How Technology Is Changing the Game for CBD – Interview With CBD Living COO Sean McDonald
Sep 15, 2021 | Save On Cannabis
Technology is at the heart of CBD. Skilled extraction technicians use complex machinery to isolate cannabidiol from the hemp plant with the help of solvents like ethanol and supercritical CO2. But once the CBD is extracted from the plant, the technology is no longer a major factor in its processing—at least for most CBD companies.
The most-forward thinking CBD companies are using cutting-edge technologies to create products that are more efficacious, more bioavailable, and simply more enjoyable. If you’re passionate about high-quality CBD or you’ve been frustrated with the lack of decent CBD products on the market, you want to keep an eye on those companies that are investing in the right technologies.
To better understand the issue, we spoke with Sean McDonald, the chief operating officer of just such a company: CBD Living.
Since 2013, CBD Living has been raising the bar for CBD using a range of proprietary technologies, the best-known of which are nanoemulsions. The company was born out of its founders’ frustration with the limited expertise and quality that permeated the market. McDonald joined the company in 2015 and has been a driving force behind its unprecedented success.
We spoke about CBD trends, myths, and the evolving market. Most interesting, though, were McDonald’s insights about the role of technology in producing better CBD products and a better experience for consumers.
Nanotechnology May Be the Future of CBD—And It’s Available Now
Nanotechnology has become a bit of a buzzword in the CBD world recently. It refers to a specialized process that breaks down CBD molecules into tiny nano-sized droplets. The benefit is that it allows the cannabidiol to absorb more efficiently into the body. CBD Living claims that their proprietary nanotechnology increases the bioavailability of their products by as much as 90%.
Basically, nanotechnology takes the cannabinoids from “fat soluble” to “water soluble”—or “water dispersible.” It’s one of the bases of CBD Living’s popular line of sparkling water, and it’s also the scientific foundation for numerous other products in their inventory. Although CBD Living is a pioneer in the nanoemulsions game, this form only scratches the surface of the bioavailability enhancement of which they offer.
According to McDonald, “Many companies claim nano. And if you talk to a scientist, the term has been used as more of a marketing term versus the measurement of a droplet’s size. You can measure something in nanometers, but if it’s over a certain size of nanometers, you get to microns, and then you get to millimeters. It’s common in the pharmaceuticals and food industry with orals and topicals outside of CBD. CBD companies are really trying to compare themselves with such established industries.
“CBD Living is actually worth comparing, since we can support our marketing claims. We actually have the processing and verification equipment in house, so I can pull up a batch record and tell you the particle size of the emulsion that was going into that finalized product.”
So if you’re shopping for CBD products and you notice buzzwords like “nanotechnology” or “nanoemulsions,” don’t automatically buy the hype. Dig deeper and do your homework, as nanotechnology can be delivered in various forms. For example, does the company process its own nanoemulsions in house? What’s the particle size (CBD Living stresses that they’re able to break down CBD particles to less than 100 nanometers)? Also, look at the ingredients. If an oil-based product is contained within an oil-based carrier like MCT oil, it’s not a nanoemulsion, since an emulsion requires two ingredients that are not normally compatible with one another
If you do find a high-quality nano product, it’s absolutely worth the investment. As McDonald notes, “It’s going to help with quicker onset. It’s also going to help with a longer onset of the desired effect. So there are multiple benefits to it.”
Technology Isn’t a Priority for Most CBD Companies
The right technology is essential to a quality CBD product, but you may be surprised to learn that a lot of companies don’t even know what technologies go into their own products. That’s because the majority of CBD manufacturers (as many as 90%, by some estimates) actually obtain their products from white-label suppliers.
McDonald recalls the early days of the CBD boom. “People were jumping on the CBD bandwagon thinking it was the next hot thing. So you’ve got a lot of people that were literally going to a lot of these white-label type shows and launching a brand with no idea what was inside of the product.”
The white-label market, in this context, refers to CBD manufacturers who produce unlabeled products to sell to other entrepreneurs who don’t have the resources to create the products themselves. These entrepreneurs then place their own label on the product and sell it under their own brand name.
There are a few problems with the white-label business model. First, it floods the market with countless identical products sold under different names. Second, it means that the manufacturer is disconnected from the cultivation process. They have no idea what goes into the product, how the product was produced, and whether the product is even any good.
For consumers hoping to find the gems amid a sea of mediocre CBD products, it all comes down to the technology. According to McDonald, “Look at the ingredient panel. What ingredients are in it? Is there any technology behind it? Are they just claiming the word ‘nano’ as a marketing term, or is there actually something behind it that will help absorption and delivery? It’s about researching into the company to see what’s really behind them, more than just straight five-star testimonials.”
CBD Technology Is Especially Lacking When It Comes to Pet Products
CBD pet products are big business. In 2019, the CBD pet product market was worth an estimated $27 million, and that number continues to rise as of 2021. But many consumers may be surprised to learn that a large number of pet-specific products are just rebranded human products. In other words, most CBD companies aren’t investing a lot of time or technology in developing products specifically formulated to the needs of our four-legged friends.
