CSU Study Confirms Caliper CBD is 450% More Bioavailable than Oil-Based

A recently completed study at Colorado State University confirms that Caliper CBD is exceptionally well absorbed by the body—some 450% percent better than traditional oil-based CBD products.

In a double-blind pilot study led by CSU Food Scientist Tiffany L. Weir,(1) 10 healthy adults took a 30 mg dose of CBD, either in a water-soluble or oil-based format. The researchers then drew blood samples at regular intervals over the next 6 hours to measure how much CBD was absorbed, and how long it took to reach peak effects.

What they found was that, compared with the oil-based CBD, water-soluble Caliper CBD was absorbed much more efficiently into the bloodstream, reaching detectable levels within 15 minutes and peak effects around 54 minutes. By contrast, oil-based CBD didn’t reach peak concentrations until 90 minute—nearly twice as long!

When total absorption profiles of both forms were compared, Caliper CBD was found to be 4.5 times more bioavailable than the oil-based formulation. In practical terms, that means 450% more CBD was absorbed by the test subjects when it was delivered as Caliper CBD. 

Compared with oil-based CBD, 4.5 times more Caliper CBD was absorbed during the 6-hour study period.

Compared with oil-based CBD, 4.5 times more Caliper CBD was absorbed during the 6-hour study period.

Why it matters. CBD is notoriously hard for the body to absorb, because it’s a lipophilic (“fat-loving”) molecule that dissolves best in oil. Our bodies, though, are around 60 percent water. Oil and water don’t mix, so it’s not surprising that when we ingest oil-based CBD in different forms, as much as 94 percent of it might not be absorbed. (2) 

So, quite simply, finding a more absorbable form of CBD can help you better know how much CBD you are actually taking. And from a practical standpoint, when you absorb more, you’ll get more of the CBD benefits you paid for.

This University-validated research is also important because it’s one of the first to objectively measure, with human subjects, how different forms of CBD are taken up by the body. Research involving cannabis products has long been restricted by federal law, so (as the researchers noted), “to date, there have been very few human studies on the pharmacokinetics of CBD.”  

This important study adds to our body of knowledge about how CBD works. With thousands of CBD-containing foods, beverages and supplements now flooding the marketplace, that knowledge is more important than ever. 

(1) Hobbs JM, Vazquez AR, Remijan ND, Trotter RE, McMillan TV, Freedman K, Wei Y, Arnold O, Wolfe LM, Johnson SA, Weir TL. Evaluation of Pharmacokinetics and Acute Anti-Inflammatory Potential of Two Oral Cannabidiol (CBD) Preparations. Journal of Natural Products, in press.
(2) World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Dependence: Cannabidiol (CBD) Pre-Review Report Agenda Item 5.2 and Peer Review, 2017. https://www. who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf.

Keith Woelfel
Our Roots in Food: Part I

Our company was founded in 2014, when one of my co-founders became determined to help his grandmother find a better way to benefit from cannabis than through a pot brownie. At that time, recreational cannabis was legal in our home state of Colorado, but far from a mainstream food ingredient. (And his grandmother, despite needing relief, was too scared to even take a bite.)

We were sure we could make a better kind of edible—one with a healthy, precise profile. So we gathered experts from a then-unlikely place: the food science sector. Starting with our research development director, who brought 20+ years of expertise developing food products, to the team of food scientists, quality control and process experts he eventually assembled, our feet have always been firmly planted in the food world.

Here are some of their stories. We’ll share more in a future post!

A Chemist with an Engineer’s Soul: Keith Woefel, Director of Research Development

“[Cannabis is] simply another functional food ingredient.”

With his years of experience as a food scientist, developing and bringing to market over 50 food and beverage products at Mars, Inc., Keith brings a unique and seasoned approach to cannabis. “I think of it simply as another functional food ingredient.”

As a chemist born into a family of engineers, Keith approaches his work with both skills aligned. Given the challenge of incorporating a THC ingredient seamlessly into food and beverage matrices, he went outside the boundaries and created something completely new to solve the puzzle. He developed a unique process and formulations to alter the cannabinoid ingredient—oil-based in nature—to change it into water-compatible/soluble powder in a scalable way.

An “aha moment” came in making a cannabis-based compound for Stillwater tea. “We started with a fundamental food industry process,” he explains. But rather than simply spray drying, he added an unorthodox chemical pairing technique to the mix. The result became a technology that gave birth to Ripple, the first fully dissolvable THC/CBD powder in the marketplace. (This innovative, proprietary technology later powered the development of Caliper CBD powder.)

