With the burgeoning cannabinoid/CBD industry there are plenty of people looking to break into the industry of edible CBD products. Mike Wagner III and Moses Oh are two such entrepreneurs who have been looking to see what lies ahead for the cannabis/CBD industry.
Wagner and Oh served in the military for eight years, as an Apache pilot and a field artillery officer, respectively, before going to Cornell University. Each was working on different ideas when they decided to fuse them into one which is a new cannabis-infused sparkling water called Normal. They started out by networking at Cornell’s Johnson Cannabusiness Club, which the two helped co-found, to familiarize themselves with people in the industry. The name refers to having a stable state of health and well-being. Oh spoke about the inspiration behind their partnership and how they came to creating this beverage.
“It came to be when we initially had the idea for the drink when we got to school, we found it was a married interest of our two passions,” Oh said. “I was very interested in the growing and legalizing cannabis base industry before coming to school, I wanted to explore that and Mike was thinking of starting a kombucha company. Coming from that health, wellness and passion for food in that sense, we had the idea a year ago and thought a cannabis-infused beverage would be an awesome thing that could catch on, not only to fight the stigmatization of cannabis but also to provide that relaxed calm feeling that CBD provides.”
The drink has 20 calories, four grams of sugar and is infused with five milligrams of CBD that’s sourced locally from a farm, New York Hemp Oil, in Cortland, New York. In the past, cannabis-infused beverages have faced great difficulty in regards to taste. Since cannabis has both a pungent aroma and taste, there are a number of cannabis/CBD drinks that suffer from poor flavor. Wagner and Oh knew that they would have to find the causes of the aroma and taste in order to know how to solve this problem.
“We did a bunch of research with companies in Colorado who were sourcing water-soluble CBD,” Wagner said. “What we found with the two companies that we tried was that the flavor of their product was really bad.”
Wagner said that was due to the cannabis plant’s natural flavor, as well as the flavor of emulsifiers companies were using to mix with the cannabis plant to make it easier to combine with water. After experimenting with several different products, they got lucky when a local company had a product that wasn’t as pungent as others the duo tasted. However, they still needed to add more flavoring than is used in traditional seltzer water, instead they had to add cold press juice so Normal packs more of a flavor punch for consumers. This also helps it maintain a natural taste and use natural ingredients. Considering this, they feel they’ve got a competitive edge over some of the other CBD drinks on the market.
The pair also had to keep current with cannabis regulations and learn the areas that have been fleshed out for the world of CBD beverages. Other challenges were finding a co-packer and distributor. Normal can be found in two flavors, Strawberry and Lemonade, at Ithaca Bakery, Collegetown Bagels, and the Greenstar Food Coop on West Buffalo Street.