Technological Innovation Pushes Bounds of Edible Cannabis Market

September 11, 2019 08:00:46

CannabisNewsWire Editorial Coverage: A desire to move away from smoking may be fueling growth in the edible cannabis products.

Sproutly Canada Inc. (CSE: SPR) (OTCQB: SRUTF) (FSE: 38G) (SRUTF Profile) is developing new technology to manufacture cannabis edibles and to accurately measure their active ingredients. Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) (LXRP Profile) has created a bold new technology to make cannabis’ active ingredients more palatable and absorbable. BevCanna Enterprises Inc. (CSE: BEV) (OTC: BVNNF) is producing white-label products, giving other brands access to the market. HEXO Corp. (TSX: HEXO) (NYSE: HEXO) is meeting its regulatory needs by acquiring other licensed cannabis producers and processors. Valens GroWorks Corp. (TSX.V: VGW) (OTCQX: VGWCF) has created a large and growing extraction and testing facility.

  • Cannabis in food and drink offers both health and social advantages over smoking.
  • The market’s growth depends upon meeting the standards of regulators.
  • Market growth is driving innovation not just in the production of edible cannabis but also in the technology to measure contents.

To view an infographic of this editorial, click here.

Expanding the Bounds of Cannabis

As the legal boundaries of the North American cannabis industry expand, businesses are looking for ways to make the most of their products and reach the widest possible market. This quest has led to a growing shift in focus away from smoking, which is accompanied by significant health concerns and social challenges. Instead, companies are increasingly focused on alternatives such as edible cannabis products.

The growing demand presents challenges. One of the most obvious is developing the technology to effectively extract the active ingredients in cannabis and incorporate them into foods, drinks, vaping oils and other products. In addition, meeting regulatory standards is also a factor, as authorities move to set standards for a newly legalized industry. Meeting such standards means improving control over products, which in turn means improving measurement systems. And that means developing the technology to do the measuring.

The Advantages of Edible Cannabis

Edibles are quickly becoming an important focus for the cannabis market. Some companies are offering edibles, including beverages, as part of a wider product line, creating cannabis-infused drinks alongside wider beverage lines or more diverse cannabis products. Other companies have narrowed their focus to either cannabis edibles or cannabis-infused drinks. For Sproutly Canada Inc. (CSE: SPR) (OTCQB: SRUTF) (FSE: 38G), the focus is on supplying water-soluble cannabis solutions and bionatural oils to be used in the beverages and consumables market.

The shift toward edibles is a direct response to the decrease in smoking. Cannabis legalization has arrived just as tobacco smoking is seeing a steep decline. Both the percentage of people who smoke and the number of cigarettes they consume each day are going down. Many people who are interested in cannabis, whether for medical or recreational reasons, don’t want to take up smoking. If the cannabis industry is to grow, it appears the most effective way may be to find other ways to reach these potential consumers.

Beverages may be one of the most promising ways to replace smoking as the leading form of cannabis consumption; this trend should provide growing business opportunities for companies such as Sproutly. Cannabis-infused beverages allow consumers to choose between alcohol and cannabis on a night out, with users of each able to enjoy the same social setting together.

The downside of this choice is that ingested cannabis typically takes longer to kick in than either alcohol or smoking, disrupting the social dynamic. Sproutly is working to solve this problem with its innovative Infuz2O technology, which provides faster delivery of the active ingredients in ingested cannabis. For both medical users looking for fast relief and recreational users looking to keep pace with their companions, it’s a potentially valuable step.

Cannabis Regulation and Measurement

Cannabis edibles don’t automatically become legal just because cannabis itself has. For example, a delay was written into Canada’s legalization legislation to give time to prepare regulations for ingestible cannabis products such as those Sproutly supports.

These regulations, like those around smokable cannabis, are created with good reason. Governments need to be able to establish standards for recreational drugs to minimize the risk of harm both to consumers and to others who may be affected by those consuming the products.

One form of regulation that appears certain to make its way from alcohol to cannabis is the need to measure and state the strength of consumer products. Two decades of development mean that the methods for these measurements are fairly well established for smokable cannabis, but ingestible cannabis products raise new challenges — ones that Sproutly subsidiary Infusion Biosciences Inc. is addressing.

