In October of 2019, the federal government announced the legalization of Cannabis 2.0 products, including cannabis-infused edibles, vaporizers, beverages, oils, and topicals. The introduction of these new product categories enhanced the retail cannabis market dramatically, sky-rocketing sales by 120%, and tallying over $2.6 billion in revenue since 2019.
Cannabis 2.0 products promised future growth over the increasingly saturated dried flower market, through new product categories and innovation. Leveraging uniquely formulated products exclusive to their brand, companies could now develop a strong foundation to diversify their product offerings, and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
For brands looking to introduce new Cannabis 2.0 products to the Canadian cannabis market, it is important to partner with a Licensed Processor that specializes in end-to-end product development. The right partner will work tirelessly to ensure all of the crucial and complex steps to developing a Cannabis 2.0 product are taken, resulting in a final product that aligns to the brand proposition, provides good value, and delights the consumer.
Steps To Developing A Cannabis 2.0 Product
- Premium Biomass Selection
THC and CBD content aren’t the only factors when selecting suitable biomass for extraction; multiple factors should be considered including the cultivation site where the plant matter is grown, the desired cannabinoid and terpene profile depending on the final product profile and the brand proposition.
- Sample & Test
The basic requirement is that cannabis and hemp material are screened through a comprehensive sampling and testing protocol to guarantee the biomass is compliant with federal requirements. However, thorough sampling and testing can ensure that the refined products derived from the biomass will meet or exceed the brand requirements.
- Solventless Terpene Extraction
The essential oils from the product, including terpenes, are distilled by first gently heating cannabis plant matter under vacuum allowing the highly volatile compounds to travel through the extractor where they can be quickly cooled, causing them to condense into a liquid form for collection. The resultant mixture is a water-clear solution of terpenes that is greater than 90% pure.
The remaining biomass retains the cannabinoids and must undergo a separate process to refine those compounds.The milling process breaks the cannabis into smaller pieces of a uniform size allowing for maximized and uniform extraction.
Decarboxylation is the process of heating cannabis biomass at controlled temperatures to activate its cannabinoid compounds, converting THCA to THC, and CBDA to CBD, and removing excess moisture. When the process is appropriately controlled, there is minimum degradation of the cannabinoids, such as the conversion of THC to CBN.
Extraction is a process that selectively solubilizes the target molecules in cannabis and removes them from the unwanted portions of the biomass. The process includes removing unwanted oils and fats in the plant matter, and collecting the most potent compounds, including THC, CBD, and terpenes.
- Winterization and Filtration
Winterization is a refinement process that focuses on the removal of remaining waxes and lipids from cannabis extracts. Cannabis crude oil is mixed with ethanol and cooled to between -40°C and -80°C, depending on the requirements. This process precipitates the lipids and waxes from the extract and allows removal by filtration.
- Solvent Recovery
When filtration is complete, the ethanol is removed from the solution by heating under vacuum, producing a more purified product with a potency of 70-75%. In an ideal process, the conditions are highly controlled to remove ethanol to parts per million levels and ensure that the cannabinoids are preserved.
Distillation is the process in which the incoming material, winterized resin, is separated into fractions based on their boiling points. The undesirable materials, heavies and heads, are removed, purifying the cannabinoids. This results in a distillate oil that is low in flavour, has a subtle aroma, and is light in colour. The oil can be purified to greater than 95% total cannabinoid potency during this stage.
In this stage, brands work hand-in-hand with an extraction facility to develop a unique formulation for their Cannabis 2.0 product. Partnering with a company that provides industry-leading technology and extensive knowledge during this process is crucial. Products from any stage in the process above can be mixed depending on the requirements of the product and brand.
- Quality Assurance
Taking a proactive approach to ensuring your Cannabis 2.0 product is market-ready before packaging and order fulfillment provides peace of mind to retailers, and also serves to reduce the likelihood of consumer complaints and, at worst, product recalls.
- Packaging & Fulfillment
The last step to developing your Cannabis 2.0 product is the sourcing of packaging materials and hardware. It is important during this stage to partner with a team that has in-depth, working knowledge of the many intricacies of Health Canada’s stringent packaging and labelling requirements. Additionally, having existing relationships with provincial boards can allow for a smooth product launch with seamless logistics planning.
Bringing a new product to market can be challenging. Partnering with an experienced Licensed Processor assures that proper steps are taken, eliminating the unexpected along the way. Following the listed steps, will assist any brand owner in producing a high-quality product, unique to your brand.