For the past 50 years or so, industries across the globe have rushed to synthesize everything as a matter of convenience. Synthetics allow manufactures to mass-produce products to meet rising consumer demand, which exploded after World War II. But as the 20th century ended, consumers began to question the wisdom of that choice and grew concerned about the potential health and environmental impacts of synthetics.
Today, consumer trends show a desire to return to natural products, to connect with the planet, and to buy and use items that contain ingredients people can understand. Manufacturers around the globe have started to take notice, and they have rushed to ditch synthetics and catch up with the plant-based revolution.
Are Cannabinoids the Missing Secret Ingredient?
The problems for companies trying to meet consumers’ demands for natural products are often complex. For example, it’s a challenge to find effective plant-based alternatives to many of the synthetic ingredients in products. However, one potentially overlooked natural ingredient is on the rise — hemp.
For the past 50 years, the growth and use of the cannabis plant in all its forms has been illegal in the United States and many other countries. The legality of the plant is the key reason it has never been integrated into many consumer products.
In the time since the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 passed and legalized the cultivation, study, and use of hemp in the U.S., we’ve learned a lot about the potential applications of the different cannabinoids (i.e., compounds) present in the hemp plant. Because hemp has so many compounds, it has diverse potential applications. For example, some of the phytochemicals naturally present in hemp (e.g., terpenes and phytocannabinoids) can effectively replace some of the synthetic ingredients in household products.
Now that many of the legal restrictions have been lifted in the U.S., Canada, and other countries, industries across the globe finally have access to hemp sources that can be used as natural ingredients in their products.
Imagine disinfectant wipes that are not only as effective as traditional wipes but also made entirely of plant-based ingredients instead of harsh synthetic chemicals. Toothpaste could naturally fight harmful bacteria that cause disease and other oral health concerns without any synthetic chemicals that have harmful side effects. The possibilities of plant-based ingredients are endless, and it’s time manufacturers fully embrace them.
Using Cannabinoids for Plant-Based Products
In the consumer products industry, a growing number of companies are using hemp extracts with cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD). Yet even with the legal freedom to use these ingredients, manufacturers still face significant challenges in switching out synthetic substances for hemp extracts and other plant-based ingredients.
First, they need to choose the right hemp extracts for their products and make sure their customers understand and can track those ingredients. Manufacturers also need to know the implications of including certain types of hemp extracts in products sold in countries with varying cannabis laws. With the following tips, manufacturers can use high-quality hemp extracts to enhance the natural content and appeal of their products:
1. Brush up on the laws in any country where you operate.
The growth and use of hemp extracts with CBD and other cannabinoids are largely legal in North America, which is a hub of international trade for any market. But the specific laws that govern its use —particularly in oral and topical health products — are mostly localized.
Laws governing the use of hemp extracts in these products may differ across states in the U.S., and those same laws can vary significantly from legislation in Canada. As a result, you’ll need to pay close attention to both local and federal laws wherever your customers reside.
2. Research the right extracts, and test repeatedly.
Because hemp has such a wide variety of compounds, you should learn how the different types of extracts can apply to your products. Plenty of research has gone into the cannabinoids of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD, but there are more than 100 other phytocannabinoids in the hemp plant.
Research and test multiple variations repeatedly to discover what works best with your consumer products. With natural, synthetic-free ingredients, you’ll also have to test different methods to perfect your new formulas.
3. Conduct studies to prove the enhancement of your products.
As more outside studies add weight to the benefits of plant-based products — including those with hemp extract and its phytoconstituents — there are plenty of opportunities to conduct your own scientific research to prove your product’s performance.
The best way to do this is through well-designed clinical and consumer insight studies. Research that highlights a product’s day-to-day benefits (such as a natural alternative for a cleaning product or a plant-based body balm to massage into tired or tense muscles) provides the most appealing data to consumers.
4. Understand any marketing challenges.
After nailing down the specific hemp extracts you want to use and then testing your products, revisit the specific regulations in the different states, provinces, and countries that make up your customer base. When it comes to marketing plant-based products that contain hemp extracts, the rules can be tricky.
In Canada, for instance, you’re not allowed to promote brands that use hemp with CBD, and these products are only sold through licensed online or brick-and-mortar distributors. There are various places you can market hemp brands and products in the U.S., however, but you need to avoid making any disease-related claims that would render your product an unapproved drug.
While these might seem like tough challenges to overcome — how are you supposed to showcase your product if you can’t market it? — consumers will put effort into finding brands focused on providing natural, synthetic-free consumer products.
Choosing to go plant-based not only frees your products of potentially harmful synthetics, but it also gives you a much broader customer base. The rush to create “fake,” synthetic products is over. We have now entered the plant-based revolution.
Photo: Michael Cammarata at the New York Stock Exchange.
Michael Cammarata is the president and CEO of Neptune Wellness Solutions, an innovative wellness company offering high-quality, environmentally friendly, natural alternative products. Michael is also the co-founder and former CEO of Schmidt’s Naturals, one of the world’s fastest-growing wellness brands and a Unilever acquisition. He is on a personal mission to invest in and scale companies globally that will make sustainable innovation and modern wellness solutions accessible to the world.