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Why ‘Sugar’ is Terrible for the Cannabis Community, Explains Sensi Co-Founder Lisa Tollner

Watsonville, CA — The global cannabis market, currently valued at over $9.1 billion (as of 2020), is also helping to facilitate and accelerate poor health behaviors, leading to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, aging, and the risk of cancer. 

But why?

A Breakout Year for Cannabis

2020 was certainly a breakout year for cannabis, with legal sales across the U.S. hitting a record of $17.5 billion, a 46% increase from 2019, according to Forbes. With the demand for legal marijuana expected to surge rapidly, startups galore are venturing into R&D, cannabis testing, and manufacturing. 

Recent reports, according to Grand View Research, suggest that the adult-use segment is expected to witness significant growth from 2021 to 2028, with the legalization of cannabis for adult-use one of the major factors driving the demand for legal marijuana sales.

Looking back to the past year and a half, some experts believe that the industry’s growth is specifically attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, more customers entering mature markets like California, Colorado, and Oregon, and more people consuming cannabis than ever before. Across all U.S. adult-use markets, the number of people who consumed cannabis at the end of 2020 was greater than six-months prior. 

Source: Grand View Research

Most gummies in the cannabis market are coated in sugar, which is a known cause of all of the above-referenced health problems. 

Disrupt Magazine sat down with Lisa Tollner, co-founder and CMO of Sensi, who stresses the importance of consumers knowing which gummies are healthier to consume, taking into consideration low-sugar, Omega3, and vegan options. 

“Sugar is a silent killer in today’s processed foods, contributing to a myriad of health issues,” Tollner explains. “Starting with a vegan, plant-based pectin was the first obvious choice.”

By removing as much sugar as possible, Sensi’s choice in using Tapioca Syrup had everything to do with processing a substance lower on the glycemic index. “Reducing sugar also meant not rolling each gummy in sugar which adds about 4g of more sugar,” Tollner said. 

Photo Courtesy of Sensi Products

Tollner, who has spent over 30-years in global branding and new product development, launched Sensi in 2012 with her husband in an effort to help Tollner’s mother with debilitating pain from 35-years as a CCY/ICU nurse. 

After two years of research, experimentation, and networking with early cannabis pioneers, Tollner and her husband took their findings and developed Sensi Chews, which now encompasses a family of nine cannabis-infused edibles. Sensi, according to Tollner, was the first edible to voluntarily lab test for potency and purity.

Why You Should Consider Vegetable Pectin, and Lose the Animal-Gelatin 

Photo Courtesy of Sensi Products

Unlike most THC and CBD-infused gummy products, Sensi Products differs chemically, as it is thermo-permanent and will not liquify or melt like gelatin gummies when exposed to heat. Lord knows how many times I’ve gotten back into the car, only to find my CBD gummy pack looking like it lost a war with the sun. 

Most cannabis gummies are made with animal gelatin, which is a protein and primarily made from pigskin and significantly more chewy and rubbery than vegetable pectin, which has a softer texture. 

Sensi Gummies, on the other hand, use vegetable pectin, which is a plant-based carbohydrate, water-soluble fiber that can help reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar. 

But for a protein which seems to work against the consumer’s health needs, why is it so popular? 

Generally, gelatin is easier to work with in the production process, which is why most manufacturers use it, whereas pectin requires a more precise technique to reach the desired chewiness and texture. Plus, it tastes better as it is a fibrous element in fruits and vegetables, and has a better texture. 

Looking at the shape and texture of gummies, pectin being thermo-permanent holds its shape after the cooking process, and does not melt (unlike animal gelatin). Hopefully, with more awareness, consumers can look for healthier plant-based options such as vegetable pectin when choosing their favorite types of gummies. 

Photo Courtesy of Sensi Products

Currently. Sensi Gummies come in 5 delicious fruity flavors–Passion Peach 1:1 with 50mg THC: 50mg CBD, Wild Watermelon with 100mg THC, Very Berry with 100mg THC, Sublime Lime with 100mg THC, and Bedtime Blueberry with 100mg THC plus Melatonin. Each bag contains 20 gummies micro-dosed in 5mg pieces, making it easy to control dosing. 

Now, Go The F*** to Sleep!

Back in June 2020, Sensi’s Signature Products division, which is geared toward helping with insomnia and sleep, conducted an insomnia and sleep survey studying 450 anonymous respondents and found that the majority of respondents (73%) preferred taking cannabis in the form of edibles to deal with their sleep issues. Of that focus group, a large majority (91%) of those who used cannabis edibles reported that they were effective for improving their sleep. 

This study was looking to address whether cannabis edibles might be helpful in treating patients who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. 

“Over the past 5 years, we’ve interviewed nearly two-thousand consumers who struggle with insomnia and sleeping disorders,” Tollner said. “Most studies only scratched the surface and we wanted a deeper understanding of what the consumer is going through and why they are looking to cannabis as a possible solution, which is an essential piece of the sleep puzzle.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the struggle for sleep is even more pronounced, given the strain of uncertainty as the pandemic continues to impact individuals, including study participants. 

Participants tracked from the onset of quarantine in March through shelter-in-place during April and May provided some valuable insights,” Tollner revealed. “Specific insomnia issues expressed are negative feelings, stress, worry, an overactive mind, inability to relax, and nightmares. 22% of respondents said they are unemployed. Nearly 50% rely on pharmaceutical sleep aids.

This Sensi sleep study expanded on the work from previous Sensi insomnia studies, which examined a variety of sleep-related variables, including sleeping patterns, reasons for not sleeping, different types of cannabis use, use of other medications, and lifestyle factors (exercise and napping), to obtain a more “holistic picture” of the factors impacting sleep.

Today, Sensi Signature Products are in 300 collectives across the State and is considered one of the top edible brands in the industry.

Andrew Rossow is a Legal Editor at Disrupt Magazine, focusing on cannabis, social justice, and technology. He is a practicing attorney and the CEO and President of AR Media Consulting. He serves as a co-founder of The Guardian Project, alongside TV actor, Mark Pellegrino (13 Reasons Why, Supernatural, Lost, Dexter). Rossow has appeared regularly on CHEDDAR TV, ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC affiliate networks throughout the U.S. He has been recognized by Entrepreneur and Fast Company for his journalistic integrity in helping build out and grow media outlets, formerly Grit Daily News.

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