January Recipe: Carrot-Ginger Soup

bowl of carrot ginger soup

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to eat more vegetables, this healthy and hearty soup recipe from Chef Stacy Primack will do the trick! Soup is one of the most satisfying winter foods, and this recipe will not disappoint with the sweetness of the carrots and squash mingling nicely with the crunch of the broccoli and bread.

YIELD: 4 servings

10mg CBD per serving


ingredients for soup recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 green onions (green part sliced at a bias), white part, chopped
  • 2 T. ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 (14oz.) can light coconut milk
  • 1 (15oz.) can cannellini beans
  • 3 cups water
  • 5 carrots, chopped rough
  • 1/2 acorn squash, seeded, chopped
  • 1.333 grams SōRSE liquid
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, chopped rough
  • 2 slices thick bread (like brioche), cut into cubes
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 425F.


2. Heat olive oil in Dutch oven pot. Bring to medium-high heat, add garlic, ginger, white part of scallions, and cook soft about 2 minutes. Add carrots, salt and pepper. Cook another couple of minutes.

3. In the meantime, on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan, toss squash pieces in olive oil and cook in over until roasted and soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

4. Add coconut milk, beans and liquid inside bean can, and water to Dutch oven on stove. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and stir often; cook for another 20 minutes until carrots have softened. Add squash to this mix. Add SōRSE.

5. Toss broccoli and bread into bowl with more olive oil with salt and pepper, spread onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Roast and stir until broccoli is tender and browned and bread is toasted, about 15 min.

6. Puree soup in a blender in batches or with an immersion blender. Season with more salt and pepper. Divide soup among the bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and top with broccoli, croutons, and scallions (green biased-cut pieces).

What’s the Difference Between Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate?

cannabis plant and oil

Full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate refer to types of cannabis extracts, also called concentrates. The terms are intended to indicate the amount of plant-produced therapeutic chemicals present in addition to the primary cannabinoids (THC and/or CBD); they are a shorthand way of conveying the diversity of bioactives in a given extract. However, there is not consensus on, let alone regulatory enforcement of, definitions for these terms. In an industry with so much energy and so little alignment, it’s not surprising that there are widely differing interpretations flying around, yet the choice of extract is a foundational decision for producers.

To understand the relevance of phytochemical diversity to product development, why these terms were coined, and how they may be interpreted today, we must first discuss the Entourage Effect – and to discuss that, we must first explain the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

The Endocannabinoid System

The ECS is an ancient network of neurotransmitters, their receptors and enzymes. It is present in all extant vertebrate species and some insects. It evolved a whopping 543 million years ago, right before the Permian Extinction, the event that nearly ended life on Earth. (Interestingly, the cannabis plant didn’t show up until 63 million years ago, in the late Cretaceous.) Humankind’s discovery of the ECS has happened gradually over the latter part of the last century, beginning in 1964 with the identification and synthesis of THC by Mechoulam and Gaoni, pioneering Israeli scientists. It was named by Italian biochemist Vincenzo Di Marzo (much of the most compelling and interesting research about cannabis comes from overseas, where research isn’t hobbled by federal scheduling), who initially outlined its influence in “eating, sleeping, relaxing, forgetting and protecting” in the early 90s. This system plays a critical role in almost every regulatory function of our bodies, that has been with us since before there were mammals, that survived a die-off of 90 percent of the planet’s species – and yet, due to persistent stigma around cannabis, we know relatively little about it.

Now that the curtain around cannabis is starting to lift, consumers are becoming more curious about which cannabis options work best for them and why. There is a lot of information out there, easily accessible through a Google search, but it is conflicting and muddled with anecdata. Most consumers do not have the time or inclination to deep-dive into cannabis science; they just want to know what they can expect. The problem is, the ECS is as unique as a fingerprint; everyone is different, and trial and error is inherent in the journey toward optimization. However, the chemicals produced in the plant alongside cannabinoids have more predictable and well-studied effects than the cannabinoids themselves. Knowing the phytochemical profile of a cannabis extract can help developers define and standardize their products at scale.

The Entourage Effect

The definition of the Entourage Effect is relatively simple: it is the theory that cannabinoids have more favorable action when delivered with a higher proportion of native phytochemicals such as terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids. This manifests as both amplification of positive effects (efficacy) and modulation of undesirable ones (tolerability). The term was coined in 1988 by Raphael Mechoulam (the same Israeli scientist who discovered THC) and its potential mechanisms were first illuminated by Dr. Ethan Russo in his landmark 2011 paper, “Taming THC.” Put even more simply, the Entourage Effect is a way of saying that, when it comes to cannabis, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The interactions between various cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are staggeringly complex; it will take decades of research to parse them. Fortunately, terpenes and flavonoids have at least as much scientific research behind them as ahead of them. They are already common additives in many commercial processed goods, especially cosmetics, and of course, food – plants make tens of thousands of different terpenes alone. They can also be synthesized.

