It wasn’t that long ago that cannabidiol (CBD) began taking over the consumer packaged goods world. That miraculous, all-but-unpronounceable cannabis-derived substance was about to change everything (or so we were told). Shops popped up wherever it was legal, the coat of your neighbor’s dog suddenly looked that much shinier and people at work were pipetting drops under the tongue with a look of nirvana. The market is now saturated with CBD in multiple formats like pills, tinctures and creams.
The story most of the media missed is that although CBD has the spotlight at the moment, it is only one of more than 100 cannabinoids. Among these is the rare cannabigerol (CBG)—commonly known as the “mother cannabinoid”— and like those other 99 or so, it holds potential that science hasn’t even explored fully for the simple reason that making products from the cannabis plant, for the most part, has been fraught with thorny legal hurdles.
That’s all changing. San Diego-based Creo, an ingredient company with a platform for producing rare cannabinoids, and led by University of Cambridge-trained scientist and company CEO Roy Lipski, has developed a powerful method of producing the rare CBG version without using any plant material. Using fermentation, its process sidesteps the raft of laws and statutes that, for decades, have hampered product development.
Cannabinoids are being studied for their use in pharmaceuticals, pet care, mental health, skin care (notably combating inflammation), depression, neuropathic pain, dental hygiene and antibacterial products, among dozens more. Accordingly,one market analyst estimates that the global market for products derived from cannabinoid biosynthesis will skyrocket from $10 billion in 2025 to $115 billion by 2040.
Cannabinoid marketing meets production
Lipski and his team at Creo were among the very few people on the planet who fully understood the significance of rare cannabinoids. While the scientists understood the science behind cannabinoids, and the marketers knew from CBD sales that there was potential there, not many people occupied a position straddling the two worlds. This unique perch gave Lipski and his brand Creo a glimpse at the future.
But a huge hurdle remained. The first wave of the Gartner hype cycle had come with the CBD craze. The media, along with investors, brands and consumers, have been seeking differentiation. The question then was how to tell this story, not by preaching cannabinoids to the proverbial choir but in a way that matched the bigness of the cannabinoid vision that Lipski was cultivating.
Along with his CMO, former Hewlett Packard marketing executive Shuchi Sarkar, Lipski created a unique vision for the Creo brand. Lipski and Sarkar recognized that, to be successful, they had to do much more than merely market their own company. Instead, they had to start building the brand of the entire cannabinoid category. They had to tell the big, bold cannabinoid story, but with the added hurdle of telling the story of producing these without the plant—and use fermentation instead. And they had to do it now.
Building a trail-blazing narrative
With the help of New York-based communications agency High10 Media, Creo set out to build this narrative. While the vision was clear, the process of sifting through the debris left by the CBD craze was anything but. The strategy Creo landed on was to tell the whole story, in all its complexity and nuance, without diluting it or dividing it. They’d go big or go home.
Within a few months, the strategy started to see results. Coverage in top-tier outlets like The Hill, which ran a story titled, “This company wants to bring the ‘mother cannabinoid’ to the masses,” drove home the message that the world is on the brink of something big. Staying front and center, Lipski gradually started to become a kind of brand ambassador to the wider cannabinoid cause, but as epitomizing new, cutting-edge fermentation technology.
Outlets like OZY, turned to his authority for their coverage, including in a piece, “Can the Rolls-Royce of Cannabis Reach the Masses?” And Creo managed to successfully illustrate a parallel between cannabinoids and the biggest issue of the day—COVID-19. Lipski underscored how the use of cannabis has surged during the pandemic, including among many professionals who, while working from home, have made the consumption of cannabis-infused beverages and edibles a bigger part of their routines.
It’s clear that a revolution is under way. People are paying attention. We’re starting to learn what this powerful new family of compounds can do for humanity. And the more we learn, the more we want to know. To a large degree, that is thanks to one biotech company with a big vision.