Hemp and CBD products have debuted for the first time at the state’s premier food show – the annual Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association Convention and Expo.
“I’m a farmer and this time of year, I’m usually in the field, so it’s giving me an opportunity to meet people I’d never meet,” said Jim Douglas, owner of Sticky Tomato.
Douglas’ gummies and oils, made in Murfreesboro, are among two of the first-ever hemp and CBD products in the expo’s 30-year history.
“There’s just tremendous interest in hemp products and grocery and convenience stores. The customers are asking about it so I think the opportunities are boundless,” said Rob Ikard, President of the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association.
Ikard said many of the products at the expo, like Sticky Tomato, are made locally, part of the Pick Tennessee program with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture or T.D.A.
“This is the opportunity for these producers to get their products in front of their retailers in Tennessee so they can get their products on their shelves,” said Ikard.
The T.D.A. numbers show the number of hemp growers has grown 12-fold from 2018 to more than 2,700 licenses in 2019.
“Those growers are going to want to find channels through which to sell their product,” said Ikard.
Jim Burns, the merchandiser for grocery chain Kroger, said talks for its stores are already in the works.
“The commodity is really growing,” said Burns. “A lot of folks are getting into that and we’re definitely looking into that area too.”
It’s exciting potential for hemp producers like Douglas.
He said he’s hoping to nail his seven-minute pitch to Fortune 500 companies at the expo.
But regardless of the outcome, he said the future of hemp in Tennessee is promising.
“It’s really exciting to see the misconception go away and for these products and this lifestyle and lifestyle changes to come in the light and be fully supported,” said Douglas.