By Tim McCarthy
What happened to the ambitious growth predictions?
As useful and helpful as hemp is… my guess is the ‘predictors’ thought acceptance would be ubiquitous and never considered the willingness of the “majority” to adopt a new product. As with all new trends, the same thing that attracts early adopters deters the majority buyer - it’s new. Like Geoffrey Moore argues in his book “Crossing the Chasm”, describing marketplace adoption of technology, the hemp industry is experiencing a resistance to buy-into the new and unknown space of CBD.
Here’s a short list of the “Why’s” behind the slow uptake by the pragmatic mainstream:
-hemp is related to a stigmatized substance
-often advertised that it’s kind of like marijuana but you won’t get high… huh? what?
-no regulatory approvals and a few well publicized regulatory smack downs
-few real-world studies to prove its claims
-relies on the consumer to have to fill in the blanks on what it is used for and how to use it
-vague marketing messaging and false promises
The top 5 things the hemp market must do to be adopted by the mainstream consumer
1. Market to the health-focused consumer and distance from the marijuana industry
There is enough market confusion without our own industry promulgating the idea that hemp is an edgy, just this side of legal, marijuana alternative product. The key for hemp to open that gateway is the health and wellness lifestyle CPGs brands. Reinforcing association to marijuana will keep hemp on the fringes, remain blocked out of an enormously bigger market, and keep it locked in a losing competition to its psychotropic cousin.
2. Think small to get big! Target specific needs.
The pragmatic consumer purchases value products for specific needs. Stop promoting hemp as a one size fits most generic product. An unfocused tincture with a dose of 10mg of CBD isolate is not going to “fix whatever ails ya”. Provide a product that “identifies” to their specific need. Dominate in that small niche space, then expand.
3. Specific products require specific ingredients.
Get really specific about the hemp extracts you select - know its contents and traceable history. You cannot expect to make great, focused formulations of hemp-based CPGs from miscellaneous, non-specific, hemp oils and isolates. There are numerous studies confirming that the Entourage Effect is real; that it is from the interplay of cannabinoids and terpenes on the ECS (endo-cannabinoid system). For example, a low level of myrcene is known to stimulate, a high level can make one sleepy. If your CPG target is “focus” or “sports” related, be careful that the oil you are getting does not have high amount of CBN, known for making one sleepy.
4. Demand “pricing and delivery” of the “active ingredient” based solely on its weight. Stop buying hemp extracts sold by the liter, but called a kilogram.
Most hemp extract sellers talk in kilograms but provide it as liters of extract. No other industry operates this way, why should hemp extract buyers accept this uncertainty? As a back to high school mini-review: A kilogram is a metric unit measure of weight and is 1,000 grams. A liter is a metric unit measure of volume. They are NOT interchangeable for hemp oils. A liter of CBD/hemp extract is not, and can never be, a kilogram (1,000 grams) of CBD.
A very simple example: a liter of 57% CBD Crude yields ~570 grams of CBD, not 1,000. It’s no wonder that over the past 2 years in random audits conducted in the US and Europe 60% or more of the hemp/CBD products contain CBD under the labeled amounts, and thus are mislabeled, illegal and subject to FTC actions and trial lawyer filings. In short, know what you’re buying!
5. Confirm your products are trustworthy
To grow, do what grown companies do: prepare and stay prepared for increasing standards and detailed record keeping. Buy only documented and traceable ingredients. You and your products will have to pass reviews and audits. A COA (certificate of analysis) is a starting point, not a finish line, meant to hopefully prove there’s actually CBD in the oil and any added COAs to show it is free of harmful impurities. Look for suppliers that also provide CPG industry standard MSDS sheets. Compliance to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) or ISO9001/2015 and Food Grade site management are good starting points. Maintain trust with the consumer by not making unproven medical claims, and triple check with a multi-person team that labels are a full match to what is in the bottle.