The Entourage Effect is the reasoning behind extractions that seek to retain as much of the native phytochemical context as possible. However, this comes at the expense of standardization and palatability, so each use case will necessitate its own balance of values.

Creating Cannabis Extracts

Cannabinoids are produced most abundantly in the resin glands of the cannabis plant, called trichomes. To be used in processed beverages or topicals, these glands must first be concentrated, then their oils separated from plant waxes and other non-useful vegetative matter. There are two main categories of processes to do this: solvent and non-solvent. Various levels of technological sophistication exist within each category, and most finished extracts employ elements of both.

Solvent: In this method, a solvent is added to dissolve the cannabinoids, then evaporated, leaving a concentrated oil. Solvents can be further divided by polarity. Non-polar solvents, such as butane, dissolve only non-polar compounds from the plant, in this case the oils and other lipids making up the trichome heads. Polar solvents, such as ethanol, will extract both non-polar and polar compounds, including water-soluble compounds such as chlorophyll. These bring with them with strong herbaceous flavors, however many polar compounds are desirable from a therapeutic standpoint.

Non-solvent (Mechanical): Mechanical extraction processes vary from ancient hand-pressed hash to modern distillates. Using temperature or pressure changes, cannabinoid oils can be separated without the use of a solvent. Distillation uses the variability in boiling points of a plant’s constituent chemicals to yield very pure extracts. Solvent-extracted concentrates are evaporated and then condensed at precise temperatures. The resulting product typically tests at 85-97% purity.

Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate

Now that we have covered the reasoning and methods for creating cannabis extracts, here are the terms used to categorize them.

Full Spectrum means the maximum amount of helpful native phytochemicals are retained during extraction, including THC. There are no precise regulatory definitions, but the goal is to remove extraneous lipids while retaining an identical ratio of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from the original plant source material. (This can only be verified by testing the material before and after the extraction.) True full spectrum extracts are more rare than one might expect; most extractions lose significant terpenes and flavonoids during processing because they are much more volatile than cannabinoids. Ethanol and very low heat (the RSO method or whole plant oil), or an extremely long vacuum extraction process can yield full spectrum extracts.

Broad Spectrum applies to extractions which aim to retain a large complement of phytochemicals, but without the THC. This allows for some Entourage Effect action without the stigma and intoxication that accompanies cannabis’ most notorious component. Hemp, defined as cannabis plants containing <.3% THC, forms the basis for most broad spec extracts. Broad spectrum can also be created by either adding terpenes, flavonoids, and minor cannabinoids to CBD isolate or by removing THC from full spectrum extract via distillation.

Distillate takes quite the opposite approach of full spectrum, seeking to remove everything but the cannabinoid(s) of interest. After undergoing solvent extraction, the concentrated oil is run through the short-path distillation process described above, often multiple times, to purify it. Some suppliers will advertise “full-spectrum distillate” but this is contradictory. If terpenes or other bioactives are reintroduced after distillation, the product is sometimes also called broad spectrum.

Isolate is the purest form of extracted cannabinoids, a crystalline powder with a purity of 99.9%. It is created through additional solvent processes after distillation. The additional processing steps are expensive, but due to the extreme purity of the final product, cheaper crude extracts can be used as starting material without concern for residues.

Choosing the Right Spectrum

Both full and broad spectrum concentrates offer the benefits of the Entourage Effect. At first glance, it may seem that using the most phytochemically diverse extract is a no-brainer: CBD is a weak actor on its own, but its action can be amplified with other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and sterols. If your CBD product is relatively low-dose, having a diversity of phytochemicals is even more important. Beyond their potential therapeutic effects, all these minor players also give cannabis its depth, creating a symphony of flavor and smell, and ultimately making the bitterness of cannabinoid extracts more palatable.

However, even a pleasant symphony of flavors can have a strong personality; it will never be a neutral canvas onto which flavor scientists can project their artistry. Rather, it is a dominating flavor of its own – and one that changes with every batch of extract. In emulsions, the diversity of chemicals, each with slightly different weights, is also a challenge. Full and broad spectrum extracts are wild cards, and in large-scale commercial applications, the variability that makes them beautiful also make them unpredictable in terms of flavor.

By contrast, distillates and isolates offer consistency and standardization; they are a known quantity. Without much personality of their own, one can use a wider variety of flavorings to make the formulation really shine, and they are far more consistent in emulsions (as long as the supplier is reliable). The consumer can also expect the same effects and sensory experience every time.

Choosing the correct starting material for product development is a careful balance of values. For most commercial purposes, purer extracts are desirable because they allow producers to standardize and iterate based on known, reliable effects. However, for the more wellness-focused, the benefits of a fuller complement of phytochemicals are worth the variability.

At SōRSE, we have often sought to strike a balance between standardization and efficacy. Many of our products are what I like to call “Designer Spectrum” – they reconstruct the phytochemical profile block by block to yield a consistent but fully articulated product – similar to molecular gastronomy, but for cannabis.

