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Why Cannabinoids Are Here to Stay

The consumer goods business has seen its share of fads—and then some. Often it seems that not a day goes by when a special ingredient or other differentiator hailed as “transformative,” “groundbreaking” and “game-changing” simply fades away, consigned to the dustbin of marketing past. From hero to zero, the cycle is exceptionally swift.

Product makers are increasingly searching for that extra little something that can help appeal to discerning consumers—and make a splash on social media. They are forced to find that ingredient, additive, or differentiator which can start and sustain buzz while also meeting consumer needs. Yet finding a genuine superstar is very difficult.

Almost all of us can call to mind one of those miracle ingredients that were hailed as the next big thing, only to become the last nothing. At one point, you could taste the tang of ginger in every other health drink—that is, until consumers realized they didn’t really care for it all that much. Just a few years back, you couldn’t wash your face without feeling the harsh scrub of micro-beads, until we realized the damaging effect they have on the environment. Glitter even had its moment in cosmetics, until someone sagely pointed out that it breaks down on the skin, potentially causing harm.

In this challenging environment, we might be tempted to dismiss anything that draws too much attention too quickly as mere hype. And in most instances, we’d be right to do so. But cannabinoids present a different case for a number of substantive reasons.

Since the breakout of CBD over the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of hype. But the reality is that far from being a fad, cannabinoids stand to have profound effects on the way we make and market hundreds of consumer products across dozens of major industries. I believe there are three main reasons we will continue talking about cannabinoids well into the future:

1. Cannabinoids are part of an ancient human biological pathway involved in maintaining balance in our internal processes (homeostasis). The endocannabinoid system (ECS) within the human body is made up of cannabinoid receptors and the body’s own cannabinoids called endocannabinoids. The receptors are located throughout the body including in the brain, nervous system, skin, immune cells, bone, fat tissue, blood vessels and various organs. The ECS is involved in the regulation of pain, stress, inflammation, appetite, energy, cardiovascular function, reward, sleep and other processes. The interaction of cannabinoids we consume with the ECS has the potential for a cascade of positive health effects from head to toe.

2. CBD is not the only cannabinoid. The excitement surrounding CBD gave many consumers and producers the impression that it is interchangeable with cannabinoids. The truth is that CBD is only one among over 100 naturally occurring, structurally related but different cannabinoids. Rarer cannabinoids, such as CBG, often referred to as “the mother cannabinoid,” have radically different properties than their more famous relatives.

Each new cannabinoid we are able to isolate, produce at scale and fully explore will lead to completely novel and highly specific uses, from medicinal to everyday applications. For example, the European Union’s CosIng cosmetic database has identified CBG as having “skin conditioning” properties. Further primary research is investigating other potential properties of CBG including dental hygiene, skin inflammation, Lipid (sebum) synthesis, antibacterial uses, and Keratinocyte proliferation. This versatility of cannabinoids across applications will mean an excess of players, research and products, ultimately leading to higher staying power in the market.

3. Cannabinoids are natural and sustainable, along with the process in which we make them. When produced through processes like fermentation (as my company, Creo, does) they are consistent, contaminant-free, cGMP-compliant, contain no THC and are environmentally more sustainable, unlike glitter and micro-beads. Fermentation generally requires less water, energy and land than some of the plant-based approaches typically used to extract cannabinoid ingredients.

Today’s consumer product marketing prioritizes values, meaning, trust and responsibility above all else. Consumers are seeking products that fit into a dynamic matrix of health, sustainability, social consciousness, trust, value and aesthetic. And while the eco-minded consumer buzz terms around cannabinoids may themselves hint at the faddish, in reality, cannabinoids have that unique ability to overcome any label. With time and continued innovation, the potential and staying power of cannabinoids are limitless. 

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