The use of hemp as a source of fiber and as a source of food ingredients has a history of hundreds of years, as its proponents are all too eager to tell you in exquisite detail. But its use as a source of dietary supplement and/or functional food ingredients is much shorter, and new methods of delivering its purported benefits continue to make splashes in the market.
So it is with hemp juice, the essence of the leaves that have been crushed and squeezed. Startup company FBEC Worldwide Inc. is launching WolfShot, a proprietary blend of herbal ingredients including hemp juice, natural fruit extracts, probiotics, amino acids, minerals, essential B vitamins, and caffeine. The product will be test marketed in various retail markets in the United States and Canada, according to principal Jason Spatafora. The first markets he'll try to penetrate with the product, which is being sold as a dietary supplement, are dispensaries, smoke shops and convenience stores.
"Getting into a place like Walgreens looks great on a press release but it doesn't do much for sales," Spatafora told NutraIngredients-USA. "That shelf space is very expensive."
Hemp juice genesis
The idea for the use of hemp juice came from Spatafora’s research associate, Tyler Strause, who with his mother, Linda Strause, PhD, founded a company called G Randall and Sons, dedicated to the research of active cannabinoid products. The name comes from his late father, who lost a battle with cancer just as Linda Strause, whose PhD is in neurophysiology and biochemistry, was researching medical marijuana alternatives to help her ailing husband.
The younger Strause said that the difference with the hemp backbone of the new shot is that is a pressing of the full leaves of industrial hemp plants, and thus contains a full suite of the chemicals found in the leaves. Sourcing the leaves from industrial hemp cultivars means the juice is naturally below the legal limit for THC content (the level is set at 0.3% THC content in the dry material) to qualify as hemp and not as medical or recreational marijuana.
The juice does contain cannabidiol (CBD) in acid form. The fact that it is an acid and that the product is a juice pressing is key to understanding both its health value proposition and regulatory positioning, Strause said.
The Food and Drug Administration has flatly said that CBD is not a legal dietary ingredient. But Strause said this applies to extracts of the plant, usually presented as a high CBD content oil, whereas the hemp juice that goes into the WolfShot product includes chemicals that are present in the leaf in their natural concentrations, including the CBD acids.
“The legal argument here gets very nuanced but it’s important to remember that the product does not include any extracts. It does contains CBD acids; CBD in neutral for doesn’t exist in the plant. Most of the legal and regulatory issues arise from how it is processed. FDA is concerned primarily with extracted resins,” Strause said.
Health benefits of new shot
Spatafora, who came into an ownership position with FBEC through his stock picking activities as a day trader and investment blogger with a concentration on cannabis stocks, said WolfShot will offer the benefits of hemp juice along with the other ingredients in a better tasting shot than its major competitor. Like 5 Hour Energy, the shot relies on caffeine for most of its oomph; it contains about 180 mg per serving.
“There is a real big niche for a product like this which as of now is first to market,” Spatafora said.
But what of the health benefits of hemp juice? What are they, and what can you legally say about them? Some competitors have talked about a claim revolving around support of a “healthy endocannabinoid response,” which at the moment seems too vague to convey much to consumers who aren’t already hemp advocates.
“What we can talk about is what we know about hemp products in general,” Strause said. “They are helpful for people who would benefit from products that support a health inflammatory response and support the central nervous system.
“The challenge is that we really can’t make any specific health claims because we don’t really have the research to back it up. But it is important to remember that this is a botanical ingredient. With other hemp products, like hemp seeds or hemp protein powder, which comes from the seeds, you are not getting the broader range of constituents like the unique cannabinoids,” he said.