Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jul 2003
Source: Intelligencer Journal (PA)
Section: Business Monday, Page 1
Copyright: 2003 Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Mark Hoffman
Bookmark: (Hemp)
Bookmark: (Hemp - Outside U.S.)


Hempzels Combine the Nutritious Meat of Shelled Hemp Seeds With Traditional 
Pennsylvania Pretzel Mix

Shawn House's recent personal life has had more twists and turns
than the hemp pretzels that he is marketing locally, regionally and
across the nation.

Not long after buying Hempzel Pretzel Co. in July 2000, House and his
wife were divorced. Several months later, he fell off a two-story roof
and severely injured his arm.

On Mother's Day 2002, while moving from his old office in Blue Ball to
one in downtown Lancaster, he was involved in an automobile accident
and hit an Amish pony cart.

"I started feeling like Job," he said from his cluttered office on
Charlotte Street in Lancaster, referring to the much-troubled biblical

"The way things look now, I've got nowhere to go but up. And, that's
where I intend to go."

The many varieties of Hempzels -- original, sesame, jalapeno and
garlic, as well as soft hempzels -- are the flagship products for the
tiny upstart one-man company that makes and distributes hemp-based

House not only makes his own snack edibles, but he is developing
relationships with other manufacturers of hemp products, such as
flour, granola, brownie mixes, mustards and sauces.

House explained that the nutritious meat of the shelled hemp seed is
blended with a traditional Pennsylvania pretzel mix to create the hemp
pretzel. The result is a smooth, crunchy pretzel that many experts say
tastes better than most other pretzels.

In fact, the sesame Hempzels underwent a blind taste test sponsored by
Food Distribution magazine, a mainstream business publication. The
hempzels did not come out on top in the annual taste test, but they
were awarded second place in the best-tasting pretzel category. Not
bad for a one-man show. Hempzels were beat out by a chocolate-covered
pretzel rod.

While quite proud that he is selling what many experts consider the
nation's second-best-tasting pretzel, House is already tinkering with
another Hempzel product that he swears is even better-tasting.

"It is a soft pretzel. It "out-Philly's' Philadelphia soft pretzels,"
House said, becoming animated and overly enthusiastic, as he is wont
to do as he warms up to a subject. "This soft Hempzel beats
Philadelphia soft pretzels hands-down."

House said that he has been working with two local bakeries using
favorite pretzel recipes and adding a new twist by including the nutty
nutritious hemp seed. The result -- a healthy snack food.

He explained that, like the crunchy pretzels, soft Hempzels are made
with a blend of unbleached wheat & white flour, Canadian hulled hemp
seed, gluten-free hemp flour and hemp oil. The pretzels are now sold
in bulk quantities, but House will soon be introducing a retail line.
He has been working with two local bakeries, supplying the raw
materials and working on just the right blends to make the best soft
Hempzel/pretzel available.

"They resemble a gourmet bread stick, but taste even better. They have
a great texture, like a bread stick, but they are much sweeter," said

They are flash-frozen and bagged and ready for sale to food
distributors, as well as restaurants and other places of interest.
House is putting the finishing touches on packaging for individual
sales of soft Hempzels. Now that he has the right blend of products -
pretzels, foodstuffs, as well as pretzel dipping sauces such as
mustards - House is busy lining up distributors for his products.

"Our distributor will be carrying the soft Hempzels, as well as
crunchy Hempzels, horseradish hemp & honey mustard and 100-percent
gluten-free hemp flour. We are always cultivating new sources and
outlets. At present, we do all the shipping out of the office here,"
said House.

He ships five- and 10-ounce bags of the flavorful crunchy Hempzels to
health food stores around the country, as well as to individuals.
Hempzels' biggest local outlet is Rhubarb's Natural Foods. Weaver's
Supermarket in Adamstown also carries a large line of Hempzels'
products. House can usually be seen at events throughout the region on
weekends selling the soft Hempzels and other products.

House is also putting together marketing plans to introduce local
eateries, restaurants and pubs to the Hempzel soft pretzel. At the
same time, he is optimistic that some will also want to carry the
crunchy line, as well.

"Look at the growth of micro-breweries -- locally and regionally. I
would think a high-end tavern or restaurant would want a high-end
pretzel," he said.

At times, it seems that House is doing a businessman's impression of
Clark Kent. He has this great secret hidden power, but he can't tell
anybody. In House's case, he has to convince mainstream businesses to
carry products that well, contain hemp and some of the excess baggage
that comes with that word.

Why bother with Hempzels when you can carry pretzels? Pretzels, after
all, cost less and don't require a lot of explanation.

Hempzels are made from hemp, which is a vegetable, like flax, explains
House. It is the oldest documented plant in human history. Its Latin
name -- cannabis sativa -- translates as "useful plant," and useful it
is, in hundreds of items, including cloth, paper and paints, as well
as food products.

"Unfortunately, people see the word hemp and think marijuana. The hemp
we are referring to is industrial hemp, not illegal medicinal hemp. It
is like the difference between a Chihuahua and a German shepherd. Both
are dogs, but..." said House, sighing as he offered his pat

"I also have gone to the trouble of getting a nutritional analysis
conducted of the Hempzels so people can see that they not only taste
good, but are good for you," he said.

According to nutritionists, hemp seed is high in protein, fiber,
potassium, vitamin E, vitamin C, many vitamin Bs, phosphorus,
magnesium, iron, zinc and copper. It also is high in a "good" fat --
Omega 3 -- an essential fatty acid, which has been linked to a
reduction in a wide variety of health-related disorders.

It should not be surprising that House has bigger dreams than just
selling pretzels.

"I want to revitalize the hemp industry in the region and America.
Lancaster County used to be a big grower of hemp," he said.

"Just look at the names -- Hempfield Township, Hempland Road. My
long-term goal is to contract with local and regional farmers to
supply the seed, nut and oil for Hempzels and other food products. The
remaining fibers would be used in biodegradable plastics, building
materials and other applications."

That might sound like a tall order. But not for House. He has, after
all, survived the fall -- literally and figuratively -- that followed
his acquisition of the company.

He may be a "lone eagle," of sorts, what with his devotion to hemp,
but that's OK, too.

In fact, in a corner of his office he has a decorative stereo set that
resembles the radio set on Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis when the
original "Lone Eagle" flew across the Atlantic.

House doesn't claim to be "Lucky Lindy," But he does admit to having
flights of fancy that include a fistful of Hempzels in everyone's hand.

For updated product and nutritional information, visit
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake