What started out as a cigarette smoking alternative quickly spawned into marijuana consumption as access became available. By 2014, “vape” had become the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year, alongside another worthy contender: budtender.
The rise in vaping wasn’t in name only. Data from BDS Analytics' What's Hot in Pot Retail report showed that vape products were in demand in two of America's most established markets: Colorado and our home state, Oregon. Overall market growth was 9 percent in both states. High-CBD vapes and other vaporizers returned solid first-quarter sales in 2018 - placing the two sixth and seventh in year-over-year growth. The growth includes a 105.5 percent uptick in sales of $4.8 million for high-CBD products. Meanwhile, other vapes saw a 69 percent growth on sales of $69 million.
Today, a variety of vaping options exist from dry flower to the multiple types of cartridges you can either buy pre-filled or fill yourself depending on the method. Major and startup vape companies are spreading across the country, offering a slew of product offerings for customers to consume. With such a diverse offering in a rapidly evolving space, we decided that it was high time to round up the latest information straight from the sources.
Let’s take a look at what’s going on in vape pen cartridges today.
THC, CBD and Blends: What’s in Your Cartridge?
When shopping for vape cartridges, customers have more selection than ever before - and the trend appears to show no signs of slowing down. Some companies focus solely on type of cannabinoid, while others offer a range of options to meet the needs of patients and adult users alike.
CBD has been an intriguing component to several brands’ product offerings in recent years. While market awareness could stand to improve, the current knowledge around the cannabinoid is enough to make it a viable cannabis sector. Back in 2016, Forbes projected that the market for CBD alone could grow by 700 percent!
Today, it is quite common to find prominent companies at least offering some CBD in their lines. In some cases, companies are entirely on board offering only CBD. That includes their TribeTokes and its 500-milligram cartridge wholly made from California-grown CBD. As their website states, "TribeTokes CBD is not cut with MCT oil or other additives, so you're getting almost ALL CBD plus some natural plant terpenes for a subtle and satisfying flavor."
Other notable CBD endorsed brands include standout brands like Sensi Luxury Vapes, who "mainly endorse the use of CBD oils" in its luxury vape pen products.
Other brands decided to go for a more diverse product catalog. Cura Cannabis Solutions is one of the largest names in cannabis oil, raising a $400 million valuation in 2017. Its premium THC-A crystalline extract, Select, is the companies highest seller. However, the brand caters to a range of needs from Select's 99.9 percent to a 20 to 25 percent THC, Social. To meet the needs of CBD consumers, Cura offers an additional seven vape cartridges which tout zero percent THC.
Caliva, a True Terpenes client and vertically integrated brand out of California, creates its own line of oils and other products in addition to white labeling for other brands. Caliva's Head of Product Development Nelson Ricardo told True Terpenes that, "It all depends on the product request we get. We can do any of those combinations with different ratios. Our classic vape line hast three flavors with THC and one with a blend of CBD-THC in a 3:1 ratio."
The demand for THC, CBD and blends should continue to rise. So, it is expected that the products offered for sale should match this demand. While some companies opt to focus in solely on one type of consumption, others see themselves as a jack of all vape cartridges. With such a diverse range of consumers, any avenue can be viable to a company. The success should lie in a common theme across all industries: produce quality products and make sure the public knows what you offer.
The Expanding World of Terpene Profiles
Just two years ago, prominent cannabis publications like Westword wondered if vaping terpenes would last, going so far as to wonder if was a silly gimmick. Today, the debate appears to be all but done and dusted and vaping terpenes seems to be here to last.
Juli Crockett, Chief Compliance Officer at W Vapes told Dope Magazine last year that “I see two branches of vaping coming: the purist, which will focus on specific terpenes and healing properties within each strain, and the experimentalist, which will focus on mixing strains to create certain effects.” A little over a year since she gave that quote and Crockett’s forecast appears to hit the nail on the head.
Terpenes are the talk of the town in cannabis. Now, it is common to hear companies and consumers alike talking about some of the common terpenes found in vape cartridges. Some of the most popular include notable names like myrcene, limonene, alpha-pinene and linalool. That, however, only scratches the surface of the world of terpenes.
Nelson Ricardo told us that Caliva aims to make strain specific profiles that are as close to the flower as possible. Achieving that goal includes using a device, GCMS. Ricardo explained that "we can analyze the terpene content of a cannabis flower and then replicate that, not only with the analytical data, but also by doing sensory and olfactory analysis as well as focus groups to get different opinions." Caliva also creates more simple and familiar profiles like pineapple, grape and strawberry for its wide range of vape cartridges and many more products.
