Hemp's versatility as an ingredient and the richness of the nutrients it provides are big factors in its current popularity. Among other things, it can be poured as oil over salads; baked as flour; used to add protein to shake mixes; and even combined in granola bars or breakfast cereals.
Hempseed products have important nutritional benefits. They are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (including the alpha-linolenic acid known as omega-3), with a balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (1:3); full of complete protein (with all the essential amino acids, as well as albumin and edestin), which is easy to digest; packed with dietary fibre and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese; and are a valuable source of important vitamins.
Hemp ingredients suit special diets, including those that must avoid gluten, oestrogen, dairy and sugar. While hulled - or 'shelled' - seeds are often called nuts, they do not prompt allergic reactions as other nuts and sesame seeds can, and have a low glycaemic index due to their low carbohydrate content.
Following increased consumer demand in the past couple of years, hemp-based food distribution in Europe is expanding from niche health and well-being retailers (on and offline) onto the shelves of mainstream stores, and restaurants, cafes and catering organisations are now commonly including vegan, raw-vegan and gluten-free dishes on their menus. Hempseed ingredients are also used in nutraceutical products, animal feed and cosmetics.
When superfoods became a growth market in Europe in the first decade of 2000, hemp's nutritional benefits made it a natural fit for the market, and a few companies believed strongly enough in its qualities to build their business around the plant.
Canah established its processing plant in Salonta, north-west Romania, in 2007. Over the past decade, it has built up substantial experience in selecting, cleaning and processing hempseeds, using traditional methods (cold-pressing, stonemilling, mechanical dehulling). Unlike some of its rival businesses in this space, Canah only processes hempseeds.
The firm uses seeds from different varieties of hemp, from various countries, although its raw materials are mainly from Europe. Seeds come in different sizes and colours, and with a range of tastes, densities and nutrient compositions. The quality of seeds fluctuates from one year to the next, with weather playing a major role in plant growth.
With this in mind, Canah focuses on selecting only the very best raw materials, and adjusts its equipment accordingly, in real time. The commitment of the company to the quality of its products over the years has seen it reach ISO 22000 standard, as well as organic and kosher certification.
Research and development is ongoing at Canah and includes the continual improvement of processes and equipment, as well as the creation of new products with hempseed as a key ingredient. Both areas are important and require the investment of significant resources.
Success cannot be reached without enthusiasm, and Canah's employees love hemp. They consider it a precious gift from nature and are happy to come to work every day.