[First appeared on Food Dive on November 5, 2020]
Last month, Pabst Labs debuted the initial launch of Pabst Blue Ribbon Cannabis Infused Seltzer — a lemon flavored drink pumped with 5 milligrams of THC.
To help with the science behind the beverage, Pabst Labs turned to Vertosa, a cannabis and hemp infusion technology company.
"PBR is a heavyweight client because of the legacy of the brand," Harold Han, chief science officer and founder at Vertosa, said. "We have been guiding them and working with them for a long journey."
When companies are looking to add cannabis to their beverages, more mainstream and niche brands are outsourcing for cultivation and infusion. Vertosa says it can help customize bioavailability, taste, color and clarity to fit the specific needs of the companies it works with using its infusion technology and expertise.
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Along with this new PBR, Vita Coco, Calexo, Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops, Viv & Oak wine and Soul Grind cold brew by Caliva all have used Vertosa's technology to develop their drinks. The company infuses more than 100 hemp and cannabis products, including two out of the top three RTD brands in California.
Permission granted by Vertosa
the science behind the cannabis-infused beverages
Vertosa’s emulsification systems for cannabinoids are water-soluble, which has long been a challenge for the industry because CBD and THC is hydrophobic. Since cannabis oil does not dissolve in water, Han said the company adds a compound called an emulsifier that is one part oil-soluble and one part water-soluble. "So in the end, you're creating oil droplets evenly suspended within water," he said.
Han, who has a Ph.D. in surface chemistry, said the technology they use is agnostic to input so it allows for the infusion of CBD isolate or full-spectrum THC, but they do have to alter it for the specific beverage they are working with.
"At Vertosa, we don't believe one size fits all. One emulsion simply cannot do all the imagination of our clients. This guy wants to make a transparent drink with a quick onset in a glass bottle and that guy wants to make a cloudy drink with organic certification in a can. So we have to develop different formulas," Han said.
For example, if a client comes to Vertosa wanting to make a cold brew coffee with CBD in an aluminum can, then Vertosa's team will make a recommendation for the formula.
"For any new clients, we don't just assume it's going to work because you never know," Han said. "We perform the compatibility, we perform the stability and we share that data with you so now you have the confidence to launch this product to your consumers."
It takes about two weeks for compatibility and anywhere from two to five weeks for stability tests. In two months, Han said they can make a confident recommendation on what formula fits the client company's needs.
working with big-name brands
Two to three years ago, Han said all the companies interested in doing cannabis-infused products wanted to hire a chemist and do it in-house. But that hasn't worked out well for some.