Over the summer, a small handful of products with the potential to completely reinvent the edibles market began hitting retail stores.
These odorless and nearly flavorless forms of THC can be added to any foods and beverages. If these products gain favor among consumers, they could reduce — or even completely eliminate — the need for retailers to carry a wide variety of infused edibles or have refrigerators for sodas and drinks. Retail stores would be able to maximize the profitability of their shelf space. Consumers would no longer have to settle for the limited flavors and knock-off brands carried by retailers — they could add THC directly to their Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper without significantly altering the flavor.
Prohibition Gold offers a THC powder for foods and drinks; Stratos THC created the Alka-Seltzer of cannabis; and two Washington-based companies are turning simple sugar into a game-changing new kitchen staple.
These initial concepts, like many “new” products entering recreational stores, were originally introduced years ago in medical dispensaries as a universal alternative to the standard beverage or brownie. Now they have made the transition into recreational stores — this time by licensed processors with ad campaigns, sleek packaging and compelling sales points for consumers and retailers.
The advantage for consumers is the freedom of choice and the portable nature of the new medium.
Prohibition Gold, Stratos, DeepCell Industries and Grow Op Farms are not the only companies working these alternatives onto store shelves, but they are among the leaders of the burgeoning revolution.
Prohibition Gold recently unveiled a product that could change the way people view marijuana, and could be a major turning point in bringing cannabis deeper into the mainstream market.
Potshotz are packets of neutral-tasting THC powders designed to easily turn any beverage into an infused product. Each one-gram packet contains 10 milligrams of THC, with boxes of 10 retailing for roughly $40.
Prohibition Gold is a licensed processor in Washington. The company buys cannabis in bulk from state-licensed producers and refines it into powder at its Seattle facility.
The company will also be releasing Topshotz in the near future, a similar product designed for infusing food.
“I think what we have right here is a very disruptive product in the industry,” Prohibition Gold co-founder Greg Walters says. “Because it really negates a lot of edibles, from soft drinks to various other infused items, and with the combination of both Potshotz and Topshotz, you literally kind of take out a broad sector with just two products.”
Rather than creating a product that was completely flavorless and undetectable, Prohibition Gold modified its recipe to include a slight citrus flavor, so users would be able to notice the addition of THC without compromising the taste of the food or beverage.
The citrus flavor might be noticeable in bland items like popcorn or water, but stronger flavors like coffee or chocolate will make Potshotz and Topshotz practically undetectable.
One of Walters’ biggest concerns with the new product lines is public safety. Prohibition Gold (prohibitiongold.com) uses its website as an informational hub to promote responsible use, while also informing people about the negative aspects of cannabis that Walters feels are often ignored in the overwhelmingly positive media coverage.
“I want to use this really as a bully pulpit to do good for the industry,” he says. “I want to highlight the responsible side of the industry and the people who’re doing responsible business.”[pullquote]“I think what we have right here is a very disruptive product in the industry,” Prohibition Gold co-founder Greg Walters says. “Because it really negates a lot of edibles, from soft drinks to various other infused items, and with the combination of both Potshotz and Topshotz, you literally kind of take out a broad sector with just two products.” [/pullquote]
Walters has operated a graphic design firm for more than 30 years in Seattle. In addition to clients like Bumbershoot, Seattle’s annual music and arts festival, his firm has also done pro-bono work for nonprofits such as Northwest Harvest and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“I’ve won national awards for my work for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and it’s a counter to say that I run a marijuana company at the same time,” Walters says. “The two can be inclusive. You can just do one or the other, but if you do both, I think it results in a better product on both ends.”
Prohibition Gold is setting up a second production facility in Portland, Oregon, and also plans to expand into California as soon as legislation allows.
Stratos THC made a name for itself by selling THC in tablet form to dispensaries across Colorado. The company’s latest product is Ascend, an effervescent tablet that dissolves in any beverage in minutes. Each bottle retails for about $26, depending on the retailer, and contains 10 tablets infused with 10 milligrams of THC. The tablets don’t have added flavors, smells or residual traces after the it’s dissolved. Bradley Orr, CEO of Stratos THC, believes having a unique product is vital to the company’s success.
However, he initially found that buyers were reluctant to carry a tablet form of THC in their retail stores.
“The adoption curve on it was very shallow for a long time,” he says.
The company had to adjust its sales strategy to convince people that it wasn’t just a new delivery mechanism — “It’s a better experience,” Orr says.
