From sourcing to new technologies to deliver better CBD products to consumers, the topic of CBD was everywhere at SupplySide East.
At SupplySide East 2019, which took place in Secaucus, NJ, the booths of hemp-derived CBD companies were among the most crowded. A burgeoning industry, hemp-derived CBD products are becoming easier to find at natural product retailers, and due to the high consumer demand, more manufacturers have entered the CBD space, or are cautiously dipping their toes in. Unfortunately, hemp-derived CBD has existed in a regulatory gray area for many years, but the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill was an important first step for making these products a less risky proposition.
While the bill did nothing to change the fact that hemp-derived CBD cannot be marketed as a dietary ingredient in FDA’s eyes, thanks to the Farm Bill, hemp was redefined to separate it from marijuana and removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. States throughout the country can now legally cultivate hemp. Hemp is now under the jurisdiction of USDA, but inevitably, FDA will have to do something about handling the influx of hemp-derived CBD in foods and supplements in the U.S.
Shifting Attitudes and Greater Resources
Even manufacturers squeamish about CBD before are now at least considering the opportunities. CBD companies exhibiting at SupplySide East said they certainly noticed a shift in attitude among attendees. One exhibitor noted that not only was his booth getting high traffic and sincere interest, but the leads he was getting were also more legitimate compared to those in previous years.
Michael Owens, co-founder of Hemp Exchange, a newly launched business-to-business platform for the sale and purchase of hemp and hemp-derived CBD products, said he believes the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill has definitely had a positive impact on the response that Hemp Exchange was getting at the show.
“Had we launched prior to the Farm Bill passing, I think user adoption and even excitement at conferences like SupplySide East would be a little bit more muted,” said Owens to Nutritional Outlook. “What we’ve seen in the last three months has been absolutely remarkable, with the amount of large commercial interests who have been on the sideline for a long time and have entered into the space within the last two weeks: Walgreens and CVS have now decided to carry CBD products.”
Resources like Hemp Exchange are also opening up a lot of possibilities within the hemp-derived CBD space because it gives all parties involved more confidence to participate. As a marketplace of vetted buyers and sellers, Hemp Exchange provides a lot of peace of mind that has not always been easy to come by in the CBD space.
“I think the people that are already sourcing ingredients in the hemp and CBD supply chain immediately recognize how much of a valuable asset this is because everyone, myself included, who has been investing in the industry for the past two years has been burned,” said Owens. “We’ve personally lost hundreds of thousands of dollars from charlatans acting outright or on behalf of somebody else, so all those people recognize the value added of a safe and secure place where they know that people on the other end have gone through a pretty thorough vetting process to make sure they are real and the products are real.”
The way the Hemp Exchange service works is that buyers or sellers of hemp and hemp derivatives must register and submit documentation proving they are an actual person with a business. Those selling raw materials must also present third-party certificates of analysis, which are audited by Hemp Exchange. For added security, listers of products must also print out a specific QR code and use it in product photos to verify authenticity. Among the other benefits to those who use Hemp Exchange is the $2 million-per-truck hemp cargo insurance policy and wire transfers that are supported by FDIC-insured banks, which are currently not easy to come by in the cannabis marketplace.
Hemp-derived CBD is an unstoppable force. It is part of the zeitgeist and will continue to penetrate across categories. Whatever CBD’s current regulatory status, innovation continues, allowing companies to get a jump when FDA does come up with a regulatory solution. One interesting innovation at the show that may find a strong foothold in the food and beverage industry is Azuca.
“Azuca is an ingredient technology company for delivering the fastest-acting, highest-bioavailable, water-soluble, neutral-tasting CBD and THC,” explained Barney Stacher, executive sales director for Azuca to Nutritional Outlook. The company was an exhibitor at SupplySide East. “Our technology is thermodynamic, individual, molecular encapsulation. Our process grabs only one molecule of CBD at a time and delivers it right to the endocannabinoid receptors quickly.” This action is said to reduce the delay of onset typical of foods infused with hemp-derived CBD and other cannabinoids from 45 minutes to 15 minutes, said Stacher.
