Australian hemp food and CBD supplement firm in $20m stock exchange listing: CEO interview

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

CEO Paul Benhaim is a long-time hemp and CBD campaigner.
CEO Paul Benhaim is a long-time hemp and CBD campaigner.

Related tags: Cannabis

Australia's biggest hemp foods firm, which also has a cannabinoid (CBD) nutraceuticals and medical cannabis offering, launched today on the Australian Stock Exchange following a successful $20m IPO.

Elixinol Global Limited is made up of three entities and is spearheaded by long-time hemp and CBD campaigner Paul Benhaim.

Hemp Foods Australia was founded in 1999 and manufactures and distributes industrial hemp-derived products in Australia.

Elixinol LLC was founded in 2014 and manufactures and distributes industrial hemp-based nutraceutical, dietary supplement and skincare products, with operations based out of Colorado, USA.

Benhaim told us today that the funding would lead to new product launches across all three spaces.

"We already have strong sales and exports to 40 countries, but we have lots of scope for growth. For Hemp Foods, Asia in particular is very exciting, with potential in Japan and South Korea, while awareness is growing in Singapore, Malaysia and China, too."

Domestically, sales of products containing hemp foods have soared in recent months​ after the product was permitted for use in foods. This came on the back of more than 10 years of campaigning by Benhaim and others.

Branded range

He said the change in legislation had prompted the company to invest more in finished products, some of which could hit the market later this year.

While these will be manufactured by Hemp Foods, which currently sells hemp seeds, protein, flour and oil, they could be marketed under a new brand name.

In terms of the nutraceutical offering, Elixinol LLC will continue to focus on the US market, which, in addition to retailing CBD supplements, also created the X-Pen. This delivery system dispenses CBD hemp oil extracts in precise 15mg serving sizes.

However, Benhaim said the bulk of the funding would go towards the medical cannabis venture. The Australian parliament passed laws permitting its use domestically in 2016, and is poised to allow exports of cannabis-based medicines.

"This side of the business requires a lot more cap ex funding because we are building what we believe is the world's best GMP, pharma-grade site. The products from this will first be sold in Australia before assessing the global opportunities."

World leaders

Despite being slow on the uptake when it came to permitting hemp to be used as a foodstuff, the Australian government has lofty ambitions for medical cannabis exports.

Regulations that currently prevent exports of medicinal cannabis products will be lifted when Parliament resumes in February.

"We would like to be, potentially, the world's number one medicinal cannabis supplier," ​health minister Greg Hunt said last week, but stressed that exports would only be approved providing there were enough supplies for domestic patients.

Benhaim added this was a welcome development that would ensure the industry was not "left behind like it was with hemp foods"​.

He added that the IPO would also benefit Australian crop growers.

"This will give them confidence, and it means we can sign contracts guaranteeing we will take whatever they grow,"​ he added.

Elixinol's stock price surged 75% to peak at A$1.75 by lunchtime today, its first day of trading. 

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