Always looking for the next innovative application toward health and wellness of the individual, as well as to our brand, Keith enjoys “the process development side as an engineer, but because I’m a chemist, I’m also intrigued at the molecular level.” He’s always looking for “the next big innovation that’s just around the corner.” 

A Healthy Passion for Food Quality: Paige Appleton, Quality Assurance Manager

“This company has always prioritized doing things right, without taking shortcuts.”

“CBD is one of the most bitter compounds I’ve ever worked with,” Paige admits, but it’s nothing she can’t handle. In her years as a technician at consumer goods company Church & Dwight, she worked on vitamin and confectionery formulations—including a gummy made with caffeine, another traditionally super-bitter ingredient. It was a natural transition for her to help us develop our first generation of cannabinoid-based gummies. 

Today, Paige applies her food science background to develop and apply a state-of-the-art food safety system for Caliper that complies with all of the FDA’s food and supplement standards. Under Paige’s direction, our facility successfully completed a third-party Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) assessment with an outstanding score of 99, and she’s now working on pursuing SQF level 2 certification from the Safe Quality Food Institute.

Paige is also one of two Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals (PCQIs) at Caliper. “The fact that we have two PCQIs in this small company is exceptional—it’s a statement that we’re really committed to quality,” she says. “From the get-go, this company has always prioritized doing things right, without taking shortcuts.”

A marathon runner with a passion for healthy recipes, Paige’s phone is full of food photos. “I’m really into the presentation, the quality of the ingredients, and how flavors can complement each other.” (No wonder her chocolate chip cookies took home the “best slammin’ cookie” award in a company bake-off).

Brewer, Foodie, Product Application Expert: Ben Addington, Account Manager

“In an industry where anyone is saying anything, being honest is paramount.”

Ben started his career handling food and beverages—literally—as a grocery manager, while getting his masters in Food Science at the University of Georgia (where he won a few home brewing competitions). He then moved into bulk and wholesale food account management and sales for a large natural food wholesaler. “All along, food has opened the door to everything,” he says.

Today, at Caliper, Ben combines his technical sales skills with his ingredients knowledge; he’s able to advise potential clients on subjects as varied as processing equipment, pH concerns and retort packaging, all while nurturing his encyclopedic knowledge of the emerging cannabis CPG marketplace. A confirmed “curious eater,” he loves to travel with a gastronomic focus: “I work with food so that I can go to more places to try new foods,” he admits.

Ben appreciates working at the forefront of a completely novel field, but he is ready for some regulation in the space. “In an industry where anyone is saying anything, being honest (which many companies aren’t) is paramount. We always work with integrity, and that is rooted in the fact that we have CPG backgrounds.”

To those sourcing quality CBD ingredients, Ben advises, “Ask them for documentation. Serious CBD suppliers will be able to provide all the robust new ingredient documentation you need.” Another must: “Ask if you can visit their facility, so you know you’re partnering with someone who isn’t hiding anything.”

Missy Bradley
How to Formulate More Consistent CBD Products

Part 1. Three places to check your inputs 
A three-part series

If you’re formulating a CPG product with CBD, consistency is one of your biggest targets to crush, and probably the most challenging. But ultimately, it’s essential to guaranteeing a safe, high-quality experience for your consumers, and to maintaining your brand’s equity. 

At Caliper Foods, we tackle consistency challenges by taking a quantitative approach in everything we do. We measure and assess everything we can about every batch, right down to the particle size distribution of the molecules within our mixtures. We aim to stamp out variation wherever we find it, whether it’s in our supply chain, our production procedures, or our testing lab specs.

In this series, we’ll address some of the key factors that influence CBD product consistency and share some lessons we’ve learned along the way. We’ll begin at the beginning — with three ways to manage inputs, the first step in the production chain. In future installments, we’ll tackle issues of variance around manufacturing and labeling as well. 

1. Strain variance

You can’t completely control Mother Nature, so expecting hemp to have exactly the same composition and performance every time is an impossible task. The hemp plant contains hundreds of compounds — including some 113+ known cannabinoids, each with differing molecular structures and bioactive characteristics. Variations between batches, and even among plants grown in the same field, are a given. Potency, flavor, microbiological contamination, and residues such as heavy metals and pesticides also come into play at the plant level, and that’s before you even get to processors and processing methods!

We’ve found that the best way to eliminate these uncertainties is to only work with ingredients that can meet a consistent standard. At Caliper Foods, in order to remove strain variance and extraction variance from the process, we primarily work with isolated CBD. 

