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