SōRSE Employee Spotlight: Zahra Marin

headshot of Zahra

Meet our Manager of Quality Assurance and the Analytics Lab, Zahra Marin, who brings over five years of experience in quality management in FDA-regulated industries. Zahra’s background in Chemistry and Business Administration allows her to bridge different industry experiences with the goal of implementing thorough quality programs. After years of living in frigid North Dakota and the Midwest, she is happy to have settled on the West Coast and is now adjusting to life as a mother, having given birth to her first child at the end of December. She and her husband also love to travel – and their goal is to visit every state!

How did you end up working at SōRSE?

Coming from the ChicagoLand area and passing by Kansas, my husband and I have always wanted to live on the West Coast (the Best Coast). When he had a job opportunity in Tacoma, I followed and started working for Amazon. I thought working for a big corporation in a liberal state would be a dream.

After just a few weeks, I realized that working for such a big company wasn’t for me. It felt way too impersonal, and there was too much structure. Everything is tracked in multiple programs, no one knows anyone, and people just walk by without saying “Hello.” There are cameras everywhere, a lot of security, facial recognition devices, controlled access everywhere, you name it.

After deciding to remove myself from that environment, I found out about SōRSE and thought how cool it would be to work in this industry in the state of Washington. I liked that it was a startup; it seemed like a place where I could make a difference. There weren’t a lot of people here at first, but you could really see how everyone came together. I thought the building itself was pretty quirky and in an odd neighborhood, but I liked that it had personality.

Cannabis was not legal in states I lived in before, so I didn’t know much about it. CBD definitely interested me, and I wanted to learn about the fast-growing industry and see SōRSE grow with it. Working Quality in a company that uses CBD means that you get to do a lot of detective work and figure things out on your own, which is very satisfying.

There aren’t a lot of places where you are on the cusp of discovery, and here at SōRSE It feels like we are modern day cowboys during the Green Rush.

What have been some of the significant moments in your time here? What are you proud of?

The renovation of the lab has been an important project in the last few months, and it is coming along nicely. A huge project we have been working on is restructuring and revising our safety plan and making sure it is aligned with the company’s goals. When we have had quality issues, we have worked well as a team to find out the problem, gathered documentation, and investigated, and then were able to make decisions on how to proceed.

I find a lot of satisfaction putting systems in place – it’s important to get information out of people’s heads and into a place where others can access it. I am also very happy about working with other departments to organize information flow, how the team tackles major challenges and is committed to finding reliable information when they have to solve a problem.

What do you love most about what you do?

What I really love most is that I get to use so much of what I have learned in my educational and work background in QA/QC—Business, Microbiology, and Analytical Chemistry. I feel like everything I have done in the past has prepared me for this role. And I love that I have great people to turn to who are so committed to the success of SōRSE and are not hesitant to offer their expertise.

What can be challenging about your work?

With this industry being so new, sometimes there just isn’t any information out there that you can go by. This is especially difficult when working in QA/QC where the goal is standardization. This means that we need to put our detective hats on to find resources, solutions and answers to our questions; this kind of work is challenging but intellectually stimulating. Sometimes we have to create the answers we need and show the work behind why we think it is a valid answer.

Where do you see yourself in this role moving forward?

I foresee making our food safety program even more robust. This means fine-tuning the foundation work we are doing right now. For me personally, I want to continue to grow the quality side and take on aspects of the regulatory systems, to keep the customers safe and the quality of our products high.

Can you share a fun fact that not a lot of people know about you?

I am originally from Morocco – I lived there until I finished high school. Then I went to Fargo, North Dakota for my undergrad studies. NDSU had a low cost of living (I wonder why?) and good quality programs. The transition to Fargo was difficult; between the harsh weather, strong accents and me looking so different from everyone else, I felt like I was living on Mars…except Mars was warmer on some days. Living there makes me appreciate the beauty of Seattle, the people, and the mild climate.

SōRSE 2019 Recap

SoRSE team photo

For a company that started 2019 with 15 employees and is finishing with over 40, it has been an exciting year for SōRSE Technology, one filled with change, growth, challenge, and promise.  The articles listed below document some of the many highlights for SōRSE from the year — from Geekwire’s peek into the goings-on in our Seattle offices and labs, to a press announcement about our expanded partnership agreement with Valens. The articles highlighted throughout the year are on some of the people who power SōRSE and the events where we have showcased our products and our knowledge about the marketplace. SōRSE is definitely ending the year on a high note, having emerged as an innovative leader in the industry.

SōRSE Featured in Geekwire

In May, a team from Geekwire paid a visit to SōRSE headquarters and wrote this piece about the company’s beginnings, the products #powered by SōRSE, and on the magic happening in the labs. Writer Kurt Schlosser commented, “Lee considers what his scientists are working on to be more of a platform — like Gortex — and he said the breakthrough for the company has been in understanding food technology, speed to market, and getting the right people to actually help drive the product.”

