2019 brought a huge variety of CBD-infused beverage brands to the market. With the changes of laws and public opinion, cannabis infused food and beverage products are here to form a new category in beverage industry. Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Ben Larson, CEO of Vertosa.
Vertosa is an active ingredient manufacturer for infused products. Our flagship products are our line-up of stable and scalable nanoemulsions powering infused beverages and topicals. Our motivation in creating Vertosa was to provide much-needed trust and transparency into the cannabis and hemp supply chains while creating targeted, safe and consistent experiences for the end consumer. After entering the industry in 2015 – pre-legalization in California – via the launch of Gateway Incubator, I spent three years evaluating opportunities in the space, investing in and advising companies in every segment of the market, and helping build the entrepreneurial ecosystem as it evolved from the unregulated market. Over that time, it became clear to me that there were two things that needed to occur for the industry to truly break into the mainstream:
First, we needed to break the habit of every company driving towards vertical integration. The industry needs reliable horizontal operators that build efficiency into the supply chain by focusing on their core competencies.
Second, consumers needed access to products that provide efficacious, predictable, and consistent experiences while having a desirable consumption method. Beverages was clearly becoming the next frontier, and the technology needed to be improved.
I met Dr. Harold Han, our Founder and Chief Scientist, while I was managing Gateway in 2016, and we immediately started collaborating on a concept to help solve both these issues. As a surface chemist with a Ph.D out of NYU, his entire career was centered around stable and scalable emulsion systems, which perfectly positioned him to tackle the technical issues. I arrived at a point in 2018 where I had to ask myself, “do I continue to sit on the investor-advisor side of the table, or do I get behind a single technology and founder I truly believe in?”
And with that, Vertosa was born.
The new branding signifies the continued evolution of our best-in-class emulsion technology, service and expertise alongside our entrepreneurial roots in the Bay Area. Our new name is very meaningful, as “vert” speaks to both green and truth, in line with our roots in cannabis and cutting-edge plant science. And “osa,” which is Spanish for female bear, speaks to our proud roots in California, with an important nod to the power of the female plant in cannabis. We are a growing company and becoming increasingly versatile. Our new name reflects that.
We’re solely focused on being the best infusion technology partners possible to our manufacturing clients. We engrain ourselves in the product development process and ensure we custom tailor the emulsion systems to our client’s needs. We’ve mastered a key component of the supply chain, creating a verifiable layer of trust for infused product makers, ensuring consistency in a historically inconsistent market. We also don’t apply a one-size-fits-all mentality; our infusion solutions are customized for each product and brand, as our team works closely with partners to launch new beverages. Every day, we’re solving issues that our customers have encountered with other off-the-shelf products, such as precipitation in high polyphenolic beverages or potency loss in aluminum cans. That’s what is especially unique about Vertosa – our personal approach to cannabis infusion technology and techniques.
We have several clients and categories making quite a splash on the market, but people have been very excited about the coffee category in both cannabis and hemp. Somatik, with whom we helped create both CBD and THC infused cold brew coffee, provides a wonderful uplifting and social effect while building their product around single-origin coffee sourced from Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco. On the hemp-derived CBD side, GoodDay launched its CBD-infused cold brew coffee, recently highlighted by BevNet, and provides a beautifully balanced and focused effect for its consumers. Another category that has been really well received has been the functional juice category. Plant Magic, a terrific and colorful line-up of apoptogenic juice shots can be found across the US in places like Barry’s Bootcamp, where they’re targeting the healthy recovery benefits of hemp. To round it out, we’re working with companies like Tinley and House of Saka who are directly targeting the alcohol replacement category. We also have upcoming product launches with some very notable international brands, so I’d certainly stay tuned for that.
First, that food and beverage is a single category. The beverage format paired with our emulsion technology provides experiences unique in comparison to the traditional edibles category. Rapid absorption allows for more controlled and sociable dosing while providing the opportunity to create more targeted experiences through other bioactive ingredients. Further, the industry is moving well beyond products that are either too strong or tastes like weed, unless that’s desired. Those who have experienced the new beverage formats know that this isn’t your typical edible. The faster onset and offset provide for a safer and more controllable experience where you actually begin to feel the effects before you finish the beverage. No more “shake well and wait an hour.” You actually have a socially acceptable consumption method with a predictable experience and great taste. Further, depending on the formulation, you can create different experiences similar to that of the effects commonly associated with smoking or vaping different varietals of cannabis. This truly is a whole new category for cannabis consumption.
When it comes to hemp-derived CBD, it’s actually a complicated answer. I believe it, as a functional ingredient, is certainly here to stay. However, hemp-CBD brands must be aware that they may very soon have to compete with much larger brands with diversified offerings. A way to avoid this is to think deeper about the product and whom it’s targeting and why. Think about other ingredients that can complement the effects of CBD and create a deeper ethos for the product.
With regards to cannabis-infused beverages, which often includes varying levels of CBD, I believe it’s most definitely a segment in of itself and here for the long term. In fact, I’d wager that they’re the future of the cannabis industry because drinks dodge the stigma of inhalable products, benefit from the pre-existing sterling reputation of the beverage industry and some of the strongest scientific innovation in cannabis is happening around beverages. Gone are the days of bitter, separated or dubiously effective infused cannabis edibles.
As competition and markets have grown, infusion technology has taken leaps and bounds. To keep up with the needs of diverse beverage partners at varied scale, our scientists are constantly honing our infusion solutions. Want a faster onset time? There’s a solution for that. Want a weedy taste, or zero taste? There’re solutions for that. Adjusting mouthfeel? Yep. Packaging in an aluminum can, paper box, or biodegradable plastic? There’re solutions for those too. As we work to control every aspect of the infused experience, we are actively dispelling myths that cannabis is shadowy, clunky or untested, while creating some of the industry’s most diverse and mass-marketable products.
First, heed my earlier advice. Don’t just look to CBD to be the “fairy dust” that makes your product an instant success. Be very deliberate in your product development and branding, and truly understand who you are creating it for. What is the experience you are creating?
Second, you are cannabis. Your life will become consumed by the cannabis industry. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but being an entrepreneur in the space automatically makes you an advocate and the go-to in your social network for cannabis Q&A. You’re instantly labeled. You’re constantly educating others, breaking the stigma, and speaking out against injustice. And if you’re not, you’re doing it wrong.
For more information visit Vertosa’s website.