Eyewitness, Details magazine, April 1995, by Sarah Ferguson.
For all the new start-ups, there are also seasoned entrepreneurs venturing into hemp. Richard Rose is one of the founders of Sharon’s Finest, a natural-foods company that makes TofuRella and VeganRella, popular soy- and nut-based cheese alternatives. With a reported $4 million in sales, the firm made Inc. magazine’s list of the five hundred fastest-growing firms in 1993. Rose hopes to use his company’s clout to gain acceptance for hemp-based foods.
“We were pioneers in soy food in the ‘80s,” says Rose, a bouncy thirty-eight-year-old Californian with bushy blond hair. “Now we’re trying to do the same thing with hemp. We found out that hemp seeds are in many ways a better source of protein than soy, and they don’t make you fart all day.”
Made from sterilized hempseed to satisfy the DEA, his trademark HempRella cheese comes in a Jamaica Jack flavor and has a curiously meaty taste. It’s marketed with the phrase “Barely Legal” and has a cannabis leaf on every package. But so far the nation’s largest natural-foods distributor and retailer have refused to carry it for fear of appearing pro-dope. That doesn’t daunt Rose, who can remember when most Americans thought tofu was a martial art. His company has also developed the Hempeh Burger and plans to introduce a hemp-based beverage and ice cream.
“We’re trying to de- demonize cannabis in general, and certainly hemp in particular. No one’s ever gonna say that if you eat our cheese you’ll be out buying heroin tomorrow.”