A seismic shift in the way consumers choose their products, particularly the rising interest in natural products, socially conscious decisions to choose environmentally friendly products, and the growing evidence of the wide-ranging benefits of cannabinoids could serve as the drivers of innovation in the cannabinoids sector. On 22 June 2021, participants tuned in to Creo’s first annual conference, Creovate, to hear the views of thought leaders on how to successfully navigate this sector and what the future of product development might look like. Being a panel member was an exciting opportunity for me – firstly, to have a platform to discuss these ingredients and their exciting potential to improve health and wellness; secondly, to better understand the perceptions and insights of thought leaders in the industry.

Reliable, sustainable supply chain is paramount

The expert panel speaking at Creovate emphasized that fermentation could be the perfect solution for consistently sourcing cannabinoids with uncompromised quality. Plant extraction of cannabinoids is an inexact art which can be impacted by differing growing conditions and the use of fertilizers and pesticides, while fermentation produces cannabinoids in a controlled process without the risk of contaminants. It can also be adapted to maximize production of otherwise rare cannabinoids which may have unique properties. The benefits of fermentation as a sustainable process addressing environmental challenges are widely documented, and it is already commonly used in the fast-moving consumer goods industry. Therefore, using a well-documented approach to produce cannabinoids (and especially the rarer ones such as acidic-form cannabinoids) could serve as a catalyst in revolutionizing the sector. As it is a scalable process, large quantities of previously rare ingredients can be produced, which would be difficult or impossible using the traditional plant extraction approaches.

Natural cannabinoid ingredients free of THC and GMOs

A common concern with cannabinoids is the risk of contamination with the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is always produced in some amount in the cannabis and hemp plants. THC is illegal in most countries around the world and heavily regulated; therefore, cannabinoid ingredients without THC offer a vast opportunity to focus on the effectiveness and safety of these ingredients without the psychoactive effects and legal complexities of THC. Additionally, the fermentation platform uses a ‘domesticated microbe’ that is bred to perform in a particular fashion under strictly controlled conditions and, as a result, is too weak to survive successfully outside of the fermentation tank, and furthermore at the end of each fermentation the first step is to heat-kill all the microbes. In any case, the final cannabinoid product is free of any microbes and so there is no risk of coming into contact with any DNA or genetically modified organism (GMO) materials.

Use of a controlled sustainable platform opens up the possibility of producing a stable and reliable supply of fermented cannabinoids for skincare and beauty formulations at a commercial scale. Fermented cannabinoids are compliant with the definition for natural raw ingredients (ISO 9235) and natural cosmetic ingredients (ISO 16128-1). There are myriad possibilities for using these natural ingredients in skincare formulations. Evidence from current research demonstrates the potential of cannabinoids to treat skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and pruritus. In particular, the rare cannabinoid, cannabigerol (CBG) has demonstrated antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and is described by some experts as the ‘skin cannabinoid’.

Pushing the science to move from anecdotal evidence

According to the Natural Marketing Institute’s 2020 Whole Cannabis Study, 70% of consumers believe cannabidiol (CBD) offers health benefits. Bethany Gomez, Managing Director of Brightfield Group also stated that over 17.5% of CBD consumers were aware of CBG and of those who were aware of it, 8/10 intended to purchase it – some 8 million Americans were poised to purchase CBG products. The findings are encouraging as consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits and of the ingredients; however, there is still a need to push the science to generate more research-based evidence to catch up with the numerous individual experiences of benefit. Additionally, further research and education on these ingredients will help cannabinoids stand up in their own right as ingredients and remove any association with the world of marijuana.

There are still be unknowns in the field, but conversations such as Creovate help bring the community together to recognize the true potential of cannabinoids.

Creovate panel members

Jaime King (Keynote Speaker), actress, makeup line with ColourPop
Roy Lipski, Co-founder and CEO, Creo
Mia Davis, VP Sustainability & Impact, Credo Beauty
Liliana George, Former Estée Lauder Companies Global Corporate R&D Product Innovation, Current, Pure Beauty Concepts
Bethany Gomez, Managing Director, Brightfield Group Founder
Mitch Hara, Former CEO, Beekman 1802 and Hand in Hand Soap, and Head of M&A, Clever Leaves
Jessica Peatros, Internist, Gerson Therapist and Functional Medicine Leader

Words by

Roy Lipski

Creo Co-Founder, CEO Roy Lipski has led growing technology companies based on cutting-edge science for more than 20 years. Prior to founding Creo, he led Oxford Catalysts from a 2½ person start-up with 3 patent applications based out of the chemistry labs at the University of Oxford through an IPO, growth and the subsequent acquisition of US-based Velocys. Roy also founded Infonic, which became Europe’s leading Internet Research agency, helping clients including P&G, Merck and Unilever measure and manage corporate reputation online. Roy holds a degree in biochemistry from Cambridge University.