While cannabis aficionados may be familiar with terms like indica, sativa or hybrids of the two, edibles manufacturers are increasingly marketing their products based on the effect it promotes.
For instance, by using words like “uplift,” “relax” or “sleep” in big type font, while making the specific strain of the cannabis plant less prominent on the label.
The idea is that using words that describe the effect rather than the technical characteristics of the plant is less alienating to customers who don’t have a great deal of experience with marijuana, so they’re more likely to purchase it.
“We felt that the words indica, sativa, hybrid were descriptive of the plant but didn’t necessary allow us to go into specifics about what the product does,” said Ari Mackler, chief product officer at a San Francisco-based cannabinoid company.
Taking this approach risks falling afoul of federal regulators though, especially when it comes to making health claims.
“If someone is saying this cures COVID, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is going to recall your product,” said Tyler Williams, founder of a St Louis-based cannabis safety and quality accreditation program. “An FDA recall is not only the last thing a cannabis company wants, it’s the last thing the industry wants.”
To avoid this, marijuana edible companies are turning to creative branding and word choice to suggest at benefits without making cast-iron guarantees. So, instead of saying a cannabis edible induces sleep, they might say it “helps promote” sleep.
Some companies which sell hemp-derived cannabinoids add terpenes (aromatic compounds) or hormones like melatonin to their product to boost the desired effect while helping communicate the purpose of the product more clearly to the customer.
“We do not say that the CBD is what is adding the benefit. We focus heavily on function,” said Lee Sosin, chief marketing officer at Green Roads in Florida. “The label provides the mechanism for someone to say this is how it will fit into my life.”
Typically though, cannabis edibles manufacturers prefer not to use full-spectrum cannabis or marijuana-derived terpenes since they don’t taste great.
On the other hand, THC distillates have a more neutral taste which other flavors, like fruit or chocolate, can easily be added to, and these seem to be more popular with customers.
So cannabis edibles manufacturers have a dilemma of sorts between selling a tastier product with less of the purported benefits, or a less tasty product with extra ingredients that can support the use of terms like “uplift” and “sleepy.”
With the recreational marijuana markets maturing across the US, and the alternative cannabinoid industry also finding its feet, creative marijuana edible marketing rather than dry, technical specifications looks to be a new, developing norm among manufacturers.