BOULDER – Historically, of course, it has been about the most useful weed around. And thanks to some energetic and committed Boulder County entrepreneurs, you can add nondairy ice cream to the many and varied uses of hemp.
“We made a few batches for sales in 1998 for the Boulder Creek Festival,” recalled Susan Squibb, the co-owner and president of Hemp Sources Inc. of Boulder. “It was kind of a proof of concept.”
Actually, Squibb’s husband, Agua Das, had been challenged to make ice cream out of hemp seeds, but what began as the couple hand-churning out some batches with the old rock salt and ice method has evolved into distribution stretching into nine states.
Das, who is an engineer by training and is involved in alternative fuels (including hemp fuels) is still very much involved in the company.
The company’s Hemp I Scream sandwiches quickly became a staple at Red Rocks Amphitheater events and subsequently the 1stBank Center concerts in Broomfield. The Hemp I Scream sandwiches and pints are retailed at Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage stores and soon will be distributed to nine states.
“It was really more of a curiosity at first — a way to do hemp information,” she said. “But we’ve got a loyal following, … and we feel we’re about to catapult (in sales).
“We are amazed at the growth that’s happening and the interest that people have shown — not only in Colorado but across the country,” she said. “There’s a growing awareness of hemp agricultural in the United States, and the primary things we have is a one-of-a-kind product, a local following and a big part in the cannabis culture in Colorado.”
But don’t get the wrong idea. While medical-marijuana outlets produce confections to imbibe the psychoactive elements of cannabis (mostly THC — tetrahydrocannabinol), the Hemp I Scream is decidedly nonmedicinal, unless perhaps it’s a sugar high you are craving.
The company claims the nondairy treats are decidedly healthy, as the hemp seeds used to create the nondairy milk have more protein than cow’s milk, are high in healthy omega fats, and the carbohydrates are contained in fiber.
“It’s really a nutritional powerhouse,” Squibb said. The hemp-seed milk is created in a similar process to that of soy milk, she said, “but it’s much easier to digest because it’s seeds, instead of beans.”
The nonmedicinal hemp that makes products not potheads was once a staple in the American economy. Rope, paper, linens, fuels and other products have been produced from hemp since 8000 B.C., and in early colonial America hemp was accepted for tax payments in lieu of currency.
Agricultural hemp was outlawed in the United States as part of the crackdown on its recreational use in 1935, but Squibb said Hemp Sources has been able to secure an organic supply from Canada for the last seven years.
“That’s been great for us, because previously we were importing seeds from China and Hungary,” Squibb said.
“We’re very focused on growth and expanding our sales base by using local health food manufacturing and expanding into (an expected lucrative market in) northern California,” she said.
UNFI Rainbow Natural Foods is taking Hemp I Scream to California and already distributes the product in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Minnesota, Texas, Wyoming, Kansas and Utah.
“It’s been a bootstrap method (of financing),” Squibb said. But the company has taken some significant steps to ensure that production can be increased. Currently, the company produces about 2,000 cases of cookies a month — 36,000 cookies — which sell at between $3.50 and $5 apiece at stores.
From the first batches that were made in Squibb’s college dormitory, the company has rented various kitchens in Boulder and Denver to deal with the fluctuating seasonal trends.
The company’s biggest seller is the ice cream sandwich, which features oatmeal chocolate chip/hemp flour cookies. Those cookies are now produced at Udi’s bakery in Louisville.
The company’s ice cream processing has relocated to Golden, where three full-time workers make the ice cream and assemble the sandwiches. Much of the administrative functions have also been moved there, which were previously conducted from a south Boulder home.