Brisbane based company that had a dream for hemp. An all encompassing vision and they wanted me to start Hemp Foods Australia. I accepted, knowing that although the legislation for hemp foods in Australia was not supportive that their promise of this changing was an opportunity to support the growth of hemp foods in a country from the ground up. I worked with manufacturers in various states and created a new an improved ice-cream, produced new and improved and cheaper snack bars and worked with very well known mainstream Australian and multi-national brand names for the potential of hemp breads, hemp milk and more. I married this up with written interest by all the supermarket chains in Australia that as soon as the product was legal they would move ahead.
All seemed fine, including feeling so at home in Australia I had my first child, Jarien whose mother ate significant amounts of hemp seed oil leading up to and after his birth. After a few years all seemed to ‘turn to pot’ as the legislation did not seem like changing. Australia is still today (2010) the last western country in the world to allow hemp seed as a food, despite the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) 4 year study that confirmed it was safe and good for the Australian people. A hand written note by the then Prime Minister John Howard ‘hemp, now way’ seemed to veto the years of lobbying we thought we were successful in over most states and most Ministers.
Having a couple of years break from the hemp industry I proceeded to follow my path of nutrition where I wrote a book Living Food Recipes, produced a TV series DVD Not The Cooking Show, facilitated retreats in Australia and Indonesia and ran a 5 star health resort. I also assisted others in setting up sustainable communities. Writing business proposals and plans including the sociological and legal foundations required for such ventures.
Around this time I also setup a hemp oil based cosmetic range. Your skin is your largest organ, so why not get people to ingest hemp oil legally through their skin? I created a multi-level marketing business for hemp oil products from the ground up. I wrote hundreds of pages of support documents for each products and created teams of people around the country who were passionate about growing this range. A time came when my manufacturing partner was not interested in becoming a large corporation with shareholders or investors, but staying a small wholly owned business. My interest has always been in taking hemp BIG, taking hemp to the mainstream, so I left her with the business which continues successfully to this day, albeit as a small wholesale/ retail business.
Although I was having fun, when I was offered an opportunity to commercialise a material that I believed would change the world I grabbed the opportunity. After a year of study I chose, for the first time to ‘put all my eggs in one basket’ and focus purely on the commercialisation of ‘Zelfo’ – a 100% cellulose (hemp or waste paper) based (no glues or resins) biodegradable material. I raised over $1m and, something a little out of my comfort zone, built a world-breaking uniquely engineered factory from the ground up. The team I had were great and we managed to start producing a great range of high value objects that we thought would take the world by storm and get everyone wanting to produce the material around the world. The factory was only meant to be an example. In about 2008 I left this business, not because I changed my mind about the material – but because I had believed manufacturers would jump at the chance to change their ways and setup new manufacturing facilities. I was wrong. No one wanted to invest in new machinery. Therefore we realised that to successfully commercialise this material a Joint Venture with a large corporation was required, and this takes time and possibly the production of a $15m pilot plant to show them the possibility. This is when I ran of cash and was forced to pass the baton on to others with bigger pockets. I hope this material succeeds one day.
After some contemplation I realised this was an opportunity for me to re-evaluate my direction. I had learnt many corporate skills during this business since I had been put on weekend courses that cost $10,000, and experienced working with some great people from various industries and executive management globally. It was then I realised that my skills were a) in setting up or growing small business’ with a vision to become bigger, b) marketing and promoting such business both offline and online. With the belief that the world is changing in greater ways than we can imagine, and that there is a need to protect our planet, all the species that live here including nature something different had to be done. So I first decided to get all the information out of my head and onto (e)paper. I then decided to call up my friends and colleagues in America, Europe, Africa and of course Australasia who had been involved in the industry for 10-20 and sometimes more years. I asked their opinions on the state of their particular industry, be it paper, textiles, automotive, growing or other hemp related industry. I have shared most of those findings in 6 new books and mini guides entitled: Growing Hemp For Profit, Build A House From Hemp, Hemp Textile Business, Hemp Fuel Guide, Hemp Paper Guide, Hemp Bodycare Guide and Hemp Plastic Industry.
In Australia I have decided to help move the industry forward by creating a national think tank and commercially representative body called the Australian Hemp Foundation. This is supported by the state bodies of NSW, QLD, VIC and TAS.
Having just updated my foundational websites www.hemp.co.uk (information and product examples), www.hempplastic.com (raw material and product creation from the best hemp plastic materials) and new websites for the ebooks (with affiliate programs to support others supporting hemp), I found two projects that I believe are ideal for my expertise right now. The first is representing a new hemp plastic material that has large production at a good price and can be used on ANY standard injection moulding machine. The second is representing a new building material technology (www.thehempbuilder.com) that can be approved by local councils and made with hemp without requiring the need for large processing machinery.
I now consult for those wanting to create an environmental brand/product for their business, ideally their hemp business.
My main focus to is in supporting other’s business rather than my own. Although not the most profitable route, this allows me to complete my original goal – take hemp and its uses to the mainstream as soon as possible. Thinking globally, but acting locally I now consult to others interested in setting up their own hemp business or brand. This is usually an existing business interested in an eco range, someone new to business, a larger corporation wanting an independent specialist knowledgeable about hemp and eco marketing, or an existing hemp company want to streamline, expand and increase their profits.
Having helped numerous business move through ideas to successful product and marketing I dream of sharing this with whoever I meet.
Remembering this statement by Mahatma Gandhi, we move together to respect. Respect of our planet, all people, all living beings and all ideas that are supportive to our sustainable evolution.
“Every good movement passes through five stages… indifference, ridicule, abuse, repression and respect.”
I look forward to growing and building with you.
Business Leader & Coach
AUTHOR, H.E.M.P. – Healthy Eating Made Possible
AUTHOR, Modern Introduction To Hemp
AUTHOR, Growing Hemp For Profit
co-AUTHOR, Building with Hemp
AUTHOR, The Hemp Plastic Business
AUTHOR, The Hemp Textile Business
AUTHOR, The Hemp Cosmetics Business
AUTHOR, The Medical Marijuana Industry
AUTHOR, Living Food Recipes
PRODUCER & LEAD, Not The Cooking Show
PRODUCER & LEAD, Fields of Green
PRODUCER & LEAD, Oceans of Blue
co-FOUNDER Zelfo Australia
co-FOUNDER Higher Nature
co-FOUNDER Lotus Community