Beyond CBD: Emerging Cannabinoids are the Future for CPG Success

The buzz around the hemp-derived plant compound cannabidiol (CBD) and its therapeutic applications has captured more attention and interest than most other novel wellness products.

A stampede is underway as mainstream retailers embrace hemp-derived CBD products. And cannabinoid science continues to advance at space velocity, further influencing and driving consumer trends. This presents a prime opportunity for new and innovative product development.

Thus far, THC and CBD have been the most prevalent cannabinoids discussed—and this is evident in cannabinoid research to date—but there are more than 100 other cannabinoids that have been identified in the species Cannabis Sativa L. Scientists are now diving deeper into the world of minor, very rare, and emerging cannabinoids, such as CBG, CBN, CBC, CBDA and THCV, among others to see what possible therapeutic applications these components hold. This largely untapped field offers exciting possibilities for product R&D and commercial opportunities for brands in the plant-based health and wellness sector.

If consumer packaged goods manufacturers and vendors want to keep pace with an increasingly savvy consumer base, as well as rapid progress in cannabinoid science and fast-moving trends in health and wellness, here are three things they must do …

1. Focus on Personalized Health & Wellness
Across America, people are pursuing natural and whole-plant remedies as they take control of their health. Personalized medicine, a.k.a. precision medicine or individualized medicine, emphasizes prevention over cure, and takes into account each patient’s specific characteristics, including differences in health status, genetics, lifestyle, environment, age and gender.

Compare individualized medicine with the older approach; since the 1950s, Western medical standards of care have traditionally been determined by a “one-size-fits-all” approach focused on treating specific ailments with formulations based on clinical trials that average responses across large cohorts. But while single-molecule medicines lend themselves to random double-blind controlled trials, plant-based medicines with their myriad bioactive compounds don’t. This creates opportunities to explore the ways various cannabinoids can benefit an individual’s health and wellness—as a non-pharmaceutical option that reportedly has no or less adverse side effects, or as a complement to conventional treatments.

Personalized medicine acknowledges our physiological differences and has heralded a new way of thinking about personal health responsibility, as well as the role functional foods and beverages play in maintaining wellness. This trend also aligns with the mindset of millennial consumers, who are accustomed to Internet-fueled self-education and open to new ideas.

Market research firm Grand View Research estimates that the personalized medicine market will be worth $3.18 trillion by 2025. This new paradigm will undoubtedly include targeting health conditions that may respond well to novel and emerging cannabinoids.

Even conservative Western medicine practitioners are embracing personalized medicine; that said, they want data. Health insurance companies and governmental agencies do too.

When it comes to cannabinoid product development, science must lead the way.

2. Pursue Data-Based Innovation in Product R&D
As operators across America race to grow and harvest hemp for the cannabinoid ingredient supply chain, smart CPG companies will seek out vendors whose teams have multidisciplinary science backgrounds and a passion for discovery.

The most effective way to combat decades of prohibition on cannabinoid research is with scientifically based human studies. In a crowded marketplace, solid datasets substantiating efficacy will be a key point of differentiation, as will reliable data on novel and emerging cannabinoids.

Israel, Italy, Spain and other European Union nations are already producing some of the world’s leading cannabinoid research, especially when it comes to the plant’s medical applications. Until recently, scientific study in the U.S. has been largely limited due to federal restrictions and a lack of funding for human trials, but the doors are blasted open thanks to the legalization of hemp through the 2018 farm bill.

We’ve seen how biotech firm GW Pharmaceuticals grabbed the national spotlightwith research for its CBD-based epilepsy drug. This shows that global CPG companies have an important role to play in the advancement and facilitation of research by sponsoring scientifically sound, vetted human studies with double-blind, placebo-controlled trials and publishing the results.

3. Target Collaborative Partnerships and GMP
Quality assurance and consistency are quickly becoming key aspects of cannabinoid CPG products. That means it’s more important than ever for CPG manufacturers to apply the same care and scrutiny to sourcing cannabinoids as they do with traditional ingredients. Partnering with trustworthy growers and processors is crucial for success.

They must also be active voices in the regulatory landscape, making sure that informed subject-matter experts are part of the conversation around good manufacturing practices, standards, labeling, testing, and consumer safety.

The future of cannabinoid research and hemp-based health and wellness products lies in a collaborative ecosystem, where all of the stakeholders work together to establish compliant best practices, and maintain high industry-wide standards.

Constant innovation is the hallmark of successful CPG companies, so business leaders who want to be ready for the “next big thing” in health and wellness need to be familiarized with the rapidly developing opportunities for emerging cannabinoids and the creation of more effective health and wellness products.

Steve Kazemi is the Chief Operating Officer of Precision Plant Molecules, a science-driven bulk ingredients company that specializes in cannabinoid derivatives of hemp and botanicals. Precision Plant Molecules brings together PhDs, chemists, manufacturing process engineers, phytoscience researchers and other professionals in its cross-disciplinary pursuit of unlocking the potential of cannabinoids to improve the quality of life for many.