The future of cannabis products is bespoke and personalized
A look into the cannabinoid crystal ball: It’s 2021, and you walk into your grocery store’s wellness section in search of an effective natural remedy specially formulated to help you shake off the stress of the day and sleep soundly. A coworker had mentioned that hemp-derived cannabinol (CBN) works wonders for her before bedtime.
The aisle is brimming with specialty THC-free hemp products: tablets, tinctures, creams, sprays, lotions, edible gummies, infused beverages, and specialty items like suppositories. You browse the array of mix-and-match cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Finding your perfect combination—CBN-and-linalool time-released softgels made by a trusted brand—is a breeze.
As an organic chemist who specializes in the production of natural plant compounds, I’m confident that the future I’ve described above is almost here. Within the next five years, the most innovative hemp CPG products will be tailor-made for specific consumer groups.
Demographic-based product development, digital health tracking, medical research, and cannabinoid human efficacy trials will drive exceptional growth in this era of personalized wellness. As more consumers “individualize” and modify their daily regimens, forward-thinking CPG brands will establish their market positions to build future leading market shares.
Of course, cannabidiol (CBD) is the success story everyone’s looking to repeat—especially with the CBD market projected to reach $23.7 billion by 2023, according to market research firm Brightfield Group.1 But as Forbes2 recently reported, CBD’s popularity has already resulted in market oversaturation and stiff competition. CPG companies must pursue different hemp avenues as the CBD gold rush inevitably fades.
Right Products for the Right Demographics
The ability to mix and match hundreds of emerging cannabinoids, terpenes, herbs, and plant-based omegas unlocks the door to countless possibilities for personalized wellness formulations tailored to different demographics, continuums, and purposes. These new products will address various generational cohorts that prefer certain delivery systems over others.
Seniors and baby boomers, with an eye on healthy aging3, are increasingly seeking out plant-based solutions for pain management and other age-related maladies. But when grandpa or grandma are golfing or playing tennis, they don’t want to “get high” or be in an altered state of mind. That is why products like topical creams, lotions, oils, and rollerballs present a much lower barrier to entry for this market demographic.
Gen X and millennials present a vastly different opportunity. These digital natives are far more inclined than baby boomers to research healthcare online4 and harbor skepticism of pharmaceutical drugs5. They’re also far less likely to schedule regular doctor’s appointments6, instead monitoring their wellness through wearable health trackers and apps for fitness and nutrition.
This cohort is ripe for individualized cannabinoid formulations, and all kinds of delivery modes are on the table: topicals, tinctures, tablets, inhalables, transdermal patches, vaporizers, and more. This group will no doubt be seeking to optimize their health and wellness for a range of factors, tackling everything from seasonal allergies to stressful activities and hard workouts. Possibilities abound for specially targeted fitness formulations with time-dosed bioavailability attributes, such as pre-workout products fortified with a cannabinoid that acts as anti-inflammatory plus a terpene like limonene for some extra antioxidant support.
Women are another key demographic: CBD suppositories for menstrual cramp relief are already available, and as research progresses, other emerging cannabinoids may prove effective for reproductive-system issues, from endometriosis and fibroids to perimenopausal symptoms. A formulation aimed at addressing the menopause double whammy of memory problems7 and headaches could for example combine pinene, a terpene shown to aid memory8, with the cannabinoid cannabichromene (CBC), whose anti-inflammatory properties9 could mitigate the symptoms of menopause.
Product innovation will also enable the formulations of the not-so-distant future to be genetically tailored based on a patient’s genome sequence, health history, and lifestyle. Cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, polyphenols, and plant omegas will be added to functional foods the same way we now add calcium to orange juice.
Technological advancements and novel production methods are making this new wave of wellness products possible. At the end of the day, we are all different, and individualized products are inevitable.
Producing Natural Plant Compounds Uniformly and at Scale
Outside of THC and CBD, a wealth of other so-called minor cannabinoids occur in smaller amounts in the plant family Cannabaceae that includes hemp, marijuana, and hops. But until recently, these rare and minor cannabinoids have been challenging to obtain at scale in standardized form. But now, in addition to extracting these compounds from whole plants, cannabinoid-focused businesses are applying cutting-edge science to production and extraction processes. New methods that follow the hemp plant’s natural growth cycle and production of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are beginning to power commercial-scale production of natural compounds that meet current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) for the supply chain.
Plant geneticists are also in a race to develop cultivars10 that are rich in these emerging cannabinoids11. Advancing research means we’ll soon be able to breed strains with targeted cannabinoid profiles, boosting access to promising minor cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidivarin (CBDV), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), to name just a few.
Mix-and-match combinations of cannabinoids, terpenes, herbs, and plant-based omegas will soon become the norm. Huge opportunities have arrived for personalized wellness with botanically derived formulations. Smart CPG brands must start paddling into the massive wave of interest and demand for highly specialized and demographically segmented plant-based solutions and bespoke formulations for the 2021 marketplace and beyond.
Dr. Andrea Holmes, PhD, is one of the cofounders and Chief Growth Officer of Precision Plant Molecules (Welby, CO; www.precisionplantmolecules.com), a premier hemp-processing company focused on innovative, specialty B2B products for leading CPG companies, such as true THC-free, broad-spectrum, fully customizable and standardized ingredients involving consistent minor cannabinoid profiles.
- Brightfield Group website. “US CBD market to grow 700% through 2019.” Published July 9, 2019. Accessed at: https://www.brightfieldgroup.com/press-releases/cbd-market-growth-2019
- Bourque A. “As competition increases, CBD companies need the right mentors to survive.” Forbes. Published June 24, 2019. Accessed at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrebourque/2019/06/24/as-competition-increases-cbd-companies-need-the-right-mentors-to-survive/#31d1c8d87b00
- National Institute on Aging website. “What Do We Know about Healthy Aging?” Content reviewed June 25, 2018. Accessed at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-do-we-know-about-healthy-aging
- Panner M. “Five ways millennials do health care their own way.” Forbes. Published April 9, 2019. Accessed at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/04/09/five-ways-millennials-do-health-care-their-own-way/#68341fff20c5
- Synder Bulik B. “Trust issues: Millennials are more skeptical of pharma than older generations.” FiercePharma. Published November 6, 2016. Accessed at: https://www.fiercepharma.com/marketing/trust-issues-millennials-are-more-skeptical-pharma-than-older-generations
- Becker’s Hospital Review website. “Millennials and healthcare: 25 things to know.” Published August 4, 2015. Accessed at: https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/millennials-and-healthcare-25-things-to-know.html
- University of Rochester Medical Center website. “‘Brain fog’ of menopause confirmed.” Published March 14, 2012. Accessed at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/3436/brain-fog-of-menopause-confirmed.aspx
- Lee GY et al. “Amelioration of scopolamine-induced learning and memory impairment by alpha-pinene in C57BL/6 mice.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Published online November 1, 2017.
- DeLong GT et al. “Pharmacological evaluation of the natural constituent of Cannabis sativa, cannabichromene and its modulation by Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol. 112, no. 1-2 (November 1, 2010): 126-133
- Black L. “Hunting for rare cannabinoids.” The Stranger. Published April 11, 2018. Accessed at: https://www.thestranger.com/green-guide-spring-2018/2018/04/11/26024638/hunting-for-rare-cannabinoids
- Garcia E. “Breeding for cannabinoids: The CBG seed.” Cannabis Now. Published July 1, 2019. Accessed at: https://cannabisnow.com/breeding-for-cannabinoids-the-cbg-seed/