Forbes: Five Questions with Scott Riefler 

In July, Chief Science Officer, Scott Riefler, was interviewed by columnist Warren Bobrow on his background in aerospace and food science, as well as the work he is doing at SōRSE. When asked about short and long-term goals, Scott commented: “Regardless of the timeframe, our team is always focused on improving and evolving our technology.”  

Emily Skrobecki Recognized as Fifteen Power and Innovation Women in Cannabis 

In August, Manager of Process Engineering, Emily Skrobecki, was named one of the Cannabis industry’s most powerful and innovative women by Forbes. When describing Emily, writer Warren Bobrow commented, “The challenge of the unknown is what drives Skrobecki to search for knowledge and dive deep into this type of science.”

Mad Tasty Featured on the Today Show

In September, Ryan Tedder, frontman of the band, OneRepublic, appeared on the Today Show to talk about his successes, his failures, his creative process. Toward the end of the interview, after being handed a can of Mad Tasty (powered by SōRSE)  and asked what it was, he commented, “In all my downtime, I started a beverage company about a year ago with Interscope Records, my label, and some friends…It’s got 20 mg of CBD in each can…zero sugar, all natural. I drink about five a day.”

SōRSE Debuts Agglomerated Powder at SupplySide West 

In October, at SupplySideWest in Las Vegas, the SōRSE team unveiled its agglomerated CBD powder, which allows for rapid hydration for instant beverages. When describing the power of the powder, VP of Science, Michael Flemmens commented, “This is a game-changer and silver bullet for the cannabis functional ingredient space and infused products.” 

Diana Eberlein Gives Her Insight on the Celebrity and Cannabis Wave Featured on CNN 

In November, CNN ran an article on Drake entering the cannabis space through a partnership with Canopy Growth. VP of Marketing, Diana Eberlein, shared her thoughts on which types of celebrity brands resonate with customers, and which don’t. “People are attracted to brands that are real and authentic…If it feels inauthentic, they will lose that audience very quickly.”

Emily Skrobecki Named in High Times Female 50

Also in November, Manager of Process Engineering, Emily Skrobecki, was honored for her work in the cannabis industry in the inaugural honoree class of the High Times’ Female 50. Each woman featured on the list was nominated and voted on by the public. High Times staffers wrote, “This collection represents fifty women in all areas of the cannabis space, from research to business and from politics to activism, who have made their mark in a truly significant and impactful way.” 

SōRSE Wraps up the Year with a Successful BevNET Live Debut 

In December, the SōRSE team traveled to Santa Monica for the company’s debut as an exhibitor at BevNET Cannabis Forum and as a Gold Sponsor of BevNET Live Winter 2019. A highlight of the conference was SōRSE partnering with Drop Water and hosting a “Build Your Own CBD Beverage” station where guests could create their own CBD beverage. CEO Howard Lee shared, “Our team showed the breadth and array of flavor and dosage possibilities to attendees and generated positive buzz around our technology and this emerging category.”

SōRSE Expanded Partnership Agreement with Valens 

In December, SōRSE and Valens announced their expanded partnership agreement, which grants Valens an exclusive license for Canada, Europe, Australia and Mexico to use the proprietary SōRSE emulsion technology to produce, market, package, sell and distribute cannabis-infused products. Tyler Robson, CEO of Valens, commented, “We expect the expanded exclusive territory will provide our clients with improved visibility and greater opportunity as they look to build global businesses around cannabis-infused products over the long term.”

2019 has proven that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts at SōRSE. Yes, we have increased our staff three-fold in twelve months, but what is most important about this growth is the intelligence, innovation, and the range of professional experience that each member of the team brings to the table. SōRSE is powered by creative, analytic, fun-loving people who are passionate about what they do, who believe in the products they are producing, and who appreciate the strengths and talents of their co-workers. When we look back at what the company has accomplished in 2019, we can only be excited for what is ahead of us in 2020 and beyond. 

Holiday Recipe: Celebratory Cran-Apple Sauce

sorse bottle and finished cranberry sauce

There’s much to celebrate at this time of year — Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s to name a few. With these holidays come celebrations with friends and family, sharing food, clinking glasses, and enjoying the moment together. Need a dish to bring to a gathering?  Try Chef Stacy’s Celebratory Cran-Apple Sauce recipe to complement the turkey, ham, or stuffing on the table.

chef stacy holding sorse and cranberry sauce

YIELD: 2.5 quarts

About ½ cup per serving

10mg CBD per serving


ingredients for cranberry sauce recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 bags frozen cranberries
  • 4 cups water
  • 8 Macintosh apples, cored (leave skins on if a thicker sauce is preferred), cut into chunks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 16.667 grams SōRSE broad spectrum CBD

DIRECTIONS

cranberry sauce ingredients in pot

1. Place cranberries, water, and apples into a large pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn to medium low heat.


cranberry mixture in food mill

2. Cook for approx. 45 minutes until apples are soft to the touch. While hot, transfer portions of cranberry-apple mixture.

cranberry mixture in food mill

3. Put into a food mill with the smallest hole setting. Hand crank until all is pressed through. Stir sugar in, then add CBD until evenly incorporated for even dispersion. Refrigerate overnight.

sorse bottle and finished cranberry sauce

SōRSE Employee Spotlight: Mike Schmitt

Mike headshot

Mike employee spotlightMeet our Technical Project Manager, Mike Schmitt.  His academic background in Business, Food Science, and Microbiology and sixteen years of experience in the food and beverage industry lends itself well to working on the Operations team at SōRSE. Mike is the kind of person who will take on any challenge put before him, and he loves being a problem solver and mentor to his colleagues. Mike sees himself as a Jack of all trades who finds all of the work he is doing fascinating and fun, which makes him a valuable member of the team.