If you’re working with a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum product, keep in mind that there are no set standards of identity (SOI) that define the amounts and proportions of bioactives in such formulations. Cannabinoid content (e.g., CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, etc.) will vary by processor and batch. Even if you find a supplier who can meet your standards, that’s only one supplier. A different supplier will offer a different product at a different standard. 

And in such a nascent industry, it’s always good to have a Plan B. If you go with broad- or full-spectrum products, be prepared to to perform even more due diligence with suppliers and testing to ensure your product’s composition is consistent from batch to batch while meeting your scale-up needs.

2. Supplier variance

Unfortunately, because SOIs are lacking in the largely unregulated cannabis marketplace, sourcing consistent cannabinoid-based raw materials can be a huge challenge (especially at scale). Nonetheless it’s vital to demand the highest standards of quality and consistency from suppliers — especially around cannabinoid potency, composition, flavor, testing requirements (i.e. potency, heavy metals, residual solvents, microbiological, and pesticides), and variable testing methodologies.

At Caliper, we source only US-based industrial hemp extracts from a small set of large, carefully vetted suppliers who agree to source their material solely from state-regulated hemp farmers that meet rigorous quality and traceability standards. We then work with these suppliers to ensure consistent, rigorous testing of their extracts covering everything from potency to organoleptic profiles. And when we produce our ingredients, we rely on extensive pre-, in-, and post-process quality controls to ensure our formulations meet our exacting standards for finished product. Nothing goes out the door unless it matches our spec — that is the covenant we keep.

3. Flavor and aroma variance 

Let’s face it, in their unrefined form, cannabinoids smell funky and taste very bitter. CBD especially, is really bitter. Other compounds in a product can bring their own flavors, too, or be affected by the CBD interplay. Particle size also needs to be considered: “nano” is all the rage, but smaller particles, while helpful in terms of promoting emulsion stability, bring with them greater surface area and thus greater bitterness. Stability and bitterness are two sides of the same coin, and managing the balance is a delicate task.

Because of these issues, full sensory evaluations should be baked in throughout the production cycle. At Caliper Foods, we make sensory evaluations part of the acceptance criteria for our raw material and continue sensory testing up through the finished goods stage and following product storage. If you’re not measuring it, you can’t control it.

The takeaway

Taking the time up front to plan and implement processes to control your inputs is time well spent. In the end, you’ll formulate a consistent product that delivers a predictable, positive experience for consumers — and delivers on your brand’s promises time and time again.

About Caliper Foods:

Caliper Foods is making safe and standardized CBD accessible to everyone through both our business-to-business arm, Caliper Commercial Ingredients, and our direct-to-consumer arm, Caliper Consumer Goods, maker of Caliper CBD. Our commitments to credibility, science, and consistency deliver superior cannabinoid experiences for both manufacturers and consumers, because we believe that everyone deserves access to the best CBD has to offer.

Keith Woelfel
Consistency, Safety, and Honesty in CBD

Imagine tearing into a bag of potato chips and discovering beet chips. Or opening a bottle of ibuprofen only to discover acetaminophen. Have trouble imagining it? That’s because modern CPG regulations are built on the concept of standards of identity, which give consumers certainty that “the product is what the label says it is.” That, in a nutshell, is FDA’s mandate: to ensure consumers can trust that if the label hasn’t changed, neither has the product.

So why can’t we expect the same from CBD?

Product inconsistency is rampant in the hemp space, for plenty of reasons. It starts with the plant itself—the hemp plant comprises hundreds of compounds, each with their own structures and functions. Concentrations of these compounds will vary from batch to batch, and even plant to plant, which makes it impossible to define such a thing as a “standard hemp plant,” let alone  a “full spectrum” or “broad spectrum” extract that “mirrors the plant.” 

Cannabinoids are bioactives, and bioactives have health effects. When bioactive composition varies, so too do effects. That makes product consistency important not just for brand protection, but for consumer safety. How can consumers make an educated choice about what products to buy when a variety of bioactive compositions with varying health effects are all labeled the same? The answer, of course, is that they can’t.

This isn’t a hypothetical problem. Consumers are already suffering from the CBD market’s lack of shared standards. A 2017 analysis found that nearly 70 percent of all CBD products sold online contained more or less CBD than claimed—and some 21 percent contained detectable THC. Indeed, some 39 percent of current cannabis consumers claimed that “manufacturers need to do a better job of making product dosages reliably consistent from serving to serving” in a recent IRI/BDS Analytics survey. 

