What happens when a successful film producer discovers the health benefits of eating hemp – the protein-rich food that derives from the same plant as cannabis but has no narcotic properties? In Glynis Murray's case, she began farming and selling it to the mainstream market, and so began a profitable business, finds Emma Sinclair.
Glynis was keen to get involved with a business that made 'real stuff' to complement her more nebulous business of making films – and what could be more real than food, she says. Having read about the amazing qualities of hemp for food and health and recognising that no one else was making hemp for the mainstream market, she simply thought 'why don't we?'
"Stephen is a friend," Glynis tells me. She got to know him from the film world and he has long been a supporter. When she and husband Henry told him that they were planning a film to tell people about the business, he agreed to do the voice for them, for which she is immensely grateful. "He has such an authoritative and well-loved voice," she says.
"We took a while to find the right key products to compliment Good Oil and start to build a brand, but now we have the Oil, the Milk and the Protein," she says. Over the last three years they've grown consistently – an increase in sales of 30pc each year, a £1m-plus turnover and, she says, they are profitable.
They have done in the past and this has led to some misunderstandings, Glynis says, not least of all when a "concerned" passer-by once reported them to the police. But mostly, she says people are aware that hemp is a great food and although it does derive from the same plant as cannabis, theirs is a food variety which has no THC (the psychoactive stuff) at all.
All their neighbours in Devon know about their hemp growing business, she says, but there was a time once when one of their neighbours needed some fuel for a local bonfire event they were organising and asked to use some of their old bales of hemp straw. Even though the hemp has no narcotic properties at all, the straw does indeed smell very similar to that of marijuana when it burns – and as the bonfire began to burn, there were quite a few people looking at one another – wondering if they were smelling something that reminded them of their distant past, she laughs.
Two glasses of hemp milk gives us our entire daily intake of Omega 3, has no allergens unlike milk or soya, is free from GMOs and is easy to digest. Hemp protein has similar nutritional values to meat, milk or eggs. Unlike whey protein, it doesn't cause bloating and is really easy to digest partly because it contains the highest amount of "edestin" of all plant proteins. The BBC One Show did some blind tastings recently and hemp milk was universally liked by children and adults and for those who like to buy British, it's the only vegetable milk entirely produced in the UK.
Hemp protein has been available for a while in the States but Good have been producing and selling it in the UK for the past year. The experience of producing protein products opened their eyes to this really exciting and rapidly growing area in food production, she told me. They've spent the last two years developing a new hemp protein, their first foray into a mainstream market. They believe this will open them up to a sizeable new market in which they can compete and they're currently fundraising, to allow them to fully capitalise on the opportunities they see that lie ahead.
Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have both been long time admirers of her Good Oil and she recalls having to deliver several cases of Good hemp milk to a grand hotel in London for the use of Cher when she was last in town. For someone who's used to being surrounded by film stars, this is still a pretty good claim to fame.