 

How did you end up at SōRSE? How did you find out about the company?

Prior to SōRSE, I worked at Doehler North America as a Technical Project Manager, and prior to that, I was a Food Scientist at Darigold for nearly ten years. After leaving Doehler and not working for a while, I got to the point where I just threw my hands up in the air and started calling people I had known from my past jobs, and Scott Riefler (CSO) was one of them. Scott and I had a wonderful supplier/customer relationship at Darigold; he really impressed me with his ability to be straightforward and honest, and he was someone I really trusted.  

Scott asked if I was open to working with CBD, which I was. He said there might be a position at a company he was involved with, and it was SōRSE. The process from the first conversation to job offer was a whirlwind – it happened in 12 days! I came into the job knowing I would be doing a wide array of things – and it has been fun seeing how I can be of help with my food, tech, and business background. Officially, I’m a Technical Project Manager here, but “Startup Technical Generalist Manager” is a title that I created for myself. 

 

 

What have been some of the significant moments in your time here? 

Definitely coming to the understanding that we are so new in a young industry, that we have the ability to work with and guide lawmakers who are trying to regulate this industry, and that we can set ourselves apart through best practices. Having a food and beverage mentality and mindset is already built into what we do and what makes our product stand out. We have opportunities to improve, but we are definitely leaps and bounds ahead of our competitors. One of our competitors has even asked if we could convert some of their extract for them because they liked our liquid emulsion so much; it is so clean compared to their product. Our competitors are trying to follow us and are definitely not at the same level as we are.  

 

 

In your time at SōRSE, what are you most proud of, and what do you love most about your job? 

I’m proud of being trusted to get things done. In the past I’ve been entrusted to do a lot of different things, but to be trusted right off the bat feels fantastic. I am also encouraged to try something new all the time. At SōRSE you can really do anything you want. After working for companies with so much structure, I didn’t realize that I would flourish in a startup environment, but it turns out I like to build structure around the chaos. It’s also been fun to have been able to mentor and help others in ways that I hadn’t imagined. 

 

What I love most about my work is the daily challenge. Because there is something new every day, I know that am not going to be bored. We have new markets we are going into, new suppliers we are working with – it’s great to be a part of this world. Today’s challenge is  ensuring that our B2C products have risk assessments done, because B2B assessment is a lot different than B2C. This is connected to our overall goal and long-term strategy to be ready for when the FDA makes a ruling on how CBD can interact with food. We have to be FDA-ready to make the big sale. Consumers are demanding that they get access to products with CBD in them, and it’s just a matter of time before the FDA makes a ruling on how it can officially be put into foods and beverages. 

 

 

Where do you see yourself in this role moving forward?

I envision myself talking on a variety of roles, as needed, to help the company grow. I ask that any company I work for challenges me, lets me do a  little bit of travel, and gives me the opportunity to teach and learn. That has happened to my heart’s content here at SōRSE. In Week 8 of working here, I was able to travel to London to teach others about CBD in products and how it will affect development in the UK and EU. I’m also sharing as much as I’m learning with team; I see how important it is to understand state and federal regulations. We have 11 states with recreational laws, 33 that have medical. Each set of laws is different – and you have to know those differences. SōRSE needs to have a background in the similarities and differences of regulations in the industry to help make sure we can grow as the industry does, and I’m trying to help SōRSE understand this. 

 

Can you share a fun fact that not a lot of people know about you?

 Whenever I travel to a new country, I always have to stop by a McDonald’s to try a localized product or get a cheeseburger and fries. I really appreciate the effort that goes into making a cheeseburger in India taste like one in Seattle. I’ve met the team tasked with this effort at McDonald’s headquarters, and I love to nerd out with fellow food scientists doing their job on a global scale.

