If you have been a customer or fan of ours for a while, then you are familiar with the Direct Hemp Difference. You can read more about the Direct Hemp Difference on our About page. Part of this Direct Hemp Difference is our commitment to vetting out each and every brand we work with. I want to use this article to dive more in-depth into that process and tell you exactly what all goes into that and why.
To start, when we are interested in a brand or a brand reaches out to us to be considered, we dive through all publicly available information. We are checking for numerous things during this process including:
- Easy-accessible COAs for each product
- Information about ingredients and CBD content is easy to find
- Information about Supply Chain
- Executive team
- Accurate and compliant labeling
- Compliant copy (Cannot make unverified claims)
- Key differentiators
- Additional relevant information
While this is a great start for us to find out more about a company, this is not where we stop. We understand that many companies in the space hide behind pretty websites with well-written copy that does not tell the true story behind the scenes. This is why our next step is to make an in-person visit.
During this visit, we dig in deeper than the average customer or consumer can and perform the rest of our due diligence. We ask for a full tour of operations and hope to meet a majority of the team along the way to get a feel for the culture. We sit down with the executive team to ask questions pertaining to one of the following categories.
Safety is our main concern when talking with a new brand about a distribution partnership. It is vital that specific procedures are in place and followed that hold the company to a high standard of safety. We prefer companies that manufacture products following CGMP practices. (CGMP refers to the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations enforced by the FDA. CGMPs provide for systems that assure proper design, monitoring, and control of manufacturing processes and facilities.) While this may come as a surprise, we have toured companies who are touted as safe and clean that still fill their tinctures by hand without hair nets or gloves and even let puppies (who are not house-trained) run around the facility. These companies do not meet our standards.
This is a very important point in the hemp industry as the quality of a product starts with the hemp put into the product. We look for companies that take care in the entire process and prefer companies that use hemp grown with organic farming practices. One reason why this is important is because hemp is great at a process known as Phytoremediation. Phytoremediation means that when hemp is grown, it can clean up the soil that it is grown in. In some cases, this can be great! When hemp is specifically grown to clean up areas of soil that may have been exposed to radiation or other harmful chemicals. In other ways, phytoremediation can be harmful for a consumer. Take, for example, China who is the largest producer of hemp in the world. China is heavily industrialized, and a lot of China’s soil contains heavy metals because of that. So, when you grow hemp in soil with heavy metals, the hemp can absorb the metals in the soil and that can transfer to end products.Therefore, it is very important to consider the source and make sure that all your hemp products are grown using organic farming practices.In addition to the hemp extract being used, we also look at the quality of other additives and ingredients in the finished product.
In an industry, where compliance and what it means to be compliant changes frequently, it is of utmost importance to us that companies stay at the forefront of these changes. As the FDA issues further guidance around hemp and CBD products, we choose to work with companies who are ahead of the curve and can meet any changes in regulation swiftly and accurately. In the U.K., there were thousands of CBD brands and tens of thousands of products until the U.K. decided to enforce the European Union’s classification of CBD as a Novel Food. When that decision went into effect, the number of companies that were able to meet the new regulations was around 10-12. We need to be prepared for something similar to happen in the US when the FDA issues further guidance, so we work with companies who will be able to withstand large changes like that. The biggest concern with compliance in the US is unverified claims. You can find all companies that have been sent warning letters from the FDA by looking at their database. In these letters, you will see that the FDA’s main focus is cracking down on companies making claims. This is why we review each companies’ labels, packaging, and copy to ensure they do not fall under scrutiny by the FDA.
Most brands sell very similar products by white-labeling or private labeling. We look for companies and brands that innovate. This can be a number of different things. Companies can innovate with the delivery method used, the ingredients they put into the products, or the science and reasoning behind the finished formulations. We are not looking for companies that just combine MCT oil and CBD and call it a day. We are looking for companies that truly push the industry forward and help customers in their own unique ways.
We truly believe that a brand with a strong company culture is a brand that is built to last. When we look into company culture we look into many things. One of the most telling statistics we see in companies is their employee turnover. If a company struggles to retain its’ employees for longer than 6 months – a year, it normally means that there is something awry with the company culture. When we meet with companies and they tell us about their weekly free yoga, company trips, paid maternity/paternity leaves, vacation policies and other initiatives alike, we know this is a company that values their employees and those are the companies we seek.
Although it is last on the list, it is still a big part of what we look for. When a company makes charitable contributions a part of its business plan, this shows us the company is in the industry for the right reasons. There are many companies that exist today in the industry just to help the owners make money. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, we are looking for companies that exist for better reasons. For reasons of making the world a better place, and helping as many people as they can. Here we are looking for companies that truly put people before profit and don’t just use that as a fancy marketing term.
Those are just highlights of the six things we look for when vetting out a company to bring onto our website. In each of these categories, exists 15-30 questions to dig in truly as deep as we can to a company and ensure that if we bring them on and classify them as “DirectHemp Certified” that our community can trust they are buying a product from a trustworthy and reputable company that is built to last.
What things would you like us to add to our list? Do you have any questions we can ask that would better help you to decide who to purchase from when selecting your hemp and CBD products? Let us know in the comments below!