In an industry fraught with false claims on labels, PearlCBD is a product line seeking to provide transparency, authenticity, and education to its cannabidiol (CBD) customers. Irvine-based Origin Labs, Inc. recently launched the line, focused on products for health, wellness, and more.
The line is unique in that it features the transparency of NFC digital tagging in all of its packaging for organically grown hemp-derived full-spectrum CBD.
Its capsules, lotions, tinctures, and creams—as well as a kit with all four products—are manufactured in an FDA-registered lab. The line is sold in all 50 states, along with countries that allow full-spectrum CBD.
Reportedly an industry-first, labels for every product in PearlCBD’s line have an NFC tag embedded. “The experience is customized for that particular product.
The lab test results for that particular batch are tagged according to the product’s serial number,” says Danny Davis, CEO of Origin Labs, Inc. and formerly the Founder of Convectium, a workflow automation company for the cannabis industry. The patent-pending technology connects consumers with their specific product. They seek to patent the technology relevant to the grower to the lab to the formulation lab to the packaging company, so “everybody knows what product is what and when it rolls off the line we aren’t trying to figure out if we put the right serial number with the right product.”
The NFC tags are supplied by a provider in China [supplier not specified] while bottles are imported glass containers. They avoid plastic when possible to eliminate potential leeching—pumps are BPA-free—and products are paraben-free. “We don’t know what could happen with a potential interaction, so we just prefer glass as it doesn’t breakdown, and we frost the outside of the bottles.”
Grower to label
The grower provides the wholesale product and the first COA [certificate of analysis], which is input into the app as the first lab test result. “In the future, I’d like to use blockchain, performing this transaction with tokens. Then we could show every transaction. For now, what we show is the purchase from the wholesale oil provider, which is from one of our two designated farms,” Davis explains.
Immediately upon receiving the wholesale product in the formulation lab in Miami, they test it again for a post-COA test. Davis says, “That ensures that the oil that they’re sending us is actually the oil that they’re advertising. Most companies do not do this and it’s a major problem, because a company can send a COA and then dilute the product, etc.”
At the formulation lab, a series of products is assigned to each individual label that references that COA—a form of aggregation to a batch. For example, if they are producing five thousand creams, they will identify approximately 5500 labels with serial tags associated to that COA. According to Davis, many in the industry don’t understand that “you can’t just have a single COA for all of your products, it’s different based on batch.” He notes that even an eight-figure online CBD retailer still features a COA from Feb. 2019 for every product.
As soon as the product is formulated, it is filled and packaged in a lab facility instead of in a warehouse. Davis notes that seeing others fill in warehouse conditions—and wanting to provide higher quality—was one of the reasons he got into this business. PearlCBD has a video of their packaging and filling system that can be scrolled to on their homepage.
NFC-embedded labels are applied after product is filled. “We fill, and when we run out of oil we know that batch is complete. Then we identify that particular batch with the particular COA, finish that process and then start a new one with a new serial set.”
They overestimate their label counts “so we lose a lot of labels in the process,” Davis says. “But I’m less concerned with costs than I am with intelligent packaging and transparency. We are in a higher margin business right now—those margins will go down over time.”
PearlCBD’s standards are not cheap—using FDA-registered facilities, NFC tagging, and overprinting labels and chips add up. “There’s a lot of excess cost and we will become more efficient over time, but I’d rather be less efficient with every penny and more focused on product quality.”
He recalls a conversation about packaging costs with a business contact. “They were wanting their labels to be three or four cents—our labels can be in the 35 to 40 cent range. They said that that was such a waste of money, and I thought that was an interesting take on intelligent packaging. How can intelligent packaging ever be wasted money? It’s an investment in the product.”
Three-pronged approach with NFC
- Davis explains, “We wanted people to be able to authenticate the product. So, when you tap your phone to the product [near the circle on the package] you first get an authentication that this is a PearlCBD product because it has a microchip. It’s very hard to embed a microchip and go to our private cloud. We are making it as difficult as we can for counterfeiters.”
- Second, once the consumer knows it’s authentic, what’s in it? “We provide three lab tests. When you see the product, right below it you’ll find ‘Get lab test results,’ and we don’t need someone to be chemist to understand,” he says. They break it down to offer the pre-test before it left the farm, the post-test after the lab received it, and then post-formulation test results that show every compound (vital cannabinoids), total dilution, and more for transparency.
