A report from special correspondent, Maureen Harrington, president of Harrington Media Inc.
If attendees didn’t know better, it would be easy to mistake the INN Cannabis Summit for a midweek brunch full of beautiful people.
Instead of dreary halls, bad hotel food and florescent lighting, the event, presented by Innocos, was held in an indoor-outdoor event space in LA’s Topanga Canyon.
Indoors, vendors showed their wares to cosmetic and skin care professionals, while outdoors, under a canopy of trees, the sold out crowd listened to panels on everything from sourcing to testing and marketing.
“Everyone is excited about this and have many questions,” said Irina Kremlin, director of INNOCOS. "This summit is about innovation with CBD. And CBD connects to wellness—that’s an important trend along with natural.”
The attentive group of 200 listened, through the afternoon, as customer education, investment partners, processing and sales, were discussed.
Testing is a Must
Mary Beth Smith, of Encore Labs, advised the crowd that testing cannot be skipped.
“Start that process before it’s required,” said the laboratory analyst.
Smith told a story about a skin care company that had carefully tested ingredients throughout processing. At the last minute their product came up “dirty.”
“No one could figure out what happened,” said Smith.
Finally, the organic lemon grower, whose lemon peel had been added to the formulation, realized that the dogs on the property were wearing anti-flee collars, which were enough to contaminate the lemons, making them non-organic.
That anecdote was just one of many told about the hurdles faced by companies in the CBD/beauty space. Despite those tales, the crowd was overwhelmingly optimistic about the future of CBD.
Consumers, Education & Marketing
Naira Aslanian, project manager at the research company, The Kline Group, said, “Our market research shows that people are interested in learning more and would consider using.”
Aslanian agreed that the CBD fits with the trends of natural, wellness and clean: “Those trends have been around for some years, but they are becoming more important as individuals know about toxicity in ingredients. For instance, I think the idea of natural is the appeal of products with manuka honey or oils extracted from plants."
Barbara Kramer, founder of The Plant Lore Agency, a group that serves only CBD and other plant-based companies, said her retail clients “believe in this despite the noise.”
Kramer emphasized customer education: “It’s crucial that people understand this, so they can shop intelligently. This group on the panels and in the audience understands education. This is an elevated gathering of serious individuals.”
Another topic that got a lot of attention was marketing, which can be tricky because of government regulations. Several companies, including Saint Jane, use authentic testimonials as a way of reaching customers.
Most of the companies at the Summit are in the luxury space and spend on beautiful packaging and sophisticated websites. The website SVN Space produced a stunning, large-scale magazine with interviews and essays in an effort to educate consumers.
“You want to know who to trust,” said Aslanian. “So you’re probably going to read more than you would as a rule. If a company offers information, that will attract consumers.”
It’s all about authenticity according to Kramer, “It goes from sourcing to packaging and the information you provide. This isn’t going away. It’s here.”