 

The Science Behind a CBD Product

Zach in the SoRSE lab

While the cannabis industry is unique in many ways, product producers still need to commit to rigorous scientific practices to create and maintain a quality product. In the rush to catch the CBD wave, it can be tempting to cut corners on research, expertise, and, most of all, the testing necessary to deliver a quality product. That said, we do so at not just our own peril but that of the burgeoning industry. Here is an overview of the scientific processes advised for CBD product developers.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Well-designed, peer-reviewed research supporting structure-function claims for CBD is still relatively sparse, but it is expanding rapidly. Begin there — confirm that your idea has some basis in science. Then, refine your ideation with market projections and experienced consultancy. Research, or have your consultant advise on, the ideal potency for your form factor. It will be different for inhalants, edibles, beverages, and topicals; reliable work has been done in each product category. Then consider what supporting ingredients should be included to optimize bioavailability and the Entourage Effect. You can also look to related industries for scientific support; what can we infer from studies done on cosmetics, aromatherapy, asthma, sports medicine? This requires a lot of reading, but most scientific papers aren’t as dense as they appear at the outset. If they are too technical, you can always have a consultant parse them.

Expect to iterate according to the rapidly developing state of the art. As our scientific understanding expands, we are not just likely but guaranteed to have our current assumptions upended. In the cannabis industry, frequent reformulation and rebranding are the norm, not the exception.

PLAN FOR YOUR TESTING OUTLAY

After the product roadmap is outlined, everything boils down to testing. Test at every stage of processing (or ensure that your partners do): Farm, plants, extraction facility, extract, ingredients, lab, packaging, and finished product. Due to the importance of testing, some purchasing decisions must be made at the outset. Are you going to buy some of your own testing equipment or use a lab for everything? There are benefits and drawbacks to both, and the balance depends on your unique product and strategy.

BE THOUGHTFUL ABOUT PACKAGING
Package design is not just branding; the type of packaging used can have a real effect on shelf life. Exposure to light, heat, and air degrades cannabinoids (and other ingredients as well). Choose opaque packaging whenever possible, and try to minimize the amount of air the product will come into contact with (that’s why Velvet Swing uses an airless pump bottle, for example). The expansion of regulations will trickle down to packaging requirements. Think ahead about labeling and child-proofing.

PRIORITIZE INGREDIENT PARTNERS

It’s as true in the cannabis industry as it is everywhere else — high-quality products start with high-quality ingredients. For the extract itself, first decide on the degree of processing you will pay for. Will you do your own extraction, purchase hemp-extracted CBD oil, or purchase an even more refined product such as SōRSE? The more pure the extract, the more expensive it is likely to be, but it can absolutely be worth it due to the savings in equipment and testing costs.

Once you have your suppliers narrowed down and have received your first samples, they must be tested for potency and contaminants: pesticides, heavy metals, solvent residues, bacteria and fungi are standard. CBD companies should provide COAs, but at the beginning it’s best to verify via independent labs. However, while I recommend it initially, this testing is expensive, and you’ll quickly want to identify trusted, vertically-integrated suppliers whose plant-to-sale testing data you can access remotely. Supplier validation is crucial due to the complexity of the regulatory landscape. At SōRSE, we have supplier approval programs that monitor quality over time.

Fortunately, the other ingredients you might use in formulation are likely to have long-standing, reputable suppliers and FDA designations. Consult suppliers based on their systems for different types of tests. For example, if they use a liquid process, there is greater risk of mold compared to a powder.

TEST FOR EFFICACY

This is a highly detailed topic on its on accord; what follows is a summary of the process.

Producers should conduct efficacy testing on the same material that will be used in the finished product. CBD products should be developed like medicines, even though they are not yet regulated as such. A double-blind triangle test should be performed to establish efficacy according to various variables: potency, formulation, supplementary actives. In the THC market, product development can be hindered by regulation; fortunately, CBD is not so severely restricted. Make sure that your test group is large enough to justify your claims, even if you will not be making them on the label.

TEST FOR QUALITY

QA is primarily focused on safety, but the quality is a natural side effect. A hazard analysis must be conducted for the formula, the process, and the supplier chain. Each represents a different set of risks that have to be identified and monitored. Closely adjacent to QA is Regulatory. Depending on the type of product you are producing, regulatory documentation could include any of the following documents: Allergen statement, COAs, BSE/TSE, Ethical Sourcing/Trafficking, Food Grade Statement, FSMA Compliant Statement/FDA Registration, Gluten Statement, GMO Statement, Halal Certificate, Ingredient Declaration, Kosher Cert or Number, Letter of Continuing Guarantee, Natural Statement, Nutrition Information, Organic Statement, Product Data Sheet or Product Spec, Prop 65 Statement, Residual Solvents, Safety Data Sheet, Storage and Shelf Life, Third Party Audit, and Vegan/Vegetarian statement — but it is not standardized.

The sheer complexity of the testing and regulations that may apply to your CBD product can be daunting. Choosing SōRSE takes care of a lot of the worry for you. Here, we work with trusted, reliable suppliers and have leading-edge safety and regulatory standards. Our commitment to science is not only our superpower, but your ticket to peace of mind.

Thanksgiving Recipe: Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pie displayed in front of pumpkin

‘Tis the season to be thankful! At SōRSE, we’re thankful for a lot of things: Our awesome team; our chef, Stacy Primack; and all of the yummy treats that she makes for us. Try out Stacy’s pumpkin pie recipe for your Worksgiving, Friendsgiving, or Thanksgiving dessert this month. You won’t be disappointed!

