Market demand across the cannabis industry has generally taken a simple path: after legalization, consumers look for flowers, then for edibles and vape products, followed by an increased interest in concentrates. It is this final and most diverse segment that has seen tremendous growth recently.
Solvent-free concentrates are increasing sharply within the concentrate category.
“With solvent-free products, we see that as the markets mature, their consumer base is looking for higher quality products and different product experiences,” says Eric Vlosky, Marketing Director at PurePressure. “A lot of people end up solvent-free when they do a better job of researching what’s in their cannabis. You can see that this happens very quickly in mature markets and then other markets follow suit. “
Live rosin batter made at Kush Masters in Boulder, CO. will be produced. Rosin concentrates made $ 24.8 million in sales in California last year, according to BDS Analytics. That was an increase of $ 12.5 million in 2019. And sales are not slowing down.
Based on January through January 2020 through 2021 growth, BDS Analytics predicts that solvent-free sales in California could reach $ 62.5 million in 2021.
It’s the same story in Oregon, another more mature market. Solvent-free sales increased from $ 7.4 million in 2019 to $ 17.8 million in 2020 to an estimated $ 30.6 million in 2021.
To some extent, the history of cannabis in the US is still one of the mature markets signaling consumer trends that will follow in other parts of the country. Like California and Colorado, the rest of the United States often does too. That’s the case when it comes to genetics, new products (e.g. THC-soaked beverages), and broader market categories like solvent-free concentrates. The momentum is there.
What offers solvent-free is the clearest expression of the original chemistry of the plant in a concentrated form, as there is no chemical intermediate carrier via which the extraction takes place. As a market description on pharmacy shelves, it’s a growing niche within the broader game of cannabis consumer demand, and the education of budget tenders is helping the trend move forward. It is becoming increasingly rare to go to a pharmacy and not talk about the special features of solvent-free.
As such, these products can be more expensive, but the end result is a flavor profile and ensemble effect that appeals to discerning tastes like those you find in maturing markets.
This is the area of the cannabis field where you will find first-time adopters, influencers, and connoisseurs.
Solvent-free hash oil dripping into a Longs Peak rosin press glass. For operators who might be interested in catching this wave and launching a solvent-free plan, it starts with the brand. What do you want to do with solvent-free? What would you like to see on pharmacy shelves six or eight months later?
And do your answers to these questions fit into the overall story that your brand has carefully crafted?
“Before you buy anything or even determine where to make space in your lab, you want to have an idea of which SKUs and which products are a good fit for your brand and market,” says Vlosky. “Once you have an idea of what products you think the market will expect from your brand and what goes with them, plan in your laboratory how many square meters you have and how much processing you think your laboratory can handle in a week , a month, a year and a multi-phase roll-out. “
This is an important point. In most areas of the cannabis industry, you don’t just dive into the cold water on the first day (even if it feels like it). Scale is an important concept in this industry, and it’s no different when you’re considering solvent-free extraction. As part of your brand, it takes time and observation to learn what works best. The driveway in those early days of your solvent-free experiment will just be a scaled-down preview of what your plans for Phase 2 and Phase 3 might look like.
Make sure you have the right team early on
“Do you have someone on the team – be it the owner or the laboratory manager or one of the extraction technicians – who is interested in solvent-free, which is actually pretty common because a lot of the people in the nuclear industry are really solvent-free,” says Vlosky says. “That really helps because then they help you make good decisions to make sure you emphasize quality and take the right steps to make a quality product.”
Then there are some of the more pressing problems to be solved. Identify the space you will use for this work and for the freezers you will need to store freshly frozen plant material. Obtain premium genetics specifically for this solvent-free use. Use RO water and RO ice (not faucet) for your hash wash. “This clean RO water makes a big difference in the quality of the end result,” says Vlosky.
If all goes well, how are you going to expand operations in your laboratory? Who do you have to hire? How will you align yourself to meet changing consumer preferences among the SKUs you offer?
Some of these questions concern the materials pipeline you have established for the first phase of your solvent-free push.
When your business is vertically integrated, you have a known source of plant genetics that could work well in a solvent-free extraction environment (resinous trichomes, rich terpene profiles). You can align your grow vertical with this new solvent-free venture.
If not vertically integrated, what type of input source do you have lined up? In discussions with growers, make it clear at an early stage that you are interested in material for solvent-free extraction. This helps with the transaction and ensures that the breeder identifies the plant genetics that are best suited for your end goal.
The key is keeping this material pipeline consistent as you grow your solvent-free operation and aligning it with your longer-term goals.