- The third step is education. “It’s great that you know it’s real, and that it has all that stuff inside, but what does that mean to you as a consumer?” They provide education on the difference between CBD and marijuana or the difference between CBD and THC. Davis points to a report by BDS analytics that found 56% of U.S. adults do not understand the difference between CBD and THC. “We have a team of doctors that we had break down the language—we use it for graphics for those who don’t want to have to read through all the data.”
Educating consumers on potency
The industry has a ways to go in terms of consumer education on potency and effects. Potency may impact efficacy, but its relationship to experience can be less clear. A company may tout 5,000 mg of CBD, but if the body cannot absorb that much (particularly when ingested) then it won’t help the consumer or the industry as a whole.
“So if a person doesn’t understand how much they should take or why, or what CBD is, we’ve moved all of that right to the label,” Davis says. “They can tap their phone to the package and watch a video of frequently asked questions. It seems so simple to just type in a company’s URL but then you have to go search through their site for questions and all that. Imagine that you could just simplify your life, tap it, and then it gives you the information right there.”
The company created content specifically for the NFC experience including long and short form videos. Some videos were moved from the site to only being accessible through the NFC tag, to prevent competitors from copying. “We put it into a private cloud you can only access through a mobile device. Once you tap it, it will give you all the information you need, and if you need to download an app with an earlier iPhone, you can do that. But the nice thing about our technology is that in most cases it doesn’t require an app.
A key point is creating content that people will actually absorb through a mobile device. “The current situation [with COVID-19] is proof: too much information is bad. Not enough information is also bad. We had to find that happy medium for how much a person is willing to look at while they are in a store or at home. They can watch a quick video or get to an FAQ section that’s short enough to where they can absorb the information—that’s always the challenge.”
Davis and his team sought a trustworthy aesthetic that veered from traditional amber vials. Candidly, he says, “I think the ugliest product in the world is a bottle of pills. It’s orange and white with red writing.”
Starting with that, he thought of what are considered some of the best-looking products in the world: Apple products. “I thought, what if we do pharma plus tech equals trust? The reason people trust Apple is its aesthetic, they know it’s Apple with its look and feel. So, our goal was a sexy pharmaceutical-grade style of packaging. Very clean, no crazy colors. We just wanted to present exactly what’s inside, and we believe that should be the standard for the industry. Simple, clean, with the technology to prove that’s the case. The numbers inside are represented in the test results.”
Labels and test results
In past studies, the FDA has found that CBD amounts often don’t match what’s listed on the packaging. In one case, the amount was actually 22% higher than listed. Some less-than-upstanding companies test what’s in the product, realize they’re off by some numbers, and label anyway because there’s not enough regulation.
“We sort of reverse engineer it. We say, ‘Here are the product values we need’ and then because we have an FDA-registered lab facility, we have chemists that will create product to fit the spec,” he explains.
Davis says, “Packaging and words matter and unfortunately people are learning that the hard way. We’ve seen companies being pulled off of store shelves, or misrepresenting the product, and making claims on something they don’t do.”
Looking ahead at CBD trends
Davis discusses what PearlCBD is looking to on the horizon.
Pet products: “I think we’re going to focus a lot on wellness overall, so that means humans and pets. Our dog, Pearl, was the first one to use CBD. She had cancer, had to have her leg amputated, went through chemotherapy and radiation, and used CBD— which I believe made her feel better. But I don’t have any clinical studies behind it. However, the name Pearl came from her. This summer, we plan to launch Pearl Pets Products with a render of her on them.”
Beauty: “I’d like to see more clinical trials done. What does CBD do for our face? For collagen or elastin? Does it have any effects if put into lipstick?
Microdosing: “Is there a better way to more slowly absorb CBD throughout the day through microdosing? I think there’s a lot of opportunity to understand how the plant works in relation to other products.
“We’ve seen things like CBD water, but as of yet those are like drinking a powder in your water. I think the nano-emulsification technology could be key in the future to increase efficacy. Right now, say we’re getting 20% efficacy, it would be good if we could get 40% with nano-emulsified product getting to the bloodstream quicker. We are looking to invest in the necessary equipment.”
Consumables: “Lastly, in the next couple of months we will announce a CBD product that is different from what the market is doing. And also we’d like to see more money in R&D for us and increase transparency across the board.”