Industry leaders convened in Denver last week for the first in-person Cannabis Products Exchange, offering insight into the opportunities and challenges facing the cannabis-infused food and beverage market.

At the start of the day-and-a-half conference, Michael Leonard, publisher of Cannabis Products Magazine, pointed to the appeal of edibles across demographic groups, citing his own family as an example. Ranging in age from 22 to 89, Leonard said his family members turn to infused food and beverages to relieve pain and reduce anxiety, among other concerns.

“I feel it’s an exciting time for us,” he said. “We believe firmly that what edibles and drinkables allow is a broader scope of use.”

Jake Bullock, co-founder and CEO of Cann, kicked off the conference with a keynote presentation highlighting the company’s genesis and its approach to product development. With the mission of normalizing consumption of cannabis-infused beverages during social occasions, Bullock said Cann aims to “create something magical” first, and then figure out how to commercialize the product later.

“We’re trying to create something new. We’re trying to create something that’s unrestricted, that hasn’t been done before,” Bullock said. “If you follow down the path of costs or commercialization, you’re more likely to create something that has been done before.”

Stephanie Gorecki, VP of product development for Cresco Labs, presented the second keynote. She offered an overview of how the Chicago-based company pulls tactics from traditional food and beverage to develop and manufacture quality products to serve a variety of consumers, from cannabis connoisseurs to first-time users. 

“Ingestibles are a familiar form for so many people — most people know how to eat and drink,” Gorecki said. “It’s really something that is welcoming and inviting to others that want to try a cannabis product.”

Cannabis Product Exchange’s other speakers and presentations included:

  • Jessica Lukas, chief commercial officer, BDSA, provided insight into consumer preferences and expectations for growth among the United States’ cannabis markets.
  • Justin Singer, co-founder and CEO of Ripple, discussed using peer-reviewed research to validate product quality and efficacy.
  • Peggy Moore, CEO, and Hope Frahm, corporate chef, Love’s Oven, covered the challenges facing the cannabis-infused baked goods market, such as balancing product freshness with retailer shelf-life requirements.
  • Steve Schain, Esq., senior counsel, Smart Counsel, offered a look at the complex financial situation cannabis companies must navigate.
  • Bryant Ison, managing director, Sterling-Rice Group, highlighted the role packaging and branding play in building consumer experiences and creating consumer loyalty.
  • Travis Tharp, president and CEO, Keef Brands, discussed what the infused beverage brand has learned from the pitfalls it encountered over the last decade and its plans for the future.
  • Allison McKillop, senior operations manager, Wana Brands, offered keys to expanding across markets, such as investing in compliance, being adaptable, and choosing the right partners.

Kara Lavaux, cannabis compliance expert, Allay Consulting, and Douglas J. Peckenpaugh, group editorial director, BNP Media, also moderated end-of-day discussion panels with presenters on food safety and product quality.

Cannabis Products Exchange was sponsored by MTI Bioscience. During meals and networking breaks, attendees visited booths hosted by Carmi Flavors, Eagle Eye Networks, Endose, Hansen-Rice, Inc., Hapman, IKA Networks, Inc., Les vergers Boiron, Malt Products Corporation, nano-purification solutions, Savorx, Syntegon Packaging Technology, and Veritiv Corporation.

To learn more about the event, visit the Cannabis Products Exchange website.

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