As McDonald notes, CBD Living launched their pet brand after noticing a lack of a true pet product in the industry. “We saw a lot of people taking a human CBD tincture and slapping a pet label on it, calling it a pet tincture, which isn’t true.”
McDonald notes that purchasing pet-specific products is essential because pets have different digestive systems and different dosage requirements. CBD Living products were developed to meet these needs, employing technologies that ensure the optimal absorption and benefit for pets. For example, in our dog chews, it’s not just about choosing the right number of milligrams but also incorporating the right enzymes and probiotics to accommodate the animal.
“We put a specific dose of omega fatty acids derived from sustainable algae, for instance, in our cat tincture, because cats process fats differently than dogs and humans. So we developed all of our products specifically with different ingredients depending on the animal.”
McDonald further warns that if a pet is given a human-grade CBD product, the animal may experience adverse effects. That’s why it’s so important to do your homework when shopping for CBD products and ensure that the product was specifically developed for the animal you’re giving it to, whether we’re referring to a species (dog vs. cat) or a size (a 5-pound chihuahua has vastly different needs from a 150-pound Newfoundland).
If you’re not sure about a product or you’re struggling to determine which products would best meet the needs of your pets, speak to your veterinarian or with the technical staff at the CBD company.
The CBD Craze Is Just Getting Warmed Up
If you think that CBD is just a fleeting fad, you may be in for a surprise. Research indicates that the CBD market will only continue to trend sharply upward over the next decade, and industry insiders like Sean McDonald are convinced that the market is only in its infancy—and not at its peak, as some naysayers suspect.
McDonald has been on the front lines, watching CBD Living grow from a small CBD water manufacturer to a global enterprise with a presence in mainstream grocery and convenience stores—a feat which most CBD companies have still struggled to reach.
We can expect continued market growth as more CBD companies break out of the dispensaries and CBD shops and make their way into the general consumer market. We’re already seeing glimmers of this trend as CBD Living makes its way into pharmacies, wellness centers, health food stores, and select convenience stores, but we can expect to see it on a much more significant level when the FDA takes a more active role in CBD regulation. The question is, when can we expect that to happen?
According to McDonald, we can expect it sooner rather than later. “It’s just a matter of time. Universities are doing research on both CBD and cannabis hand-in-hand, and they’re getting more funding to support that.” McDonald also notes that it’s just a matter of time before all 50 states have some form of legal cannabis. And, at a certain point, the federal government can no longer turn a blind eye to the nationwide trend.
A lot of the hesitation stems not from the government but from the consumer. McDonald notes that two of the biggest questions that consumers have about CBD are:
- Will it get me high? (answer: no)
- Will it make me fail a drug test? (if you use full-spectrum, maybe; if you use broad-spectrum or isolate, no)
As the public becomes more educated about what CBD oil actually does and how to consume it safely without triggering a negative drug test result, we can expect much of the stigma to dissipate and sales to increase even more. As it becomes more of a mainstay of American life, the government is much more likely to take center-stage.
And here’s another reason why the CBD market is poised to continue its upward growth: international acceptance. Up to this point, much of the conversation has been focused on the USA. But CBD oil is slowly leaving its mark on other countries as well. Certain countries are especially moving the needle.
As McDonald notes, “We’re starting to get growth in Japan. We’re starting to see it in the United Kingdom, and starting to see growth in Mexico now with their legalization that came through as well.” McDonald further highlights Portugal and Spain as examples of countries where CBD is making waves.
As the international market takes off, this is good news for American consumers. More global acceptance means more product availability. This gives way to more competition, new technologies, new delivery systems, and a more robust marketplace. Right now, CBD Living is innovating products like CBD shatter, CBD patches, and even CBD suppositories, but this could be just the tip of the iceberg as new technologies are developed over the next few years.
Key Takeaways for Consumers
Sean McDonald has a lot of insights to share when it comes to the current state of the CBD market, how to produce superior products, and what the future holds for the industry as a whole. But if you’re reading this as a consumer and trying to make sense of it all, certain points are especially meaningful to consider:
- When shopping for CBD products, don’t just look at the product specs; look at the technologies that actually go into the production process.
- Don’t put your faith in hands-off CBD companies; consider how invested they are in the production. Do they employ their own scientists? Do they develop their own products?
- Are your CBD pet products specially formulated for your four-legged friends? Or are they just standard CBD products that are repackaged with a picture of a dog on the label? It does matter. A lot.
- You may think that the popularity of CBD oil is peaking, but it’s just picking up steam—and for good reason. It really works.
One point that Sean McDonald repeatedly emphasizes during our interview is that CBD Living is a company committed to helping people. If every CBD manufacturer shared this passion, the market would be flooded with incredible-quality products. Unfortunately, though, not every CBD company does its due diligence. So for now, you’re going to have to do your homework carefully when choosing a CBD formula.
Hopefully, this eye-opening interview helps you to be a more informed and discriminating consumer. Not all CBD is created equal, but there are some truly great products out there. If you’d like to learn more about CBD Living and check out their high-grade products for yourself, be sure to grab one of our CBD Living coupons.
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CBD has a range of health benefits for both people and animals. As the market is flooded with products for humans and pets, it can be challenging to determine exactly what the differences are between pet and human CBD.