The headline on England’s Daily Mail proclaimed, “2018’s shocking new beauty secret: Cannabis! No, it’s not illegal and it WON’T get you high,” then correctly touted Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, as a pioneer in the use of hemp as a health and beauty product.
“She was a force of nature,” said Joe Hickey, Director of Corporate Relations at Atalo. Atalo partners Andy Graves, Dave Spalding and Joe Hickey first met Roddick in 1995 when she was looking for a source of hemp oil outside the United Kingdom. “Anita had heard about the Kentucky Hemp Coop and totally embraced our thinking that farmers are key to quality, natural products,” said Hickey. “She was inspired by Kentucky’s reputation as The Hemp Capital of the World and gave funding, but more importantly, her voice to the Coop,” he said.
Soon thereafter, Roddick, accompanied by Hickey and hemp activist Woody Harrelson, met with Jean Laprise, one of Canada’s largest Brussels Sprouts growers, and together they started Kenex, LTD., in Chatham, Ontario. “We met Jean Laprise through Joe Strobel, who wanted to build a hemp facility in Canada,” Hickey said. “The group raised money and we opened Kenex in 1997 with the idea of growing and processing hemp in the same location and using the crop for everything from oils for Anita to fiber for particle board, plastics, hempcrete, and matting for automobile panels. It’s interesting to remember that CBD and the protein profile of hemp were not well known at that time.”
Graves, Spalding and Hickey harvested 1,000 seeds from feral plants in the heart of Kentucky’s hemp country and surreptitiously them into Canada where they began the effort to revive the Kentucky germplasm and Kenex began raising hemp and creating products. According to Hickey, “Kenex began growing and harvesting the Kentucky hemp seed for processing as grain, oil, and fiber. Anita was interested in oil for health and beauty products and was a huge advocate for that use.”
The company also invested in decortication and a fiber matting line to fill orders from US-based Indiana Bio Composites for door panel insulation and carpet underlayment. “We had plenty of orders for the matting, but the DEA kept stopping shipments at the border and holding them arbitrarily, for days and weeks at a time. The DEA stepped in to stop us at every opportunity, including sequestering birdseed orders. Eventually they succeeded in killing the business, but not our enthusiasm. The word was out!” Hickey said.
Dame Anita Roddick passed away in 2007, leaving a legacy as an advocate for hemp and for ethical consumerism and environmental awareness. Says Hickey, “She believed in the farmer and in natural products, and she believed in moral leadership as a way of doing business. We miss her and think about her all the time as we continue the work of bringing hemp back to the farmer and the consumer. She would get a kick out of that headline.”
According to the Daily Mail, the United Kingdom’s second-biggest-selling daily newspaper, “The Body Shop was the first High Street brand to bring out a range of hemp products 20 years ago. It was banned in Australia, but now one tube of its hemp hand protector is sold worldwide every nine seconds.”
Read the entire Daily Mail article here.