Hemp company harvests new cash

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & oilsCanada: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils has landed another round of venture-capital funding to help finance growth and strengthen its supply chain. This new funding will help spur growth for Manitoba Harvest!

No totals were disclosed in the latest round of financing from Calgary-based Avrio Ventures and White Road Investments from Emeryville, Calif., but Manitoba Harvest CEO Mike Fata said it’s a multimillion-dollar investment.

“This investment is to help fuel our growth,” he said. “We have been growing by leaps and bounds in Canada and the U.S.”

The company has been averaging 40 to 50 per cent annual growth and Fata said sales in the first five weeks of its current fiscal year have doubled last year’s.

Founded in 1998, the company has a blossoming portfolio of products, from hemp beverages and hemp protein to powders, oil, butter and Hemp Hearts.

It’s also expanding its distribution channel.

Before, Manitoba Harvest products were predominantly found in natural-foods stores. But now they’re in Safeway and other grocery stores — in the general produce section at that, not just the health-foods section — as well as more than 60 Costco stores in Canada.

While there is a general complaint about the lack of growth and venture capital available for Manitoba companies, Manitoba Harvest has been amazingly successful in that regard.

It is the third round of investment from Avrio, a venture-capital firm that specializes in industrial bio-products, nutraceutical ingredients and food-technology companies. White Road becomes its first U.S. investment.

“It speaks to our sound business plan and the kind of opportunities for our type of products in the industry today,” said Fata.

Consistently ranked as one of the 200 fastest-growing companies in the country by Profit Magazine, Fata said Manitoba Harvest may top the $20 million mark in sales this year.

Dave Shambrock, executive director of the Manitoba Food Processors Association, said Manitoba Harvest is in a great position with consumers who are demanding much more transparency about what they are consuming and where it’s coming from.

“Not so many years ago, Mike Fata started with an idea. He’s a global player now in the health-food world,” Shambrock said. “It’s a great Manitoba success story.”

With more than 50 employees, the company invested $1 million in plant and equipment upgrades last year and Fata said the company will be investing another $1 million this year.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 11, 2012

by Hemp News Editor

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