When most people think of Milwaukee, their minds typically go to suds, not buds; Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz and Miller are just a few breweries that made Milwaukee famous. But tucked away about 25 miles north in the village of Saukville, Wisconsin, Pope Scientific is quietly changing the game from hops and grains to cannabis and hemp.
Pope Scientific has been a leader in engineering and manufacturing for more than half a century, but the company quietly and methodically entered the cannabis processing and distillation space six years ago. And the global cannabis industry — from Asia to Europe to Central America to the Middle East — is taking notice of the company’s innovative chemical processing and distillation expertise.
Expanding into cannabis
Pope Scientific’s 58-year legacy is what separates it from competitors in the cannabis industry.
Dean Segal, who has degrees in chemical engineering and biochemistry along with an MBA, joined the company 33 years ago and is now vice president of sales and marketing. For Segal, the move to cannabis was a game changer.
“We had plenty of large clients from around the world using our equipment and technology in well-established sectors: pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, electronics. We had a solid core of business and we were growing steadily,” Segal says. “But about six years ago, we started receiving inquiries from cannabis processors curious about our equipment and processes.”
Segal understood the potential and slowly began taking on more cannabis extraction customers from around the world.
“We’ve had a 75% uptick in sales, and we’ve added more and more staff across the company,” Segal says. “Our facility grew from 44,000 square feet to 64,000 square feet.”
Essentially, the equipment and technology to process cannabis is the same as other vertical industries. Aside from its half-century legacy in chemical engineering, Pope Scientific’s advantage is its “wiped film molecular still” technology.
Pope’s WFMS purification process is important for cannabis extraction companies because it increases purity and efficiency. After standard extraction and winterization (wax removal) and decarboxylation processing, the purity of THC, CBD or total cannabinoids in an extract is usually in the range of 60% to 70%. Customers can expect purity of 85% to 95% after two still passes using Pope Scientific distillation equipment.
“Our competitors in the United States simply cannot provide this level of purity and efficiency,” Segal says. “And we can scale the volume to meet the needs of the largest global companies or smaller operations.”
But it is not just the machinery and technology that has made Pope Scientific a market leader. The company has always been about the people. Specifically, scientists.
“We have assembled a team of engineers and scientists. Our company has always focused on hiring the best and brightest
from top engineering schools and chemistry programs,” Segal says. “We’ve been doing this complex work for decades — in highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals. There is not a cannabis company on the planet that has our breadth and depth of engineering know-how.”
Looking toward the future
The global cannabis extract market is expected to be valued at $28.5 billion by 2027, according to a report published in May by Grand View Research. It is projected to expand at a rate of 16% per year over the forecast period.
As cannabis legalization continues to make headway around the world, Segal anticipates continued growth, greater technical sophistication and tougher regulatory hurdles.
“It’s not like you need a crystal ball to recognize where the industry is going. We’ve been around for a long time, and we are able to spot opportunities as well as risks,” Segal says. “Our job is to help our customers grow their business while minimizing their production headaches.”
As an example, Segal points to Pope Scientific’s attention to customer service. The technology is inherently complicated and requires a significant financial investment. And Pope Scientific has a strong reputation for keeping its clients informed and satisfied.
“We recognize the complexity of the process. We fully expect a lot of back-and-forth conversations with our customers,” Segal said. “Pope Scientific prides itself in providing customer care — no matter what the issue may be.”
Video conferencing, for instance, has become an essential feature of Pope Scientific’s customer service since the COVID pandemic.
“Our customers can call us up, and we have the ability to assess issues from our headquarters. We have customers in Israel, Lithuania, China, Colombia and throughout North America. No matter the time zone, our customer service reps are there to help diagnose and solve whatever the problem may be,” he says.
Pope Scientific’s innovations in the cannabis sector may be grabbing a lot of attention, but Segal is quick to point out that the company’s focus will always be on processing science and technology in this sector, along with new and existing traditional industries.
“We enjoy sharing our expertise with the cannabis industry and have made a lot of new friends and business relationships,” he says. “It’s been a wild ride. The canna-industry is here to stay, though perhaps on a different pace than the last six or so years. As chemists, chemical, mechanical and electrical engineers, our mission is to serve our customers and work together on their application hurdles. We are solution driven!”