The Caliva Way for Product Development: Data-Driven and Tested
Consumers get bored. Shiny new things appeal. And companies in the hyper-competitive cannabis marketplace don’t disappoint when it comes to novel — fresh products arrive on dispensary shelves seemingly every day.
Most of them will fail. The market they are pursuing already is too crowded, and they don’t stand out. The product is a dud. They aren’t priced properly — either too low (and the brand loses money), or too high (and nobody buys it). The team didn’t fully nail getting all of their licenses, and dispensaries stop carrying their products.
The reasons for commercial flops in cannabis are myriad, and all too familiar.
Winging It in Cannabis: A Good Way to Lose
Success, too, hinges on many factors. including product development — a key foundation for success in any industry, including cannabis. Methodical, data-driven and extensively tested product development is a Caliva hallmark. Where so many cannabis companies just wing-it with product development, doing it right dwells at the very heart of the Caliva way of doing business.
“It takes time, it takes laboratories and equipment, it takes a team with deep experience in the entire product-development process,” said Caliva’s VP of Labs, Michael Vu. “And it’s essential. Just rolling out new products for the sake of new products is a terrible way of doing business, for companies and consumers alike.”
No License? No Deal.
In cannabis, it begins logically enough with licenses — no point pursuing new products if the path forward is not legal — but many California companies ignored the license demands. And in July, after a six-month grace period following the launch of recreational legalization, state authorities began cracking down. Dispensaries dropped multiple products. And companies went out of business.
Caliva, on the other hand, spent years applying for and gaining those all-important licenses. When July rolled around, Caliva products were good to go.
Caliva today offers a range of products, from flower and pre-rolls to vapes and different styles of concentrates. All of them endure extensive research, scrutiny and testing before landing on dispensary shelves.
How To Build a Vape
Consider the vape pen. California supports thousands of vape products, including a Caliva line. Deciding upon what to manufacture consumed Caliva, because as more and more people grow comfortable with the medical potential for cannabis, the profile of the cannabis consumer grows increasingly diverse. This is no one-size-fits-all marketplace anymore.
The G Pen GIO, for example, includes a 3:1 ratio of CBD to THC as well as lavender. The combination doesn’t target people whose goal is to get as high as possible. Instead, it appeals to people who need sleep- and pain-relief, many of whom are potentially new to cannabis.
Figuring out what to manufacture, and how, involved multiple steps said Caliva’s Director of Research, Maya Kochman.
“There is data out there about THC, CBD, pain and sleep, but a lot of it is fishy,” she said. “You really need to dig deep to find high-quality research. This is where we started — with an exhaustive literature review.”
Once comfortable with the ratio of THC to CBD as well as the terpene profile — including terpenes derived from the lavender plant — Caliva began widely testing the product within Caliva as well as people outside the company who wanted to take part in the sensory analysis. How does it taste? How did the effects influence sleep and pain? For how long did the effects last? Did the GIO pen work? This sensory work, said Maya, is essential and helps guide ongoing research and development.
Then dosing figured into the product development.
“Our literature research revealed that a major complaint about cannabis among consumers, especially those seeking a medical benefit, is they get too high,” said Mike. “If something is 95 percent potency and one inhalation gets you 30 milligrams of THC, that’s just too much for a lot of people. You don’t want the psychoactive component to overshadow the medical effect.”
As a result, Caliva designed this pen with microdosing in mind — offer people precise and modest doses of THC with each puff. Since inhalation leads to fast onset, consumers only have to wait for minutes to measure the degree to which they are high. For some consumers, one puff will blunt the pain and improve sleep without leading to too much of a good thing. For others, it might take four puffs.
The pen has been a hit, and Caliva’s consumer research shows it indeed serves the intended audience: People looking for help with medical problems for whom getting as high as possible is not important. They don’t seek high for high’s sake — they desire a strategic high that helps ameliorate medical conditions.
Labs Rule in Cannabis
The “Caliva Way” towards product development works smoothly, in part, because of the company’s heavy investment in laboratory equipment and talented staff.
“Other companies have to send out samples all of the time, for testing, which takes so much time. At least one week and often two weeks to get the sample returned from the lab,” said Mike. “That lag time between results and iteration is not ideal. Being able to coordinate internally, we are much more efficient. Along the way, too, we get key input from marketing and the technology team. It’s all very synergistic. We produce products quickly, and they are data-driven.”
Caliva never rushes products to market, but it is always developing new things for the rapidly evolving consumer marketplace. Maya’s and Mike’s teams. for example, now are researching topicals — Caliva anticipates releasing its first topical, a cream, within the next few months — and beverages. While the beverage market is small, Caliva appreciates the fast onset of effects that comes with beverages, as compared to edibles like gummies and chocolates. That marks a key advantage for beverages, and a potential opportunity.
“The science is there, which is of extreme importance to us,” said Mike. “The onset time is awesome. It works. We are super-excited about rolling out a beverage in coming months. Stay tuned.”