Stratos (stratosthc.com) began developing the trust of retailers by offering risk-free terms and allowing them to pay for only the units they sold. The challenge of breaking into the market helped prepare Orr for the Ascend launch.
Orr suspects the product will be a more effective use of shelf space compared to “refrigerators full of sodas whose flavors aren’t very good.”
“We have an opportunity to really shake up the beverage component of the industry,” Orr says. “Our goal was to mask (the flavor) entirely so that you could put it into anything and have it barely change the flavor. I’ve tried it in a blue Gatorade and in Coca-Cola, and I had to really think about tasting it to catch the flavor.”
Stratos THC produces and processes its own cannabis into tablet form. Orr has already mapped out expansion plans in select states outside of Colorado. As the company expands, Orr says it will continue the search for licensed processors to help carry the brand into new territories.
Ruby Cannabis Sugar
Just like its non-infused counterpart, Ruby Cannabis Sugar can be used as a sweetener for any food. Made from just two ingredients — organic sugar and extracted cannabinoids — each serving of Ruby contains 10 milligrams of THC and 15 calories.
Ruby was created by DeepCell Industries, a technology company that has a patent pending on its process of fusing THC with sucrose.
“I think one of the other value propositions of the product is just that it is so simple and clean,” DeepCell marketing director Jennifer Lampe says. “There are just two ingredients — no binders, no artificial ingredients. It is just organic cane sugar and cannabinoid crystals. That’s it. So if you care about your health and the food you’re eating, then it’s a great product to align with those values.”
DeepCell doesn’t handle any of the manufacturing or distribution of cannabis. The company has developed its own proprietary fusing technology, and licenses its use and the Ruby brand to distribution partners.
Green Labs LLC has signed a licensing agreement to manufacture and distribute Ruby Cannabis Sugar (rubysweets.co) in Washington, and DeepCell Industries is looking for licensed processors to partner with in other recreational states.
DeepCell Industries has already begun promoting Ruby as a universal substitute for edibles. The water-soluble nature of sugar means consumers feel the effects faster than other edibles.
The single-serving packets retail for $6 to $8, depending on the store. As of early August, about two dozen cannabis retail stores in Washington carry Ruby, Lampe says.
“We’re rapidly expanding across the state.”
Lampe says that larger 10-serving packages are in development, but initial feedback from retail stores indicates that the single-serving packages are in high demand.
DeepCell isn’t going to stop with sugar; Lampe says the company also has plans in the works to bring its own line of salts and other sweeteners to recreational markets.
“Sales have been really great for us,” Lampe says. “We’re really thrilled.”
Sean Mooney, the “mad scientist” at Grow Op Farms, has been developing the company’s edible alternative line for more than a year. Hot Sugar is a granular form of sweetened THC that now comes in a variety of flavors, including chocolate, caramel, marshmallow and citrus.
Mooney used his experience and background in alcohol distillation to produce Hot Sugar.
“It turns out that proofing alcohol is very applicable to proofing marijuana edibles,” Mooney says.
The benefit of using an alcohol distillation method is that the cannabis extract can be reduced to a more bio-available, water-soluble form, he says. He chose to avoid using oil-soluble extracts that would need to be metabolized by the liver before the consumer would feel its effects. According to Mooney, oil-soluble cannabis had two downsides when added to edibles: it takes consumers 30 minutes to an hour to feel the effects of the THC, and then the effects hit all at once and often overwhelm consumers with the sheer intensity of the sudden high.
Hot Sugar comes in packages of up to 10 servings; each serving contains 10 milligrams of THC.
Mooney says the goal for Hot Sugar was to eliminate the wait between ingestion and impact, and to allow consumers to measure and moderate their experiences.
“It’s more like taking a puff,” he says. “Our granular items will dissolve directly into your mouth and directly into your blood system, and you’ll start to feel the effects in five, 10, 15 minutes. When you put sugar that has been properly homogenized with oil into your mouth, you get an immediate reaction from all of the surface area.”
“It’s a really good product to just pour in your mouth because we use distilled THC,” Grow Op Farms CEO Robert McKinley says. “It makes the medicine more bio-available. When we make our sugar, we then use it in all of our edibles.”
McKinley says the sugar has become the chief ingredient for Panda Candies, the company’s line of edibles that were introduced in the spring of 2016.
Mooney says Hot Sugar is currently available in about 93 retail stores in Washington. Grow Op Farms (www.growopfarms.com) is the top-selling producer/processor in Washington since the state-regulated program came online, with more than $17 million in revenue.