Operating "seed to shelf" within the blossoming CBD wellness marketplace, Lachance says her company has "embraced the full vertical." It has a hand in all production phases, in order to "bring about a premium product."
Boulder Botanical and Bioscience Labs (BBB Labs) partners with select hemp growers near Pueblo and Fowler, Colorado. The company then refines the resulting pesticide-free oils into extracts and distillations at its facility in Golden, which Lachance says runs in accord with GMP guidelines.
BBB Labs creates formulations, then sells the resulting cannabidiol-infused products under its own brand names. (Holy Grail is an affiliated company). It also white labels for other companies. (Although the name of one of those companies is off the record, Lachance allows that it's a well-known business in the medical and recreational cannabis markets in Colorado.)
"We needed to bring all of this in-house in order for us to control it," says Lachance. "We are insane about compliance."
Products include tinctures and capsules, and Lachance says, "We have a mantra: We will not let anything leave this facility that we will not put in our children's mouth." (There is evidence that CBD decreases the symptoms of severe epilepsy in children, leading some parents give CBD products to their kids.) That means Lachance is willing to ingest them, herself -- "and that includes our pet products." Yes, there's a bacon-flavored extract for dogs. There are also topicals and bath bombs.
And soon there'll be a CBD gum.
That's what the company set out to make initially. While based in Florida, Lachance and a co-founder Robert Di Marco were already marketing a nutraceutical gum: X8 Energy Gum. In 2013, they attended a meeting at the University of Miami spotlighting the potential health benefits of CBD, derived from the cannabis plant. "We were indifferent, at best, about marijuana," says Lachance of hemp's psychoactive cousin. "Neither of us were users." When they learned about the non-psychoactive properties of CBD from parents and medical professionals, they decided to jump into the market. In 2015, they moved to Colorado to begin manufacturing.
They must have been doing something right: Lachance says BBB Labs attracted an angel investor -- a billionaire whose name Lachance will not reveal -- who saw CBD's effectiveness within his own family, and his own life. "Whatever you guys are doing I want in on," he told them. Now BBB Labs is leasing a 27,000-square-foot, $6 million facility in Golden previously owned by GE Healthcare.
Wearing white coats, gloves, and hair and beard nets, a team of workers runs a new bottling line. There's also a tincture-filling line. There are commercial grade blenders. Behind plastic slats, keeping external contaminants out, one man runs an encapsulation machine. Another works on making a distillate from hemp oil that's 80 to 95 percent CBD, and an isolate that's 99.9 percent CBD. There's an R&D room where clients can try out product flavors and discuss formulations they'd like BBB Labs to prepare. Base materials are quarantined in a separate area, in compliance with GMP practices. In the back, the fulfillment team ships out orders.
Given Lachance and Di Marco's experience selling nutraceutical gum, Lachance says they've "already had to answer to the FDA to GMP standards." Talking up efficacy and safety, she adds, "We make claims -- and we need to be able to demonstrate that those claims are true. . . . We're doing everything by all the necessary standards."
On the other hand, Lachance says some CBD products don't have the amount of CBD that they claim. Lachance says that "when those individuals get audited, they're not going to pass."
CBD has become big business. "We didn't really make any money until 2016, and at that point we were making about $200,000 every few months," says Lachance. "Now today, we've made $10 million [in 2018], and we are projecting $100 million for ."
But Lachance says that money isn't the primary motivation.
"This is a very passion-driven industry," she says. "I think a lot of people see the opportunistic side of it. But what makes me wake up every morning is the fact that there are so many moms and dads and grandparents that are attracted to this ingredient [CBD], because it's an all-natural solution to something. And I think that we are in a place in our history where we are tired of being quote-unquote 'poisoned' [by pharmaceuticals]. And it's just a passion for me to be able to be producing a product that anyone can take: a child, a pet, grandma, mom. So, I just think its a very organic industry."
Challenges: Lachance cites rapid growth: "Everyone is interested in [CBD]. Everyone understands at some level how important it is, how impactful it is. There are so many people trying to get into this industry -- some very knowledgeable, some opportunistic. As business owners, we sit in a space where we have to be very wise, and we have to be very calculating as to what we do take on and what we don't."
Opportunities: News of the Farm Bill passing the U.S. House of Representatives -- allowing at the federal level for hemp production -- spread through the office while CompanyWeek visited. Lachance sees it leading to legitimacy for companies like hers. "We've actually been kicked out of three different banks that we had long standing relationships with," she says. "We have lost vendors, because they didn't want to work with us, because we were in this space. What I believe this is going to do, first and foremost, is it's going to open up the doors where we're able to work with our old friends from the [nutraceutical] space, where we're able to level the playing field. It's going to give people in the CBD space a chance to step up and actually demonstrate [that their products are] just as good as dietary supplements are, just as good as pharma. So, I'm excited about that."
Needs: Standardization is on the horizon, she believes, for the CBD industry: "We are going to benefit from the standardization [due to the Farm Bill] passing. We are already operating GMP-compliant, but I think what it's going to do is -- now that we can go out and get that certification, and have people actually come through here and audit -- it's going to give us the legitimacy that we so desperately crave. And not just for ourselves -- for the industry."