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Yield: 8 portions

CBD per slice: 10 mg

Pie Ingredients:

3 eggs

2 c. pumpkin

2/3 c. sugar

A pinch of salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 c. evaporated milk

2.667 g. SōRSE liquid

1/2 tsp. ginger, freshly grated

1/4 tsp. mace, toasted to bring out flavor

1/4 tsp. allspice, ground and toasted to bring out flavor

Ready to bake pie crust

Topping:

2 c. cold whipping cream

3 T. sugar or maple syrup

3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Place all pie ingredients in a large, deep bowl or deep, round container (about 8 inches deep).
  • Using an immersion (stick) blender, blend thoroughly until evenly combined, and without lumps.
  • TIP: It is best to let this mixture sit overnight in the refrigerator to let flavors macerate.
  • The next day, remove the filling from the refrigerator, give a stir with a whisk by hand, and then pour filling into pie shell.
  • Bake at 325F until set and not jiggly or wet-looking in the middle. Remove from oven before any cracks start to show.
  • Let cool at room temperature and then refrigerate overnight.
  • Next day, grab an empty mixer bowl and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  • For the topping, add cream, syrup, and vanilla and whip on medium low speed until soft peaks, increase speed to high and whip until cream is stiff enough to stand on its own.
  • (Test: Dip your finger into the whipped cream, and if it holds, it should form a light peak. Do not over-whip, or you’ll have butter.)
  • When ready, use a spoon to place the cream into a piping bag.
  • The next day, take the pie out of the refrigerator, mark it first into 8 even slices, then use a hot chef’s knife (that you have heated under water and wiped clean with a dish towel) to make cuts.
  • Decorate with whipped cream.



nutritional information

5 Common Mistakes People Make When Stepping Into the Cannabis Market

Professional struggling at work in office.

The appeal of the cannabis industry is powerful: Financial success while doing fundamental good in the world. Entrepreneurial opportunity for those traditionally excluded from the business world. Fame and prestige for industry leaders. The opportunity — and indeed the demand — to innovate.

It’s not a surprise that everyone wants to be a part of it. We are an industry growing in both scope and legitimacy, and there are a lot of new members. Veteran members have a responsibility to help them avoid the pitfalls. Here are the five most common mistakes companies make when entering into the cannabis market:

1. Thinking it will Operate like Other Markets

Over the years, I’ve spoken with a lot of entrepreneurs eager to jump into the cannabis space, and they all have made the reasonable assumption that the fundamental rules of other industries will be at play here. Unfortunately, the regulatory landscape, particularly as it pertains to THC, is like nothing else in the American economy. No other ingredient is federally labelled Schedule 1 — reserved for highly addictive drugs with no medical value — yet is legal medicinally, recreationally, or both on a state level. Not only is it regulated differently from state to state, the regulations are constantly changing and are inconsistently enforced. The cannabis industry gets called the Wild West for a reason. 

CBD companies are prohibited from making any medical claims, which can be frustrating since most customers interested in CBD are looking for therapeutic effects. Because of this, euphemisms come heavily into play in branding. Some companies employ a compliance officer to review all customer-facing verbiage.

If you are working with THC, you will not be able to write off any of your standard business expenses on your federal tax return. This leads companies to fractionate their businesses, with separate companies handling payroll, marketing, and retail, which adds complexity and more paperwork. Similarly, THC products can never be shipped across state lines, even from one legal state to another, since interstate commerce is federally governed. That means that every state in which you operate must have its own THC license, processing facility, and distribution network, even if the product being sold is identical. Not only is this unreasonable, it is also impractical and expensive. Depending on where you’re setting up shop, you will have different packaging limitations for text size, package size, even the colors you can use. Requirements for redundant and/or childproof packaging are wasteful and, again, expensive. 

The other thing that differentiates the cannabis market from other markets is its demographic diversity. People from all walks of life, all ages, races, genders and income levels enjoy cannabis. Previous categorizations can be a guide, but often customer profiles don’t match the real world. You may be surprised by who buys your product–and who doesn’t. 

2. Not Getting it in Writing

Because of the limited regulation of the cannabis industry, it’s tempting to seal deals on a handshake. That’s a mistake in any business, but the ramifications are amplified in this tumultuous landscape. When — not if — one of your partners fails to deliver on their commitments, it’s hard enough to enforce a contract to begin with, let alone in this transitional market. There’s not usually a lot of money to spare for legal battles, either. Take the time to write out the terms of your agreements, and spend the money to have them reviewed by a contract lawyer. 

3. Not Embracing Redundancy

Sourcing is one of the biggest hurdles facing CBD companies. In the face of limited or non-existant regulation, choosing a supplier to provide consistent, clean cannabinoids can make or break your business. Even partners that start out looking great (spoiler: they all do) may end up failing you though logistical insufficiency or a change in leadership integrity. Redundancy is your insurance policy. CBD companies must find not one reliable supplier, but several. Don’t accept an exclusive relationship at the outset; work up to it through years of consistent performance.

