Employee Spotlight: Hilary Brown

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Written by | December 17th, 2021

Meet our Director of Research and Development, Hilary Brown, who has been at SōRSE since 2019. Drawing on her extensive knowledge and experience working in the culinary industry as a chocolatier and product developer, Hilary and her team specialize in the application of our emulsion into products to ensure stability and design studies to increase a product’s success. Hilary also offers technical support to our customers as they integrate SōRSE emulsions into their production processes; her background in developing safe, consistent, and scalable products makes her a valuable resource for our customers. 

hilary brown employee spotlight

What drew you to SōRSE?

I had worked in the Cannabis industry for a few years prior to joining SōRSE, and wanted to get more experience in working with CBD and gaining a broader understanding of the industry as a whole. The first time I met the team at SōRSE, I was very impressed with their analytical capabilities and the deep knowledge base of everyone I met. The breadth of knowledge about the industry and the chemistry of both cannabinoids and emulsions among employees was incredibly impressive. SōRSE seemed like a great company to grow and learn with as the industry expanded. 

Prior to SōRSE, you worked in confections and owned your own company. What skills that you have developed over the course of your career do you find yourself drawing on in your current role?

I like to find ways to solve problems, whether it be a production issue, a dosing issue, or how to get ingredients to incorporate together in a smooth and delicious way. When I first started at SōRSE, I was brought on as a product developer.  My past experience and understanding of how to incorporate functional ingredients that have a strong or bitter sensory profile into products where you might not want all of those sensory attributes to shine through came in very handy. As I have continued to grow at SōRSE, my role has changed quite a bit, though a lot of my experience continues to be relevant in my current position. 

My focus now is understanding production processes, natural variation in those processes, and how to dig into a system to find control points to make the process as a whole run smoothly and more efficiently while retaining desired potency in the final product.

What do you enjoy about your role, and what do you find challenging?

In my current role, I work with a wide realm of current and prospective clients at SōRSE.  I enjoy being able to help a customer with some small part of their production process and watching them grow. Seeing their product on retail shelves and seeing how they market their product and message is something that I really enjoy.

In addition, there are a lot of areas of the cannabis industry that are still unknown. Through testing and trying to pick through current data, I enjoy the process of drilling down to what is happening with the cannabinoids, what might be degrading and why, and how interactions are occurring. All of those are challenges that I enjoy and keep me learning.

Describe a day in the life of Hilary at SōRSE. What are some of the projects that you are currently managing?

Every day brings something new, which keeps me on my toes. I am often working directly with clients to work through any incorporation or testing issues they may have, and talking through their production processes to find how to best incorporate our emulsions. 

We do a lot of work in understanding the interactions between ingredients, the breadth of cannabinoid and terpene interactions with each other, as well as the interactions of the active ingredients with the product packaging. Looking at what causes degradation of different cannabinoids and how to control it have been focuses of the work I have been doing with the team in my role. Currently this involves large scale stability studies of finished beverages under various conditions, as well as product packaging tests, which involves testing how much UV light can penetrate packaging. We are also testing new emulsions for stability over time that our Research and Development team have created.

Can you describe a project that you worked on this year that you are particularly proud of?

This year we completed a second study on aluminum can liners and their interactions with beverages containing SōRSE emulsion. We completed the first study late last year, and while we got a lot of great data, there were still quite a few questions about secondary interactions that were remaining. The secondary study allowed us to look at ingredient interactions and how they affected the active ingredients interaction with various can liners. Each study was 120 days long and involved hundreds of samples being testing. It was an incredible amount of work for my analytical team.

Can you share some thoughts on how the cannabis industry has changed since you started working at SōRSE? What are the growth opportunities you see on the horizon? 

I had worked in the cannabis industry before coming to SōRSE, when recreational cannabis first became legal in Washington state. Over the course of that time, I have found that change is really the only constant in this industry. I have seen the industry grow up a lot. 

I think we will see growth in discovering and expanding the functional uses of more of the minor cannabinoids and how interactions of cannabinoids occur. I also believe there are a lot of growth opportunities. We have seen a big push for method development for analytical testing. I am excited to see companies open up about their processes and become more interested in talking to other organizations in the same space about what works and does not work for them in the industry, as well as what difficulties they are having. I have seen many companies begin to work together to find consensus in the industry and fix issues that are occurring for most companies across the board, in regulation, testing, and otherwise. 

What infused product would you create for consumer use and why? 

You are asking this question during winter, and before coming into the cannabis space, my background is as a chocolatier.  I think I would have to say Hot Chocolate Bombs infused with cannabinoids? It’s a popular uninfused product, it’s a cozy for cold weather, and chocolate and cannabinoids go very well together. 

Can you share something about yourself that not many people know about you? 

I cannot for the life of me keep any plants alive. I currently have a small potted evergreen tree that I have had for the past three months….That is my record for the longest length of time that I have been able to keep a plant alive.

hilary brown sorse employee