The question of what makes CBD expensive comes down to many contributing factors. In this blog post we will investigate the most important of these factors, and explore why some products which may seem similar on the surface can have such a variation in their cost. As with any product, the more money that is invested into the quality of the product, the more expensive the final price will usually end up; but with so many buzzwords and an often overwhelming amount of information about CBD online, it can be very difficult to know what to look for at first. This blog post will cover everything you need to get started and all the important things you should be vigilant for.
IS THE PRODUCT ACTUALLY CBD OIL?
Before comparing what makes a CBD product a higher quality or price range, you need to make sure that what you are purchasing is actually CBD oil. This sounds obvious, but it is a very manipulated area when it comes to companies marketing herbal oil products online. To see examples of this, you need only search on Amazon for “CBD oil”.
The results may initially look promising, as well as drastically cheap by comparison to other products- but look a little closer, and you will find that almost all of the results are not CBD oil at all, but are instead hemp seed oil containing little to no CBD.
Although these listings are intentionally branded and titled to look like CBD products, hemp seed oil is completely different to CBD oil.
Hemp seed oil, as the name would suggest, is extracted from the pressed seeds of the hemp plant. The seeds of the plant have such low amounts of cannabinoids present, that the oil will have levels of CBD that are barely detectible (if any) and completely ineffective. On the other hand, CBD is taken from the plant itself and requires a lengthier, more costly process to extract.
GROWING THE HEMP
Before extracting the CBD and making a product, we actually need to grow a hemp plant first. The quality of soil and avoiding pesticide/ herbicide use is vital to the growth of a healthy plant, which will reflect in the CBD extract quality. Hemp is a bioaccumulator which basically means that it will absorb everything it can through the ground and its leaves- including unwanted substances or chemicals that could be harmful if consumed by humans, so keeping these away during the production process is of paramount importance. Use of pesticides and cheaper soil quality has become popular as it can cut agricultural costs in the long term, but it can result in a less clean final extract.
EXTRACTING THE CBD
CBD extraction from the hemp plant is most often done one of two ways - ethanol extraction, or CO2 extraction. We have touched on these methods before in a previous blog post, but to briefly summarise:
Ethanol extraction: Uses ethanol as a solvent to strip cannabinoids from the plant material.
CO2 extraction: Has a few variations, but the most common method uses pressurised CO2 to pull CBD from the plant.
The cost efficiency for either method varies depending on the quantity of hemp that is being processed. Ethanol extraction is usually regarded as the cheaper method, whereas CO2 extraction is more environmentally friendly, even if the cost is slightly higher. This method is generally favoured by companies who want to take the more eco-friendly, cleaner approach.
WHITE LABEL VS. PRIVATE LABEL
This is another aspect that can drastically affect price point, although it is quite tricky to spot on the market. There are two main ways in which a CBD company can stock their products- white label and private label. Let’s break down exactly what this means in simple terms:
White Label: A supplier or lab will provide the same CBD products and oil formulas to many different brands, and those brands then put their own branding on and sell the products on as their own.
Private Label: A supplier or lab will make custom formulas and products in collaboration with a specific brand, who then own the exclusive formulas for their products.
So, as you would expect, white label products tend to cost less, but the major downside to this is that you are most likely buying a generic product, often from a company that had no involvement in the manufacturing or quality control of their own products. Private label is considerably more expensive for a brand to do, and requires more time to create new products, but the end result is a more carefully curated product and a higher level of care and investment in quality. Another clear advantage that private label has over white label is that the product is unique and won’t be sold elsewhere under other brand names.
THIRD-PARTY LAB TESTING
This is something we have covered across much of our other content, but it is a factor the importance of which cannot be overstated. If there is one thing you should look for when buying a CBD product, it’s published lab testing. This shows that the product is below the legal limit of 0.2% THC and contains the advertised amount of CBD, and gives you an extra level of confidence in a brand. This reflects on the final product price simply because lab testing is a costly process, and is not a corner that should be cut. Fortunately, those brands who do ensure proper testing will make their results easily available. Be wary if a brand says nothing about lab testing, or if they claim to do lab testing without publishing the results.
To stress the significance of investing in proper testing; some researchers in 2019 took products available on the UK market and tested them to check CBD and THC levels. Almost half of the products contained an illegal level of THC, and less than 40% of the products contained the advertised levels of CBD. One of the tested samples had such a high ethanol content that it should have been classified as an alcoholic drink.