Startup to bring CBD-containing sports nutrition protein product to market

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Startup to bring CBD-containing sports nutrition protein product to market

Related tags Sports nutrition Nutrition Cannabis

Product development featuring CBD continues despite the ingredient’s regulatory impediments, with the latest example being a protein powder offered by a Colorado startup.

The product, called ReGenPCR, is a grass fed whey protein powder being sold as a dietary supplement that includes 20 mg of what the company calls a full spectrum phytocannabinoid hemp extract. It’s aimed at sports nutrition customers, and will be offered direct to consumers online in two flavors.

Professional athletics background

The product is the brainchild of Will Carr, who calls his business WillPower. Carr is an athlete himself who briefly played professional basketball in Peru after a career at a Division 1 university program in Alabama. Carr said he was introduced to CBD at a charity golf tournament in Colorado hosted by a nonprofit that seeks to connect families with children suffering from seizure disorders with CBD products.

“After having been introduced to CBD, I wondered, why isn’t this in the protein powder I take every day?​ Carr told NutraIngredients-USA.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non narcotic fraction of the industrial hemp cultivar of Cannabis sativa ​with a number of reported health effects. It has been researched as an antispasmodic drug for use with children suffering from various forms of epilepsy and other seizure conditions that are not well controlled with existing drugs.

Advocates for the use of the ingredient in dietary supplements and functional foods claim the molecule has powerful anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties.

Carr said he has an industrial systems engineering degree and had worked in medical sales. Most recently he had worked as a business consultant taking commissions for connecting companies for projects, so pulling together a team consisting of an ingredient supplier and a contract manufacturer to build the new product came naturally, he said.

He wanted the new product to stand in stark contrast to the products he had used as a high school and college athlete. He had formed a low opinion of the quality control in sports nutrition offerings that featured a multitude of dicey-sounding ingredients on the labels.

“I was sick of all these garbage products that we had used for years,​ he said. “I wanted my product to be 100% grass fed whey along with the 20 mg of hemp extract and 6 mg of BCAAs.

Carr said he sourced the hemp extract himself from a Colorado supplier that offered the quality he was looking for. It was more of a challenge to find a contract manufacturer capable of producing powder products that was willing to work with the ingredient, he said.

“I called at least 50 different contract manufacturers before I found one in California that was comfortable using phytocannabinoid hemp oil,​ Carr said.

Regulatory uncertainty

The manufacturers’ hesitation came from the ingredient’s uncertain regulatory standing. Cannabis that contains THC, the narcotic fraction of the plant, is a schedule 1 controlled substance that falls under the jurisdiction of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. 

CBD is derived from the same plant from a taxonomic standpoint, but comes from a cultivar—industrial hemp—that is low enough in THC to be regulated differently and has approval in many jurisdictions as a food and raw material crop.

From the standpoint of the Food and Drug Administration, isolated CBD is not a legal dietary ingredient for use in a dietary supplement or functional food because of its prior development as a drug by the English company GW Pharmaceuticals. Put all that in a bottle and give it a few shakes and it’s understandable why many contract manufacturers would prefer to take a pass.

From Carr’s point of view, the full spectrum aspect of the hemp oil he is using gets around FDA’s prior drug argument. It’s an extract of a food crop, and thus not much different from a blueberry extract, he said. For Carr, the real issue is that because of the regulatory ferment, there’s not much he can say about the extract’s health benefits. But there are enough consumers who are now familiar with CBD that he said he doesn’t think that will be much of an impediment.

“CBD is one of about 80 phytocannabinoids in hemp oil,​ Carr said. “We are careful about the regulatory question. We put on the label that it is a phytocannabinoid extract.

Private crowdfunding campaign

Carr said the product will be offered first via product orders taken through a private crowdfunding campaign. Carr said the Kickstarter platform turned down the idea because officials there had the same reservations that the contract manufacturers did.

“There are a lot of people out there who already know what the benefits of CBD are. We are looking first at markets that are very cannabis friendly, like the Denver metro and LA metro markets. We are looking at sports nutrition first, and in that realm I think the real benefits would be in muscle recovery and joint health,​ Carr said.

Carr said he believes the regulatory uncertainty will resolve itself as more and more research is done on the health benefits of the ingredient.

“If this were easy to do all the big sports nutrition companies would already be doing it. But they have something to lose; I don’t. I want to give people the highest quality product. I think there is an opportunity to bring something to the market that will really help people,​ he said.

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