Trends such as branding, dosages drive innovations in cannabis

LONGMONT — Colorado’s cannabis industry is experiencing growth, especially those companies that are in the nonsmokeable line of work.

Concentrates, edibles and vaporizers, among others, are growing as cannabis users look for alternative methods of consuming cannabis.

Experts spoke about the growth of their businesses at a panel on innovations in the cannabis industry at Longmont Startup Week.

One of the biggest trends in non-smokeables is the concept of microdosing. For edibles, the market standard has been 10 milligrams of THC per serving, said Kim Gibson, a representative for Boulder edibles company Wana Brands.

But Gibson said more people have been looking to marijuana as a functional medicine.

“Rather than self-medicate,” she said, “they’re looking for a functional aspect.”

That has led the edible industry to start providing products in smaller doses, such as 5 milligrams or even 2.5 milligrams. Rather than feeling high, people can feel like they have just a little bit more energy or focus through small doses.

Microdosing also provides edibles an opportunity to expand its image.

“The traditional reputation of edibles is if you start too much too quickly, you  won’t have a pleasant time,” Gibson said. “The industry has adopted the mantra of ‘go low, start slow.’ Microdosing is really an open-arms welcome to having a better experience with a better measure of the amount of medication they’re taking.”

The ability to measure exactly how much THC is being consumed is part of the appeal of nonsmokeable methods, said Trevor Vita, co-found of Grasshopper vaporizers.

“A flower vaporizer in general is better than smoking for the concept of microdosing,” Vita said. “You can pinch off a tiny amount and know you’re going to extract all of that oil. If you roll a joint and put a set amount in there, some will burn off. It’s not consistent.”

As nonsmokeables are increasingly seen as a wellness product as well as recreational, companies are focusing on the packaging and branding they’re using.

For concentrates, it can be difficult to have appealing packaging while also have the required labeling, said Danielle Connolly, lab manager at Terrapin Care Station and Double Bear Concentrates. To provide clarity of product, they often provide displays to help show the consumer exactly what they’re getting.

Another trend that can be seen is how products are marketed. Connolly said she is seeing branding transitioning to showing the consumer what type of experience they might have with what they are purchasing.

“It’s how do you want to react with the product,” she said. “Do you want to go for a hike, take a hot air balloon, go camping with a group of friends? We can go direct to consumers with how we want them to feel with the experience and relate it to things consumers do day to day. Whether that’s hiking, biking, driving to and from work.”

Gibson added that while marketing towards experiences is a trend, she likes to stay away from setting up too much of an expectation of the experience a person is going to have. She also doesn’t want to insult the intelligence of a connoisseur by branding something as “energy” when most users will know that means it’s a sativa strain.

Gibson said there’s a split between traditional, more scientific branding of using terms like sativa, indica, etc. and the newer, simpler version of branding with terms like energy or relaxation.

“It’s a weird space, and we’re not sure which side will prevail,” Gibson said. “I prefer to lean toward the science, as it only gets better as we go.”