Heralded as “The Queen of Legal Weed” by Inc. (May 2017) and “The Martha Stewart of Edibles” by Entrepreneur (January 2019), Whiteman is CEO of Wana Brands, producer of cannabis-infused products including edibles, vapes and extended release capsules. Whiteman leads the company’s strategic vision and directs the development of partnerships and licensing agreements domestically and internationally. She was named MJBizDaily’s 2019 Industry Impact Award Winner in December 2019 and was one of six women included in High Times 100 in March 2019.
Area Code 420 (AC 420): What is the origin of Wana Wellness?
Whiteman: I am CEO of Wana Brands, which was established in 2010. We could see the huge growth of the hemp market. We understand and want to share the knowledge that cannabinoids and other beneficial cannabis components are greater than the sum of their parts.
That’s why Wana Brands offers a wide range of CBD/THC ratios and classes of products that are enhanced with terpenes, creating options for all cannabis users to accommodate each consumer’s individual needs, metabolism, and desired experience. With this knowledge from a decade of cannabinoid and plant-based medicine expertise, I founded Wana Wellness as a separate company from Wana Brands. We have two different facilities and two different production teams.
AC 420: What differentiates Wana Wellness from other hemp products on the market?
Whiteman: What differentiates Wana Wellness is the ability to leverage a decade of tried-and-true cannabinoid expertise along with our premium best-selling edibles recipes. Our greatest investment has been in refining and perfecting the Wana Gummie Recipe. It can be challenging to mask the bitterness of hemp oil, but Wana Brands has dedicated extensive resources to perfecting our recipe, which is vegan, gluten-free, all-natural and kosher-certified. And with broad spectrum hemp oil, we can offer a THC-free versatile product to support health and wellness in tasty and trend-forward fruit flavors.
AC 420: Why does Wana Wellness use broad spectrum hemp oil instead of isolate?
Whiteman: We use broad spectrum hemp oil because it is extracted from aerial parts—the parts of the hemp plant exposed to air—and contains naturally occurring cannabidiol (CBD), essential terpenes, and other plant compounds that support health.
CBD isolate, otherwise referred to as “pure CBD,” is a single molecule extract that includes no other active compounds. In order to provide our consumers with a more beneficial product, we decided to use broad spectrum hemp oil instead of a single isolate.
AC 420: How do you know how much hemp oil and CBD is in your products?
Whiteman: We test and test again, and then we have third-party testing as well. Wana Wellness goes above and beyond the standard Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and rigorously tests each batch of product for microbials, hemp oil potency, and CBD potency. We guarantee that our products contain the amount of hemp oil and CBD stated on the label.
For the best hemp gummies on the market, we start with the hemp oil. We work only with carefully vetted farmers who utilize organic growing practices. We require that the oil we purchase come with the results for potency, pesticides, and contaminants from a third-party lab. We use the results of this testing to calibrate the oil that is added to each batch, adjusting it for differences in oil potency.
We then test the final product again to ensure that the dosage is exactly where it should be. This is important because cooking methods and production processes can alter the intended dosage of a product so that the resulting amount of CBD in the product may be materially different from what was planned. And while Wana Wellness is strict with dosing products and third-party testing each batch to ensure proper dosage, unfortunately there are no federal or national industry standards for testing CBD potencies.
AC 420: Where will the most significant growth occur in the company in the next few years?
Whiteman: Wana Wellness is planning to launch several new CBD product SKUs in the next year, including a tincture, and we will be adding our industry leading quick-onset technology to both our hemp gummies and tinctures.
We will also have smaller unit sizes and more recipe developments. Our growth will also occur through added distribution. Wana Wellness is available nationally through WanaWellness.com, except in states where regulations do not allow hemp. We’ve also been consistently growing our brick and mortar presence since launching in November 2019. And a last-minute change in regulations from the Colorado MED now allows Colorado dispensaries to sell hemp-derived CBD products in dispensaries. That’s created a lot of opportunity for Wana Wellness in Colorado, since we’re in a majority of the nearly 600 dispensaries in the state.
AC 420: What new competition do you envision Wana Wellness having in the next 1-2 years?
Whiteman: This really is the dawn of CBD confectioneries, so most products you see today are generic, just as what we saw in legal THC a decade ago. But product differentiation is coming, and Wana Wellness will be a leader. We have new products in development that are leveraging functional ingredients, terpenes, quick onset, and new innovative flavors.
AC 420: Do you think the supplement industry will take on an even greater role with CBD and hemp products?
Whiteman: If you look at the general supplements market, consumers have become very familiar with the gummie platform as a delivery format. Providing CBD through a gummie format is a no-brainer. We hope that the hemp/CBD industry will act more like the supplement industry. Supplements are regulated by the FDA, but currently the FDA does not regulate hemp as a supplement. This lack of federal regulation allows bad actors to operate. While Wana Wellness has always had our products third-party tested and provided Certificates of Analysis, there are many CBD companies out there who aren’t testing for potency and purity. It’s one thing for a brand to claim its products are potent and consistent. It’s quite another to have those claims backed up by third-party testing.
While it is now up to the consumer to check with the manufacturer to see whether their products are lab tested for potency and purity, the public is safer, and products are better when testing and certification is required.
AC 420: If you could improve only one area of your company, what would it be?
Whiteman: I would like to figure out how to get new products and projects implemented faster without compromising quality. It’s a constant challenge!
Sheldon Baker is CEO of the Baker Dillon Group LLC and has created numerous nutraceutical brand marketing communications and public relations campaigns for many well-known supplement and food industry companies. For interview consideration or brand marketing consulting, contact him at Contact@The420AreaCode.com.