CBD oils and extracts have been touted to have all kinds of medical benefits. However, while THC users have been OK with strong terpenes when smoking pot, nutraceutical formulators, beverage producers and other functional-food providers often don’t want that strong cannabis scent/flavor in their CBD-infused products. What they need is a water-soluble solution that can go undetected by the consumer but still delivers accurate dosing, even dispersion, and good taste. There are emulsions that offer those benefits, but most present as a haze within a beverage that, to some product developers, is less than desirable (especially if their product is in a clear glass or plastic bottle).
For those formulators, the ideal water-soluble CBD solution is an emulsion that’s clear. However, arriving at a CBD emulsion with all the characteristics mentioned is not an easy development task for any food scientist.
Howard Lee, CEO of SōRSE Technology, says his company has been working for some time to create a clear emulsion that is stable and has minimal sensory impact. SōRSE Clear is currently available in isolate and complies with all the main safety and testing protocols, including GMP, GFSI, COA and FSMA. Containing ingredients that are allergen free and vegan, the clear emulsion can be used in beverages, nootropics, edibles, nutraceuticals and topical applications.
I asked Lee to explain the development of SōRSE Clear, and the challenges that had to be overcome in creating it.
FE: How old is SōRSE Technology, and what were your goals in starting the company?
Lee: SōRSE Technology is four years old. When we started the company in 2016, our goal was to make cannabis safe, easy to use, and fun for the consumer by offering them an alternative to inhalation – through cannabinoid-infused beverages. Today, our goal is to positively impact people’s lives through best-in-class water-soluble emulsion science. Four years ago, we were producing infused beverages in Washington state; today, we provide product developers with emulsions for their infused products. SōRSE currently powers over 50 infused products on the market.
FE: What were formulators, food and beverage processors telling you they needed in a successful CBD additive?
Lee: First and foremost, the food and beverage formulators we work with are looking for a CBD product that is safe for the consumer—which in our case means that the emulsion utilizes food-safe ingredients and is tested for quality and safety. It’s also important that a consumer has a consistent experience consuming the item—that the first sip tastes the same as the last and contains the same amount of CBD. Our emulsions are homogeneous, meaning that the CBD is evenly dispersed throughout the product, which results in near-perfect dosing and accurate label claims.
CBD product formulators are also looking for an emulsion that is shelf-stable for at least 12 months and is easy to integrate into their production processes. In terms of the sensory experience a developer chooses, that really depends on their target consumer. A formulator who uses a CBD isolate is looking for a minimal sensory experience, whereas someone who uses a broad-spectrum CBD understands the earthy tones that the cannabinoids and terpenes carry, as well as the perceived benefits of the “Entourage Effect.”
FE: CBD oil has always been problematic when adding it to foods, and especially beverages because of its flavor and inability to mix consistently. What were the challenges/obstacles in developing SōRSE Clear?
Lee: By nature, emulsions are opaque or cloudy—so creating a clear emulsion is no easy task. The main reason for this relates to refractive indexes. The refractive index is a measurement of how light bends when passed through a medium. When two materials with different refractive indexes are combined, this causes the mixture to become opaque or cloudy. Here’s an example of this: when dispersed in water, oil scatters light, which in turn makes the mixture appear milky. Once our Science team created an iteration (one of many!) that was truly clear in appearance, the next steps were to make sure the emulsion was shelf-stable, offered a clean taste, and delivered a consistent experience. Coming up with the perfect formula—clear, clean, and stable—definitely took patience, time, and a lot of testing.
FE: How much time did your team spend in developing SōRSE Clear?
Lee: After starting the company, we focused on creating a safe, stable, and scalable emulsion. Once we perfected that, we focused on creating the same experience but clear. The result of all the Science team’s hard work is a formula that is truly clear with minimal sensory impact.
FE: While a clear emulsion is key to many beverages, what are producers expecting in terms of flavor?
Lee: Because our clear emulsion is isolate-based, it has a very clean sensory profile, which will be great for producers who want to emphasize the flavors of the other ingredients in their products. Our clear emulsion will also be great for light and refreshing beverages like the infused sparkling waters you see on shelves. Producers will not need to add additional flavors or sweeteners to those drinks because there is no cannabis taste. Our clear product also allows for the introduction of terpenes in a more controlled environment, resulting in a better, more stable flavor.
FE: With the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD is OK in all states provided it has less than 0.3% THC, correct? How difficult is it to maintain that THC level?
Lee: At SōRSE, we work with suppliers who provide CBD with no detectable levels of THC. We vet these CBD suppliers carefully, test all of the raw materials we receive, and continue testing through each stage of the production process to ensure that the CBD amount is accurate and that the THC level is below 0.3%.
FE: What guidance do you provide formulators and processors in their recipes? What is a beneficial amount of CBD in a serving?
Lee: SōRSE’s R&D team is a terrific resource for product formulators and processors when they’re crafting their recipes, especially those who are launching their first infused products. Most of the beverages that are powered by SōRSE are 20-30 mg per 12 oz can or bottle—that seems to be the standard range for CBD beverages.
FE: How do you guarantee CBD levels in SōRSE Clear?
Lee: When we ship our emulsion to our customers, the package includes a COA—a Certificate of Analysis. This document, issued by an accredited lab, verifies the amount of CBD as well as a total list of the cannabinoids, microbial levels, terpenes, and any contaminant such as pesticides, solvent residue, or heavy metals. COAs are standard documents in the cannabis industry; product designers should absolutely ask their CBD supplier for this information to ensure safety and quality.
FE: Anything else?
Lee: Everyone on the SōRSE team is excited to offer a clear emulsion as part of our product suite. It’s further proof that we are willing to tackle whatever challenge put in front of us to move our company and the industry forward.
For more information, visit https://sorsetech.com/