The Challenge of Scalping in Infused Beverages (and How to Mitigate It)

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Written by | December 20th, 2021

When the 2018 Farm Bill passed, the CBD industry skyrocketed on a global scale. In the past three years, as consumers have sought other ways to consume CBD beyond tinctures, tablets, gummies, and soft gels, the infused beverage market has grown at a rapid pace. In March of 2021, MJ Biz Daily stated that beverage sales rose from $67.8M in 2019 to $95.2M in 2020. The uptick in sales from year to year is proof that beverages are a viable delivery platform for CBD. As the industry continues to research CBD and its potential, we’ve also learned a lot about the challenges working with it and what happens to it and other cannabinoids under certain circumstances.  

CBD Beverage Industry Challenge: Scalping 

What is Scalping in Beverages? 

Scalping is a challenge that many beverage brands have to navigate. Scalping is when an ingredient absorbs into the drink’s can liner and remains there, which means consumers are getting less of that ingredient than the label may claim. The can liner is “scalping” the ingredients from the drink, which defeats the purpose of functional beverages.   

Scalping happens after the product has already been tested and has been in the can for a while, so there’s a good chance brands don’t even realize what’s happening until it’s too late – unless they have prepared for it beforehand.  

What Types of Beverages Are at Risk of Scalping?

Scalping is not unique to CBD-infused beverages. The wine and beer industries face the same challenge with flavors and hops. Cannabis beverages infused with THC weather the same risk. Any beverage brand with a functional ingredient such as water-soluble cannabinoids, has to navigate this challenge, but it is particularly important to control with THC because it impacts the dosing of a psychoactive or intoxicating ingredient. Delivering a consistent experience with each serving is essential to build consumer trust.   

Like cannabis, different wines boast different flavor palates, which lose strength as scalping occurs. Fortunately and unfortunately, cannabis has monoterpenes and cannabinoids, both of which are victims of scalping. However, both are crucial compounds to the health of our endocannabinoid system, so it’s important they are both present in a brand’s drinks.  

How Scalping Can Be Minimized

Scalping is not the cause for all potency loss in CBD beverages. Different ingredients, solvents, and higher storage temperatures all increase the risk of scalping, so controlling those factors is a good first step to minimize cannabinoid loss. However, the best way to reduce a beverage brand’s risk of scalping is selecting the right can liner for the beverage. No can liner is perfect and will eliminate scalping completely, but testing can liners can prove just how important a can liner switch can be.  

The can liner’s variation and weight are the two most important variables that must be controlled to prevent scalping. Lighter weight can liners are less susceptible to scalping than heavier ones. Heavier can liners are made to protect cans from corrosive beverages, and their material allows more cannabinoids to be absorbed into the liner.  

It’s also important to look at CBD beverage dosages, because most people think about what the consumer might want in terms of potency and not what their body actually uses. Understanding the potency loss will help a product developer determine the appropriate overage for the beverage. This is also common practice within the food and beverage industry. In short: more CBD to start equals more CBD left over when scalping has been factored into the equation. 

How SōRSE Helps Its Partners Minimize the Impact of Scalping 

Cannabis beverage brands will need to understand the following to stay within the legal range of dosing:  

  1. How formulations scalp at different rates 
  2. How packaging and storage factor into scalping, and  
  3. The other factors that contribute to it.  

Knowing that scalping can occur with all ingredients, the SōRSE R&D team accounts for it in the formulation phase and has invested in researching scalping to better understand which packaging might work best for our partners. With 200+ years of product development experience, plus a vetted co-packer and vendor network, we’ve done the hard work to make the process of bringing a beverage from concept to commercialization efficiently and effectively. If you’ve had trouble with scalping in the past and are looking for water-soluble ingredients that won’t scalp, schedule an exploratory call with our team today!