Dean Ernst is the Co-Founder of Essential Company, a brand of all-natural hard candies infused with pure essential oils and offering selections with CBD, as well. In honor of National CBD Day, CBD World News contributor and cannabis journalist Heather Allman talked with Dean about the state of the industry and Essential Candy’s role within it.


CBD World News: Tell me your perspective on the current mainstream madness of CBD. Why do you think the CBD industry has grown so quickly and exponentially since the 2018 Farm Bill?

Dean Ernst: “I have been following the hemp/CBD industry for a couple years now. While it has made significant strides that started with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, it is still the Wild West as far as regulations go—or lack thereof. Certain states have been forced to move forward with their own regulations since the FDA has yet to provide guidelines for the industry. Thankfully, here in Florida, it recently established its own hemp program, rolling out inspections and permits for producers, manufacturers, and retailers. Thus, consumers are guaranteed CBD products that have been inspected and are true to what their packaged labels claim. 

Overall, the CBD industry has grown rather quickly because of consumers taking their health into their own hands and seeking natural alternatives to traditional medicine. Even more, as the population ages, CBD has proven to be promising when it comes to combating stress, anxiety, pain and inflammation, and insomnia.


CWN: In your opinion, what are some of the ultimate benefits of the current CBD market’s rapid, expansive growth? Drawbacks?

DE: One benefit of the market’s rapid growth is that more people have access to CBD, but this is also a drawback in that subpar products have hit the marketplace. Like any emerging industry that gains rapid adoption, you get products of real value and also products of perceived value. However, as the industry matures, the quality of producers, manufacturers, and their products improve, as well. I feel this is a win for the consumer, and we have only scratched the surface on all the benefits of this amazing plant.


CWN: What’s the consumer appeal of CBD?

DE: The appeal of CBD is fairly simple. Like others who believe in the power of cannabis, I would rather take a natural remedy that helps me to fully heal instead of medicine, which may only help my symptoms and, not to mention, comes with many side effects. CBD is a staple in my household, especially when it comes to any pain and inflammation.


CWN: What’s the business appeal, or why the CBD market?

DE: The business appeal of CBD is about bringing a natural product to the masses, and we are in an evolution of discovering so many pure benefits derived from the cannabis plant. What better business to be in than one that helps people?


CWN: What is the biggest challenge or barrier that remains in/concerning the CBD industry at large?

DE: The biggest barrier in the CBD industry at large continues to be government regulations and the lack thereof. Until the federal government regulates the industry, it remains a very challenging business to be in.



CWN: What is the biggest obstacle that you’ve professionally encountered concerning the CBD market?

DE: The biggest obstacle I have encountered in the CBD market is really around information. Speak to 10 different people, and you get 10 different answers. Agencies and regulatory bodies are still assessing the CBD market, which means everyone in the industry has to adapt quickly to changes surrounding it.


CWN: Give me an example of your company’s solution to that specific challenge.

DE: One challenge Essential Candy has encountered has been around third-party testing. For a small manufacturer like ourselves, having commercial packaging printed and needing to update QR codes for every batch produced has proven to be an issue. The good news is we can now use a master QR code on our packaging that brings consumers to a portal where they enter the batch number, which then displays the product’s Certificate of Analysis. It has been a true game-changer for our small business.


CWN: Describe your current—and emerging—CBD consumer/client demographic. Has your consumer or client base changed or pivoted since the pandemic?

DE: Our core CBD customer ranges in age between their 40s and 60s, specifically those who choose to combat pain and anxiety with a natural remedy. Another key customer of ours is cancer patients going through chemotherapy. CBD seems to help with some of the treatment’s side effects. 

During the pandemic, our client-base has increased—and continues to do so. There do not seem to be signs of slowing down.


CWN: In our current climate, with cannabis and thus CBD being deemed an essential service, what was one of your responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, or what responsibility do you feel to your current and prospective CBD consumers?

DE: During the pandemic, we shifted our focus to include helping frontline workers by providing our products at no charge. It was part of a social media campaign we organized and executed, in which our followers nominated “heroes,” thus furthering our mission as “Candy With A Purpose.”


CWN: What is one key element of your company’s plan to maintaining your existing high-caliber brand or ancillary service?

DE: It is all about education for us and staying on top of developments in the industry. If you are in the CBD industry, you need to be agile and adapt quickly to the changes. We will always be doing anything we can to bring the highest quality of products to the market.


CWN: Any additional comments?

DE: My wife, Tracy, and I started Essential Candy to help others. As part of our “Get One Give One” initiative, we donate a bag of Essential Candy to a Cancer Support Group for every bag that is purchased. CBD is an extension of our many blends, and the cannabis industry has only strengthened our “Candy With A Purpose” mission by allowing us to expand our offering. We feel grateful where we are today and are so excited for the journey ahead!

Heather Allman

Heather Allman is a U.S. Medical Cannabis Journalist and Certified Cannabis Educator who advocates as a registered Florida patient and regularly contributes to the Cannabis Law Report. She is a member of the National Association of Cannabis Businesses where she holds a seat on their Sustainability National Standards Board.

See all posts by Heather Allman

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