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Hemp bar a healthy snack choice

Allison Peters, The Central Plains Herald-Leader

By Allison Peters

Central Plains Herald-Leader

A new product developed by the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie is packed with as many healthy and grown-in Manitoba ingredients as the makers could fit in, including an uncommon berry.

"I wanted to use as many Manitoba ingredients as I could that were healthy," said Janice Meseyton, project development consultant at the Food Development Centre.

And so she packed them into Hemp Power, an energy bar, with local flax, oats, honey, pea fibre, hemp and sea buckthorn berries from Saskatchewan.

The project began when Meseyton was tasked with finding a use for the skin of the sea buckthorn berry. Sea buckthorn comes from a bush used for shelter belts but its oil is popular for its health benefits, not only nutritionally - it contains vitamins and essential fatty acids - but also cosmetically for the antioxidants it has.

"I was looking at uses for the leftovers because they are very nutritious as well," Meseyton said.

Sea buckthorn is a yellow-orange berry with a tart taste similar to that of a cranberry, Meseyton said.

The plant is native to northwest Europe, Russia and China. Sea buckthorn is a hearty bush that fixes nitrogen in the soil and can tolerate salt spray from adjacent highways, according to a Province of Ontario website.

The sea buckthorn gives Hemp Power a unique flavour, Meseyton said, but the bar's not all berry.

That's where the Farm Genesis Group came in. They produced the hemp that gives the bar its name. The company began three years ago to help bring back agriculture industry jobs to the Waskada area. Farm Genesis is owned by 32 farmers in southwest Manitoba with 100,000 acres collectively. Hemp is the first product the company brought to market because of growing awareness of its health benefits, said Denyse Palas, marketing director.

"It's really starting to take off because of the nutritional benefits," Palas said.

Prior to the hemp bar, Farm Genesis had several hemp products on the market, including hemp seed oil, hemp protein powder and toasted hemp seeds.

The hemp bar was launched at an international trade show for natural and organic food in London, England, this spring.

"They are very into their health foods and healthy living," Palas said of the tasters at the trade show. And while Europe is a big market for Farm Genesis, the bar will be available locally at Sobey's grocery stores and at the St. Norbert farmers' market.

Farm Genesis and the FDC are doing a second development run of the bar before it goes into full-scale production.

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