The methods currently used for the detection and quantitation of cannabinoids were designed for isolated oils. That means they are unable to accurately and reliably measure cannabinoid contents in finished edible and beverage products, which are significantly more complicated. But under the leadership of Sproutly’s chief science officer, Dr. Arup Sen, Infusion Biosciences has developed analytical methods that measure the cannabinoid molecules in water-soluble and oil preparations created using Sproutly’s APP technology. This development marks a significant step toward accurately testing and labeling the content of cannabis ingestibles.

“The ability to test for cannabinoids in water formulations has been unreliable for cannabis beverages globally due to the existing testing standards and practices,” said Sen. “With ever-increasing food-safety standards that need to be met for cannabis beverage and edible products, the completion of our research and the Developed Analytics are significant milestones in the commercialization of APP Technology; this is another step forward towards reliable and accurate testing for ingestible cannabis products.”

Innovating on All Levels

To successfully develop the market for ingestibles, cannabis companies need to be innovating on every level, from the extraction of active ingredients to their measurement, to the recipes for active foods and drinks. Even the way that cannabis is marketed is going to change as its place in people’s lives changes.

Although it’s unlikely that any company will attack this from every angle, it’s a good sign for the market that so many are taking on multiple interlinked issues at once. This is visible in Sproutly’s approach, with the creation of new technology to both create and measure ingestibles.

Infuz2O is the centerpiece of Sproutly’s work. A water-soluble cannabis liquid that moves away from the need for emulsification or encapsulation, Infuz2O allows the delivery of a precisely measured dose of active ingredients from cannabis in an odorless and easy-to-handle form. The effects of the cannabis are felt within five minutes and wear off within 90 minutes, bringing the experience closer to that of alcohol. This delivery method could make it easier to manage for consumers who are new to cannabis or who want to consume their drinks alongside alcohol drinkers, both important pieces for the beverage market.

By developing Infuz2O alongside its testing technology, Sproutly has given itself a way to test the reliability of its product as well as a product to test the measurements on. The move appears to be both a logical and efficient strategy.

Beyond Weed

Cannabis is moving beyond its old image, where “weed” was a fitting label for something that spread where it wasn’t permitted — something primitively grown and furtively consumed. A plethora of companies are now working to develop sophisticated products for a more sophisticated — and legal — market.

Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) is another innovator in the field of delivery methods. The company’s DehydraTECH(TM) technology uses fatty acids to make cannabinoids both more palatable and easier for the body to absorb. This increases the efficiency of cannabis products as well as removing a challenge to the flavor of ingestibles. Like Sproutly, LXRP is working in close cooperation with the authorities to improve the measurement and understanding of cannabinoids through groundbreaking research with the National Research Council of Canada.

BevCanna Enterprises Inc. (CSE: BEV) (OTC: BVNNF) is innovating within the industry by importing a business model that has seen little use in cannabis — white-label products. BevCanna researches, packages and produces cannabis-infused beverages to appear under the branding of other companies. The approach keeps the company itself out of the public eye while allowing its clients easy access to this new market without having to develop extensive in-house expertise.

Licensing is an essential part of the cannabis regulatory process. Consequently, companies are moving to acquire more licenses to produce and sell cannabinoids. Some are doing this primarily through their own applications, but others, such as HEXO Corp. (TSX: HEXO) (NYSE: HEXO), have been using acquisitions to build up its businesses. A medical cannabis provider that entered the recreational market last year, HEXO has acquired Newstrike, the parent company of Up Cannabis Inc., a licensed producer and distributor. This acquisition should give HEXO a bigger footprint within the profitable Canadian cannabis market, where unmet demand continues to offer great profit potential.

As a growing number of farmers start cultivating cannabis, somebody needs to provide the extraction and testing services to turn the crops into ingredients for ingestibles. Valens GroWorks Corp. (TSX.V: VGW) (OTCQX: VGWCF) provides extraction and testing services. The company uses a variety of extraction methods to obtain the active ingredients from cannabis crops, producing extracts ideally suited for the products they will be used in. This summer, Valens announced that its extraction capacity had reached 425,000 kg per year, with plans to reach more than a million kilograms.

As the cannabis market shifts towards edible products, extraction and testing work, along with the innovative technology driving it, may become a linchpin of the cannabis economy.

For more information on Sproutly Canada, visit Sproutly Canada Inc. (OTCQB: SRUTF) (CSE: SPR) (FRA: 38G)

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