As an entrepreneur, your product is everything. Because of my background as a pharmacist, I knew we owed it to our customers to meet the high standards needed to get our facility for making CBD topicals certified as an OTC maker. That means the FDA has certified that our equipment and procedures meet the strict standards to make over-the-counter quality products. The truth is, this is rare in the CBD industry. It’s time-consuming and a challenge, but one we accepted gladly.
CBD has had an explosion in popularity. That means countless brands that want a slice of the pie slap their logo on a boilerplate oil or topical cream from an industrial manufacturer. The difference between many of them is only label-deep. As a pharmacist, I had a vision of CBD oil that set a new bar in taste, effect, and mouthfeel. I refined the recipe over and over again until I got there. I didn’t want to create a CBD oil that was curdling, bitter, and like, “taking your medicine.” I believe our proprietary CBD oil is a premium wellness experience, but even brands who aren’t manufacturing their oils should keep pressuring their manufacturer to improve the customer experience.
There were very few CBD companies in existence at the time and no roadmaps on how to start one. My background as a pharmacist guided my decision-making in those early days. It forced me to put the patient (i.e. customer) first and focus relentlessly on product quality, efficacy, and consistency—even at the expense of profit.
Find the right testing lab
Today, launching a CBD company is relatively easy. Dozens of manufacturers are ready to provide finished goods to any entrepreneur with a logo and a label. Somebody with any background can get into the CBD business, and there are now more than two thousand CBD brands means that many novices have jumped in.
I was thrilled to see how much health and happiness it brought to their lives. It was incredibly fulfilling to use my expertise to create products from scratch and then see their impact. As word of mouth spread, I knew I had to leave my previous career behind and launch Green Roads.
Still, if you’re serious about doing what’s best for your customer, I believe products should meet certain standards of quality. Here are a few quality control processes that represent the best practices of how a CBD company can make its products.
Not all lab testing is created equal. My work in laboratories taught me that pay-to-play laboratories and in-house lab testing do exist and are more common than you may want to think. (This amounts to grading your homework!) We have our ingredients and whole finished products tested for quality by an independent laboratory. For the sake of transparency, we put a QR code leading to the results on every package to give our customers peace of mind.
In the last few years, CBD oil has grown from a niche alternative treatment to a multimillion-dollar market. The growth rate suggests that by 2022 the CBD market will expand to over $2.5 billion. As more people discover the benefits of CBD, the medical community and legislators alike are taking notice. CBD is used on a daily basis by millions of people, and because of the credibility given to it by doctors, researchers, and lawmakers who support it, more people are trying CBD for the first time every day.
Inhalation is a popular method for CBD delivery because, much like with tinctures, the CBD is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and so provides immediate effects. CBD concentrates can be vaped similarly to nicotine e-liquids, so vape supply stores often expand into CBD or vice versa (learn more about selling vape online). Traditional smoking methods like water pipes are also popular, but some CBD retailers find these products troublesome due to drug paraphernalia laws (regardless of their use with legal CBD) and the difficulty of shipping complicated glass items.
Understanding CBD and CBD Products
Europe and the United States both have long histories of hemp farming due to the quality of products made from hemp, such as rope and textiles, even before CBD was understood. Today, the US and Europe are home to some of the best hemp farmers in the world, although not all European countries that grow hemp do so for CBD extraction. Other countries throughout the world also grow hemp for various uses that may not permit usage for CBD. Hemp farming was also banned in the US for over 50 years and is still illegal in some states. It is important that your CBD supplier obtains hemp from a reputable farm that produces high-quality crops such as those found in the US and Europe. If your supplier grows their own hemp, investigate to ensure they’re following industry best practices.
People take CBD for a variety of reasons including severe or painful conditions and anxiety relief. Everyone who uses CBD also has their own preferred method of taking it, which can be anything from vaping it to swallowing a pill. As a CBD seller, it’s important for you to understand the types of CBD products available and how they are used, as well as which types of customers the different products appeal to.
CBD has been shown to have similar effects on animals as it has on humans, so it’s popular with people who have pets that suffer from pain or anxiety — even if the customer doesn’t use any CBD themselves. Since animals can have much more sensitive systems than humans, CBD oils for pets should be specially formulated to ensure their safety. CBD for pets can also come in flavors like fish and bacon to make it more appealing to cats and dogs.
"I think the FDA does have to step in, and they will," said Slovik. "I expect a lot of changes to labels; we're seeing a lot of businesses out there now using the term 'hemp extract' instead of CBD, or they're not thinking of health benefits so much. Many companies are doing different things, but no one really knows [what the regulations will be] until it happens."
The key to gaining a competitive advantage with staying power in the CBD industry is to develop a high-quality product that will withstand the coming scrutiny of both regulators and educated consumers. If you want to differentiate yourself from other CBD businesses, it's key to provide third-party lab testing results to validate the quality of your product, Slovik said.
Marketing and selling CBD products is tricky. While the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill liberalized the industry a little bit (CVS and Walgreen's now carry CBD products, for example), it is still difficult to sell CBD products on major online platforms like Amazon or eBay. Likewise, social media advertising is virtually nonexistent; paid ads for CBD products risk account suspensions or bans. All your growth must be driven through organic content that falls under the guidelines of each platform.
Understand your legal obligations
In addition, Slovik said pursuing certifications like USDA organic, Good Manufacturing Practices and FDA facility registrations are important moves to instill confidence in consumers about the quality of the product they are buying.
Industry analyst BDS Analytics predicts the U.S. CBD market will reach $20 billion in sales by 2024. This would be a major surge from $1.9 billion in 2018 (a 49% annual growth rate).
The federal government considers marijuana a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal for interstate commerce, even as dozens of states legalize it for adult use. Industrial hemp, on the other hand, was recently removed from the Controlled Substances Act altogether, opening the way for its cultivation and harvest in the U.S. for the first time since 1937.
"This industry has been more or less illegal for the past century," said Slovik. "At this point, there's major, major momentum. Many people are trying to break in, so don't follow the herd. You want to be a leader."