David Kram, CEO of Silk Road, a producer of CBD-specific products as well as items that use the entourage effect, strives to produce a "high performance, effects-based formulas preserve each strain's unique terpene profile and is topped off with extra natural terpenes we add to our blends to achieve a smooth and highly flavorful product." That includes an indica-dominant cannabis oil with all-natural chamomile and lavender terpenes called Relax.
Soothing flavor profiles represent a slice of the diverse terpene profiles being integrated into vape cartridges today. Other participants told True Terpenes that flavors range from jasmine and banana smoothie to using strains like Blue Dream and Northern Lights. As more individuals and companies learn about the benefits of terpenes, we should expect more unique terpene profiles to get added to product production.
And as always, we’re happy to help you with all your terpene needs!
The Evolving Hardware in Cannabis Vaping
The evolution of vaping hardware represents just another example of the rapidly evolving field. One of the more talked about products have been disposable vape oil cartridges. While not the most recent innovation, the cartridges continue to update and enhance its development.
On the lower end of the spectrum are cartridges made of glass, plastic and metal. These items fall on the lower end due to the risk of malfunctioning. While top-tier companies have eliminated this worry, the cheaper products on the market still give anxiety to a portion of consumers. In addition to these, worries are centered on plastic tips and wicks that tend to give users a less than favorable experience. If you do use plastic, it is best to use a food-safe heat-resistant plastic such as:
- Natural grade nylon 6 & 6.6
- Polyethylene in grade 300 – 500
- Polyester (PET)
Instead of using plastic wicks, Cura uses an organic Japanese cotton wick. The cotton for plastic replacement allows for consumers to vape without experiencing the burning taste of standard cotton wicks.
Ceramics have become an alternative for vapers that would rather not use plastics. Silk Road uses a ceramic CCELL core for heating oil and providing smooth, flavorful hits. According to David Kram, using such technology is essential to providing customers with the experience they expect from vaping cannabis. "Many brands today still use outdated e-cig technology that is simply not meant for high viscosity cannabis extracts."
Another recent addition to vaping is closed system pods used by the likes of Caliva and Puffmen, who also employ coil technology they call the Ultaflo Pro X Series. Puffmen's technology aims to provide consumers with an improved flavor with less oil degradation due to its intake holes in the bottom of the Ultraflo Pro X.
Overall, fans of pod vaping cite its easy to assemble, easy to use product that provides the same discretion other vaporizers offer users. However, its limited availability at the moment has hindered the growth of pod vaping. This has created a supply and demand issue that has led to several varieties of pods to be more expensive than other cartridges. However, market demand should push for better access to pods at some point in the near future.
Much like terpene profiles and the cannabinoids used in cartridges, a range of options awaits consumers. As technology advances, consumers should expect to see an increase in consumption methods. The next trend could center on accurate dosing, or it could be healthier, more flavorful hits. Regardless, customers should expect some more incredible developments in the months and years to come.
A General Consensus on Cartridge Sizes?
Due to the sheer number of variants in the market, not all vape cartridges are created equal. So, while the size of a cartridge matters, the experience is sure to boil down to the experience a customer receives. An analysis by The O’Shaughnessy’s Reader broke down the potency and size of some of the major players in vape cartridges. While the entire study is interesting and worth a read, our focus lies on the size of each product.
Its study found that the most potent products used .5 gram cartridges, except for one that used a full gram. That finding, however, did not link larger cartridges with less of an experience. While one gram cartridges did appear five more times, .5 grams and even one .75 gram cartridge rounded out the list.
Danny Davis, Managing Partner of Convectium, noted an issue with producers measuring its oil in grams rather than milliliters. Davis added that, "We suggest a 0.5 ml top airflow ceramic and glass cartridge with no-leak, no-wick technology and large oil absorption holes combined with a low voltage, multi-temperature battery." He added that he anticipates closed system pods to adopt the same standards in the months to come.
The consensus amongst the participants in our research use .5 gram cartridges. Puffmen, however, used Davis' measurements and were the one responding company to note that one milliliter cartridges sold best for recreational purposes. However, to cover the market, Puffmen also supplies .5 milliliters for medical marijuana retailers to fill to its required regulatory limits.
An Open and Evolving Market
With innovation showing little to no signs of slowing down, it is likely to assume that producers could continue to adapt as well. The changing market demands, and the introduction of new technology will undoubtedly spur on new developments sometime sooner or later.
Concerning terpene profiles, the limits have yet to be scratched. From cannabis to any other form of plant life, there is much left to produce and bring to the marketplace. The movement for healthy living also extends to terpenes. Natural, organic, food-grade quality products are essential to providing flavor profiles and quality products to consumers. If sales in Oregon and Colorado are replicated in other states, then the boom may only just beginning. We're excited to be at the forefront of the journey!