The lack of clear, science-based labeling guidelines and predictable enforcement only makes things murkier. With no nationally mandated labeling standards and early movers trying their best to avoid regulatory scrutiny through clever language, it’s often unclear how much CBD (or any other cannabinoid) is present. Some manufacturers, in an attempt to meet retailer guidelines, will intentionally obfuscate CBD content by labeling it indirectly, either by noting the presence of “25 mg hemp extract” or simply “25 mg per serving.” What those claims mean in terms of CBD content is a question left to consumers to figure out. Simply put, consumers deserve better.

An existential threat (and opportunity)
The lack of consistent products isn’t just exasperating, it’s an existential threat to the CBD industry itself. Consumers stung by uneven experiences with CBD products will tend to ascribe the problems to CBD rather than to the manufacturer, leaving all manufacturers worse off. As a company who believes in the benefits of CBD, we’re tired of seeing terms like “snake oil” and  “buyer beware” in news stories and editorials like this one, from former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. But it’s hard to disagree that many CBD manufacturers today prioritize cash over consumer safety. We can and must do better.

Our industry is at risk of losing consumer trust just as it’s poised to become one of the greatest growth stories in years. We need to be honest about what we know and what we don’t, and develop products with our own knowledge gaps in mind. We know that CBD is “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile” because credible health organizations like the WHO have done the research. The same cannot (yet) be said of other cannabinoids. Caution is warranted, and consumer safety depends on us to behave responsibly.

As bad as all this sounds, it’s also a huge opportunity to do things right. Even in the absence of specific FDA guidance on CBD, we can all agree to conform to the rules that already exist for food, beverage, and supplement products. Current food and beverage QMS requirements can serve as standards for CBD-infused foods, beverages, and supplements. Labels can clearly state what’s in CBD products without obfuscation. And we as an industry can support state-based efforts like Colorado’s CHAMP initiative (Colorado Hemp Advancement & Management Plan), which aims to examine and strengthen the hemp supply chain from cultivation to market. 

Finally, manufacturers can make an effort to exclude unproven and understudied bioactives in their products by avoiding “full spectrum” and “broad spectrum” ingredients. Like the rest of the hemp industry, we believe cannabinoids belong in food, not pharma, but that doesn’t mean they should all come in at once. As responsible manufacturers, it’s incumbent on us to only introduce safe compounds into the food stream, and while we feel confident in CBD’s safety profile, we fear that “full spectrum” and “broad spectrum” products open the door to the uncontrolled inclusion of understudied cannabinoids, including psychotropic substances such as CBN.

What we can do now
The introduction of cannabinoids into the food supply is a watershed event in our history that has been too long in coming, but we stand on the precipice of the unknown. As we press on toward new horizons, it’s essential that we do so with humility and care.

At Caliper Foods, we recognize and respect the risks of operating on the bleeding edge of innovation, and we call on our food industry experience to stamp out uncontrolled variance and unintended inclusion throughout the entire CBD production stream. We can’t avoid the regulatory risks inherent to working with CBD, but we can avoid the quality and safety risks that come when one moves too fast or without care. We can take a “verify, then trust” approach with suppliers, requiring full documentation and third-party testing as part of a rigorous qualification process. We can substantiate all marketing claims with rigorous scientific research performed by credible academic institutions. We can put in the work to validate shelf stability through actual testing. We can take nothing for granted. These ideas shouldn’t be novel; they should simply be the norm for a good, ethical CPG company.

The signals are loud and clear that customers and retailers want CBD products they can trust, and the market has huge potential for players who lead the way in providing reliable, consistent products that meet consumer expectations day-after-day and month-after-month. We need a regulated environment that prioritizes clear standards of identity, honest and accurate labeling, controlled manufacturing processes, and validated analytical methods. As former FDA Director Scott Gottlieb has urged, we can “help establish the stable market for hemp-derived CBD envisioned by lawmakers,” and deliver safe, trustworthy, and helpful products to consumers eagerly awaiting them.

About Caliper Foods:
Caliper Foods is making safe and standardized CBD accessible to everyone through both our business-to-business arm, Caliper Commercial Ingredients, and our direct-to-consumer arm, Caliper Consumer Goods, maker of Caliper CBD. Our commitments to credibility, science, and consistency deliver superior cannabinoid experiences for both manufacturers and consumers, because we believe that everyone deserves access to the best CBD has to offer.

(1) Information Resources Inc. / BDS Analytics, August 2019

Jeremy Goldstein