4. Disregarding Institutional Knowledge

In a bid for legitimacy, many startups are hiring from industries outside the legacy cannabis market. That can be very useful for expanding the scope of cannabis applications and form factors, but without a holistic understanding of the plant, innovation can be dangerous. Accrued generational knowledge from growers and pre-legalization formulators can help you avoid costly formulation mistakes and contraindications. As a successful cannabis industry friend of mine puts it, “Always make sure you’ve got at least a couple old hippies on staff.”

5. Relying on Hype

CBD is hot as can be right now, but it doesn’t take a prophet to know that at some point the bubble has to burst. Don’t worry, CBD will be around for a long time and likely become a health and wellness staple! That said, the buzz can’t sustain this volume; products cannot be successful long-term on the basis of the inclusion of CBD alone. Thoughtful formulations that look to ingredient synergy will still have something to pique consumer interest after the hype dies down. Look to the bleeding edge of the THC market to see what will trickle down to the CBD world in the next two years: terpenes, flavonoids, fresh frozen extractions, and herbal blends. Of course, this could all be nullified depending on the speed of the now all-but-certain rescheduling of THC. Cannabis is certainly not an industry for the faint of heart.

What Would Development Look Like Without a Water-Soluble Solution?

Water droplets falling from ceiling.

Cannabinoids are lipophilic, meaning they dissolve in oils. For this simple reason, oil-based cannabis products have dominated the cannabis industry until very recently. Prior to legalization, they have been the only option; in an illicit market, the massive amounts of money, expertise, and time it takes to create a water-soluble emulsion is prohibitive. Given the nascent state of the legal industry, it’s only natural that oil-based products would be the norm. However, that is changing. 

One way to look at the advantages of a water-based formula is to review the development hurdles that must be overcome without one. A water-based solution is not appropriate for any consumption method involving heat, such as vaping or smoking, so we are going to focus on edible, tincture, and topical formulations. One way to look at the advantages of a water-based formula is to review the development hurdles that must be overcome without one. A water-based solution is not appropriate for any consumption method involving heat, such as vaping or smoking, so we are going to focus on edible, tincture, and topical formulations. 

Several product subcategories are impossible right out of the gate. Beverages, in which water is always the largest ingredient, are commercially untenable with oil. When you mix oil and water together, they rapidly separate, with the oil rising to the top of the liquid. Because of this, many products on the market need to be shaken up before drinking, which is not ideal for the producer or the consumer. The only way to create a stable beverage with oil is to infuse it into a high-fat base that contains natural emulsifiers, such as dairy or coconut milk. 

From the start, direct infusion into any oil comes with its own suite of problems. If you are using dried, cured cannabis flowers for your infusion, many flavor and smell components in the plant material will come along as well, and the resulting oil will have a strong cannabis flavor. That may not be a problem if you are making brownies in your home kitchen, but it is not acceptable at scale. To make matters worse, this flavor will vary from batch to batch; even the most consistent grows are subject to the whims of nature. Trying to guess the flavor profile of any given batch of cannabis-infused oil is like trying to guess the amount of Vitamin A in any given carrot. There is a likely range, but each plant has its own unique composition. 

To create edibles without the characteristic herbaceous notes of the cannabis flower, it is necessary to remove as much of the chlorophyll, lipids, flavonoid, and terpene content as possible. This can be reasonably and inexpensively achieved with CO2-extracted cannabis concentrates, but ideally done with a more neutral (and pricier) distillate. However, when working with these extremely low viscosity extracts, dispersal becomes a challenge. The cannabis oil must first be heated gently with a carrier oil; that carrier oil must be completely evenly dispersed into the final product, otherwise dosing will be uneven. In baked goods, the amount of mixing involved can result in a tough, dense crumb structure. 

To insure that  the oil has dispersed evenly, producers must then test the final product. That said,  it is much harder to test a cookie, for example, than a batch of cannabis oil. The complexity of the ingredients and unreliability of results have led many producers to extrapolate from limited and/or non-randomized samples, and as a result, uneven dosing plagues the legal market.

There may also be consumer education considerations when choosing oil. My largest area of expertise is the development of cannabis topicals for sexual enhancement and relief. However, oil-based topicals are incompatible with safer sex barriers such as latex or polyisoprene condoms — a massive sexual health risk of which most buyers and customers are completely unaware — and they can cause irritation in some people. Moreover, the sensory profile of cannabis is, shall we say, less than sensual for many people. My primary impetus for developing Velvet Swing was to offer a neutral, gentle, barrier-compatible option, so that customers don’t have to rely on their budtenders for being informed and willing to dispense sexual health information.

Fortunately it’s no longer necessary to be bound by the limits of oil. It’s the first rung on the ladder, the easiest path to take, and still the wisest choice for some applications. However, if you are developing a beverage, tincture, or topical, consider what water-based formulation can help you do — and what it can help you avoid.