(This is the first in a series of interviews with industry leaders who operate in non-hemp-specific sectors but who have incorporated hemp into their businesses.)
Frank Reijnen, Managing Director at Health Ingredients Trading BV (HIT), Holland, is a seasoned international executive in the import and export industry, with business development experience in fast moving consumer goods, international sales and account management. HIT imports and exports organic products among more than 35 countries, connecting supply and demand to ensure a secure value chain.
HempToday: Tell us about your business in a nutshell.
Frank Reijnen: We’re a wholesale importer and exporter that deals in different kinds of organic foods – seeds, grains, nuts, dried fruits, fats, syrups and spices – all over the world. We are particularly focused on superfoods or healthy foods. We’ve done that for more than 12 years.
HT: And who are the customers?
FR: We have a quite broad customer base for our ingredients in the natural foods industry. Some cosmetics companies also buy our ingredients. These range from small companies delivering B2C products directly, up to bigger conglomerates such as Unilever.
HT: How does hemp fit into your portfolio?
FR: Hempro International (GmbH & Co. KG) supplies us from their broad portfolio of hemp-based products. We sell shelled hemp seeds to bakeries and the chocolate industry, and oils which can be used in food or health & beauty products. Hemp protein has been a very important product in our portfolio for several years, and these days we see the inquiries piling up because of the trend toward vegan diets.
HT: Your company puts a lot of emphasis on helping farmers. How do you go about that?
FR: Internationally we see farmers having difficulty finding a decent income in agriculture. The cost of pesticides alone is quite expensive, for example, which many customers who buy farmers’ harvests oblige them to use. But a farmer in the end is somebody who loves nature and the environment. We support them first by paying the costs required for organic certification. That’s because in the end we have a firm belief that organic products are more and more important for our bodies, for the environment and for the next generations to come.
HT: How do you help farmers reach those organic standards?
FR: We have all the organic certification systems in place, and we set the standards quite high. We have agronomists on staff who support farmers by giving them more knowledge. In Europe, we have a lot of well-educated farmers. But in a lot of countries the farmers haven’t been well educated, they just learn from father to son. We help them avoid chemicals and give them a natural way of solving the problems those chemicals create.