Azuca also makes consumer-facing products that can be found in coffee shops and bookstores- specifically, chocolate coins, granulated sugar in stick packs, and simple syrup, all with 25 mg of CBD. These consumer-facing products were created to build a brand presence, but Azuca is predominantly business-to-business. Stacher said that dosages can range depending on a client’s needs. The source or type of hemp extracts can range, as well, because Azuca’s technology will function regardless of type.
“We’re agnostic in terms of the source and type of oil,” explained Stacher. “We, for our own products-our chocolate coins, our simple syrup, and our sugar-use full-spectrum [CBD] because we believe that’s the best product and that’s honestly what Whole Foods [Market] and other health food companies want. We also will provide broad spectrum or isolate. We have clients in Hong Kong that can only utilize isolate, by law. We can enrobe and emulsify anything that’s an oil with our technology and deliver it faster, better, stronger.” Heat-stable and shelf-stable, Azuca’s technology provides some versatility for food and beverage manufacturers to incorporate CBD in their products.
Azuca has some high-minded ambitions. “Our goal is to be like Intel, which is the computer chip that’s recognized as the best chip in the best computers,” explained Stacher. “Azuca will be the best CBD and THC ingredient in foods, so it will be co-branded with ‘Azuca Inside’ or ‘Timed Technology Inside,’ a similar model being a sucralose or Splenda, where it’s Coca-Cola with Splenda inside or you can think of it like Starbucks powered by Azuca or Timed Technology.”
There is no telling when this kind of co-branding on major products may be possible, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Only time will tell.
Excipient Supplier Sees CBD Activity Growing in Powders, Tablets, and Capsules
CBD is on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days, including excipient suppliers. One excipient supplier, Grain Processing Corp. (GPC; Muscatine, IA), says it is seeing the number of projects involving CBD increase, with companies looking to GPC’s maltodextrins and modified starches as ideal carriers for CBD oils and full-spectrum hemp extracts.
At SupplySide East, Susan Freers, technical service manager, GPC, explained how the company’s branded Maltrin and Maltrin QD maltodextrins, along with its Pure-Dent modified starches, are just as well-suited carriers for CBD and hemp oils as they are for typical vitamin oils, flavor oils, and other nutraceutical ingredients. For those manufacturers looking to formulate CBD and hemp oils into sophisticated delivery systems like tablets, capsules, and powders, GPC’s options, she said, offer unique benefits.
For instance, Maltrin QD, a quick-dispersing maltodextrin, has a unique agglomerated structure that allows CBD and hemp oils to be plated onto the maltodextrin and then carried into powders, capsules, tablets, and other delivery formats like fast-melt tablets. “Maltrin QD is agglomerated,” Freers said, “so it has a lot of interstitial spaces to carry oils and be a free-flowing powder.” Also, she added: “Say [a company] wants this powder to then dissolve in something. We have maltodextrins that are water soluble.” And if companies prefer instead to encapsulate their oils, GPC’s Maltrin maltodextrins offer valuable film-forming and drying properties that can be used in conjunction with an encapsulating agent, she said.
Finally, GPC’s Pure-Dent B730 modified starch is an absorbent starch that can also be used to carry these oils. “Pure-Dent B730 modified starch is manufactured to create pores in the starch granules, which make it an impeccable carrier for oils and other ingredients,” the company says on its website. “This starch is not soluble in room-temperature water; therefore it is also perfect for carrying aqueous ingredients in applications where a powder is required.”
Nutritional Outlook asked Freers whether CBD or hemp oil is more challenging to work with compared to some oils. “It can be, because it can be sticky,” she said. “If you’re taking a full-spectrum hemp extract [that contains] all of the other terpenes and the other cannabinoids, then it can be very sticky and thick-it’s almost syrupy.” She said that luckily a GPC solution like Pure-Dent is highly absorbent and can absorb these sticky materials.