An Australian business that uses nanotechnology to develop premium cannabidiol (CBD) oils is looking to the United States for growth while local regulators play catch up on cannabis.
Set to join a relatively small club of Australians riding the fast-moving cannabis wave overseas, Hemple founders Cade Turland and Georgia Branch will launch their range of CBD and cold-pressed hemp oils with popular “cannabis apothecary” Fleur Marche later this month.
A flood of “stressed out millennials” is driving an explosion in demand for CBD oils and cannabis-related products in the United States and Canada, following an easing of regulatory restrictions in recent years.
Backed by ASX-listed cannabis investors MMJ, Turland tells SmartCompany he sees a gap in the market overseas for a premium CBD product that can distinguish itself from the hundreds of other brands popping up each month.
“It’s a chance to spread our wings. We’d like to get these compounds everywhere,” Turland says.
Hemple has already secured some early wins, featuring on the social media feeds of Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner, as influencers take centre stage in a world where social media giants are still reluctant to accept cannabis-related products.
The expansion is greener pastures for the entrepreneurs, who founded Hemple in Australia to promote non-psychoactive cannabis compounds locally.
But, still tightly regulated and limited to restricted medicinal use, the CBD market in Australia remains in its infancy, prompting the enthusiastic millennials to broaden their horizons.
“It’s hard to spread your wings in Australia,” Turland says.
“Australia is a nanny state, we’ve always been like that, [but] it’s starting to be really socially accepted here.
“We may see the Australian market open up to recreational cannabis one day, but for us, it’s very much about focusing on the education piece.”
Hemple hopes to stand out from the crowd with its product, produced using nanotechnology to improve the absorption rate of cannabinoids, resulting in a much more potent product.
While only 10-30% of the CBD in most edibles and tinctures is typically absorbed into the body, Humble’s N-Osmo range claims to achieve 90%.
“Yes, it’s a little bit more expensive, but if you’re feeling a dose that’s five times less we know there’s a value exchange,” Turland says.
Despite regulatory barriers, Turland says there’s plenty of local demand for CBD products in Australia, with customers being influenced by markets such as the US and Canada.
“There’s a halo effect on social media and with marketing,” he says.
“It’s still really early in Australia … if one day, heaven forbid, the Australian government gets its head around the risk comparisons, we’ll be there in prime position.”
In the meantime, the pair has broken into the local market with hemp-based foods, which aren’t as tightly regulated.
Their products are manufactured locally and stocked in 350 specialty and independent stores, as well as some Coles locations.
It’s all hands on deck because while the US expansion is now underway, a planned release of Hemple’s food products in another major Australian supermarket is expected before the end of the year.
But while Hemple’s food products are manufactured in Australia, their CBD oils are made in the US.
With the American CBD market forecast to grow to $22 billion in three years, Turland says the Australian economy is missing out on a “huge opportunity” to become a leading exporter.
“Australia is good at agriculture,” he says.
“We have the technology and we know how to apply it.”
Currently, local cannabis farming is restricted to a handful of approved farmers and is tightly regulated, meaning set-up costs for new entrants are in the millions.
“If we could manufacture locally, we would.”