With Age Comes Change: The Maturation of the Cannabis Industry

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Written by | February 22nd, 2021

There is no doubt that the cannabis industry has matured over the past ten years, due in part to an increasing number of states legalizing medicinal and recreational use as well as a growing public acceptance of the plant for its health and wellness benefits. This cultural attitude shift is welcomed, especially for those who know the rich history of the plant and what it has offer. That said, it has been a long time coming, given that cannabis is one of the oldest cultivated crops recorded, dating back 12,000 years to Central Asia. During that time, cannabis was used for spiritual enlightenment and pain reliefnot unlike today’s consumers! 

A Growing Acceptance  

A great example of consumer acceptance of cannabis is the ever-growing popularity of cannabidiol, CBD, one of the many cannabinoids in the plant. Consumers are curious about the functional attributes that CBD products offer and are open-minded when looking to purchase products featuring CBD.  As a result, companies producing infused products are closely aligning themselves with the food and beverage industry, following their tried-and-true standards and guidelines with the goal of creating safe, great tasting products for their target consumer base.  

 Heard of GRAS Status? If No, You Will Soon   

 Back in the day, before cannabis edibles became mainstream, there was minimal regulation in the space, which led to inaccurate dosing as well as quality and safety concerns. Today, many companies are preparing themselves for FDA regulation by pursuing self-affirmed GRAS status. GRAS, which stands for Generally Recognized as Safe, is the FDA’s designation that a substance added to food is considered safeIf companies actively pursue self-affirmed GRAS status now, this will prevent reformulation requirements and reduce potential barriers to enter mainstream retailers, making the company a more valuable partner. Companies pursuing GRAS also sends a message to the consumer carefully reading labels that their safety comes first.    

Focus on Quality and Safety  

 While the FDA considers how to regulate CBD, companies creating infused products are utilizing the traditional food and beverage quality and safety protocols to keep the consumer safe. CBD might be “new,” but if it’s going to be in food and drinks, it has to be treated just like any other food ingredient. In the food and beverage industry, it’s common for the terms “quality” and safety to be paired together, but they are not interchangeable. The word quality” refers to the features and characteristics of a food product that is acceptable to consumers, meets their expectations, and conforms to required specifications. The word safety” refers to practices and conditions that confirm the ingredients and finished goods will not harm consumers if ingested.   Many companies have implemented their own food safety programs which include following GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) standards. The more that companies prioritize safety and quality, the more the consumers will trust and remain loyal to the brand.  

Beyond the Brownie: Product Quality and Variety 

Years ago, if someone wanted an infused cannabis product like a cookie or brownie, they would have likely had to make it themselves. In contrast, today’s cannabis marketplace is rich with a variety of products from wellness shots and beverages to gummies and tea sachets. An important difference between today’s infused products and those of the past is the focus on flavor and the consumer’s sensory experience. Product producers are committed to creating high quality goods that taste good, which means that they are spending more time considering what flavors and ingredients will work in concert with the cannabinoid. 

Popular product categories are by no means new; they are simply enhanced by CBD. Currently, the canna-curious are interested in low-calorie, low-sugar infused beverages and food items, and products that meet diet-specific and lifestyle needs. This includes organic, all-natural, and gluten-free diets as well as products that feature functional ingredients. Ready to mix (RTM) beverages is a category on the rise for their portability and ease of use. Today’s consumers are also buying CBD products for their pets, from infused biscuits to food toppers. Water-soluble cannabinoid emulsions are making it easy for product developers to add CBD to almost any food or beverage product that you can find on a grocery store (and pet store) shelf. 

Growth and Scalability 

 With consumer demand for quality and novel products on the rise, rates of production and distribution increase as well. Now more than ever, retailers are creating ample shelf space for CBD products. As CBD has become more widely accepted, larger food and beverage companies are joining the wave of infused product development. With this, more manufacturing and co-packing companies are following suit, creating opportunities for product developers to scale their products and get them to market. Retailers are also eagerly anticipating the influx of CBDinfused products from larger traditional food and beverage companies that are waiting for the go-ahead from the FDA before releasing their already developed, not yet available infused products.   

As the cannabis industry matures, consumer demand is on the rise. Today’s consumer expects healthier, more unique products, which creates exciting opportunities for product developers as well as manufacturing challenges. In this time of high demand, it is important that product developers choose their strategic partners wisely to ensure market success. SōRSE utilizes patent-pending emulsion technology designed for an easier cannabinoid infusion and a better finished product. At SōRSE, we convert an oil into a water-soluble liquid or powder that is easily integrated into the production process using food grade ingredients. Because the emulsion is homogeneous, the amount of cannabinoids is evenly distributed throughout the product, and the first sip tastes as good as the last. With a team backed by 200+ years of experience in the food and beverage industry and a focus on consumer safety and satisfaction, SōRSE is committed to moving the industry forward with our partners and taking infused products to the next level.