As the concentrate market grows among cannabis consumers, brands are finding that the customers are demanding a better product. Typically, extraction products or cannabis oils in vape pens use the trim, which is basically the marijuana trash. It’s the leaves that end up on the floor of the grow facilities after the trimmers take the good stuff for flower sales.
Joey Shepp, Chief Executive Officer of Humboldt’s Finest said, “Trim used to be thrown away. It was practically free.” Since many producers believed all cannabis oil is basically the same, trim was a profitable choice for a base vape product, while the nice flower was sold separately. However, the popularity of vaporizers because of their cleanliness and convenience is causing a decline in flower sales and an increase in concentrate sales.
Now, customers are pushing back and demanding a better vape experience and that means they want better product going into the oil. Brendan Baker, Founder & CEO of Sunfed Inc., which produces Bumblebee Vape said that with whole plant extraction, consumers are getting a cleaner, truer representation of what the flower is like. “It has a higher cannabinoid content and a higher terpene profile,” he said. “Whole plant extraction, when done properly, gives consumers a better product and better consistency.”
While there is definitely a trend of buyers equating price with cannabinoid content, i.e. “I want the most THC for the least amount of cost,” Baker said the market is shifting. “Sure you can buy 150 proof alcohol, but how does it taste? What’s starting to happen is that people are reintroducing terpenes back into the oil.” Some will argue, that at the end of the distillation process, it’s all the same and when compared to the alcohol market, the same can be said. Yet, there are numerous variations in the spirits market that capitalize on taste and alcohol content.
Another dynamic that is pushing the increased amount of whole plant extraction is scale. “As farmers are scaling up and the amount of pounds they are producing is rising, it’s just more efficient to do whole plant extraction.” He noted that trimming is a labor intensive job, that works on a small scale, but won’t work as California ramps up. “It’s being pushed from craft to a more industrial sized scale,” he said. “They are actually running out of waste product to trim.”
With sun grown farmers seeing margins getting lower anything they can do to cut costs is welcome, including selling the whole plant to processors. However, it does take a certain amount of retooling at the farm to deliver the whole plant and so the farms that are early adopters and first to market will benefit from the switchover. Even on the processor side, Shepp said it takes a higher skill set to do whole plant extractions versus labs that are just distilling trim. “You could do that in a garage,” he added. The change also brings a new dynamic as to pricing the whole plant when before prices were based on flower vs. trim.
The farmers seem to be pleased with the change. While prices could be lower, the costs are lower as well. Like any farmer, they are generally happier to lock in fewer customers and less processing in order to focus on farming.
“It’s a win-win. A win for the farmer, a win for manufacturing and a win for consumers who get a better product,” said Baker. “It’s Whole Foods versus processed foods.” As the story continues to be about the clean and pure product, Humboldt’s Finest comes to mind. Consumers want to know the farm now and whether it’s sustainable and clean. Baker mentioned they may do bulk oil from Humboldt’s Finest that could be used in other products. Saying it’s quality in and quality out.