This interview was brought to you by support from Heritage CBD, a NACS member.
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—NACS Magazine recently interviewed Tim Van Epps, founder, Heritage CBD, on how retailers can determine if CBD products are safe and legitimate to sell.
Q: Heritage CBD is in a unique position to understand this new market because of your background in retail and cannabis.
A: Yes, I’m the CEO of The Sandri Companies, which is a petroleum distributor and c-store operator in New England. I have a few side projects, including a marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts. When I heard that the state was coming out with a hemp program in 2018, I jumped at the chance to get a license and put a team together to specialize in CBD products. Because CBD offers so many potential benefits while also being non-intoxicating, the market is far greater than that of THC.
Q: Because the CBD industry is still largely unregulated, is it true that CBD products often don't contain the amount of CBD its label says it does?
A: It’s true that the FDA doesn't currently monitor the manufacturing of hemp- derived CBD, so brands are not under strict scrutiny when it comes to how they create, label or sell their CBD products. Unfortunately, you do see a lot of companies looking to turn a quick profit by taking advantage of a trend. Some are being outright misleading and claiming there is CBD in their products when there isn’t, while some simply don’t know what they are doing when it comes to formulating. So, there is no consistency when it comes to the potency of CBD in their products.
In late 2017, the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study that found that out of 84 CBD products they tested, only 26% contained the amount of CBD listed on the label. We were keenly aware of this when we founded Heritage CBD, and we saw it as both an opportunity and a risk. It’s a risk because inferior and disingenuous products threaten the market and make people question if they can trust CBD or doubt its effectiveness. But it’s an opportunity for the companies like us that have the expertise to consistently formulate high-quality products and are committed to regulating ourselves until the government catches up.
Q: When all CBD products become legal to sell, what should retailers look for to ensure that they are selling safe and legitimate products?
A: CBD products available at retail are derived from hemp. When hemp is planted, it absorbs everything in the soil around it, which can be a safety concern if that soil is contaminated. Look for brands that are transparent about the origin of their hemp. Quality brands use hemp grown using responsible farming practices in soil that is pre-tested for toxins. They also test throughout the growth cycle for purity and to ensure that the naturally occurring amounts of THC remain within the legal limit of 0.3%. Heritage CBD partners with local family farms in Massachusetts to grow our hemp and insist upon organic farming and clean soil. And, because we follow current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), we can trace all our products back to the farm the hemp was grown on.
Both retailers and consumers should be looking for CBD products that have third-party lab results easily accessible for every batch. Look for a batch code on the pack-aging and make sure you can easily locate an independent Certificate of Analysis (COA) for that exact batch through a QR code or on their website. Good companies have nothing to hide and want to establish trust with consumers.
Avoid any brands making claims about therapeutic or medical use. That is one area that the FDA is watching out for, and the good brands know this and follow the rules. Another thing to confirm is that the CBD brands you carry have a phone number, and someone answers it when you call. Consumers have questions about CBD, and the quality brands have a team dedicated to getting them answered. If you can’t get someone to answer your call or reply to a message quickly, that’s a red flag.
Q: Is carrying a variety of forms of CBD important?
A: We think it is. Consumers want choice. Topicals are a great place to start given the current legal landscape. Our Muscle Salve is our No. 1 selling product. Gummies are an easy way to incorporate CBD into your routine. Tinctures are fast acting and make it easy to adjust dosing, while capsules provide a consistent dose in pill form, which some people prefer. CBD vape products work rapidly and are especially popular in c-stores.
Q: Consumers are looking for healthier food options as well as ingredient transparency, so they would also want those same qualities in their CBD products, right?
A: Absolutely, transparency and quality are key. CBD is usually a part of a wellness routine. Heritage CBD products are all-natural, and we never include anything unnecessary. Even our CBD gummies use natural flavors and are colored with fruit juice and beta carotene rather than artificial dyes. They do contain sugar—that’s part of why they are delicious—but no artificial sweeteners or fillers. All ingredients should be clearly listed, and as mentioned before, those third-party labs help consumers have confidence.
Q: Does CBD have a sustainable future in convenience stores?
A: We think it’s only a matter of time before CBD will be an added ingredient in snacks and beverages produced by the major brands, so in the long term, yes. In the near term, it will be important for c-stores to place value on carrying quality CBD products if they want to see repeat sales.