This weekend (August 2 – 4th, 2019) was pulsing with CBD and hemp related business buzz at the Miami Beach Convention Center, inside the USA CBD Expo presented by Koi CBD. I booked a studio apartment, threw some clothes and business cards into my car and headed to Miami… determined to check out as many products and meet as many people as possible!
Video of Trade Show Floor:
Location & Venue:
The Miami Beach Convention Center was large and modern. It was located right next to the lively Lincoln Road Mall and just a couple blocks from the beach. There were art deco buildings, tourists and beautiful people everywhere you looked in town. August in Miami is scorching hot and it was lovely to swim and work out right on the beach. Sweaty after my workout, I was delighted to see a vending cart selling CBD ice pops ($14 – 20 depending on the dosage) rolling through the park, just in case I needed to ‘chill.’ It was a definite “CBD is now mainstream” moment!
Companies in Attendance:
I would “ballpark guesstimate” anywhere between 150 and 200 company booths: it was too big to see or talk to everyone in a single day or two. I was not impressed with the quality of the companies or products displayed, overall. Two of them – Quicksilver Scientific & Mile High Labs seemed to have professional operations and high-level CBD expertise… but there were a number of Chinese vape pen companies and lots of “white label” CBD brands with fairly generic products or poor knowledge of what they were selling.
Quality of Speakers:
The speaker lineup was OK but not amazing. There were some highly technical and cutting-edge talks and… some others that were delivered by more ‘down to earth’ entrepreneurs just sharing their own personal experience. Dr. Alex Peshkovsky of Industrial Sonomechanics in Miami gave a great lecture on nanoemulsification technology and equipment. He has really positioned himself as a leader in that field.
I was hoping to find amazing new products I hadn’t already tried before… but the best CBD oil at the show was Dr. Christopher Shade’s Quicksilver Scientific Full-spectrum Nanoemulsified Hemp Oil. His liposomal supplements are superior quality and higher bioavailability than a lot of what is on the market right now. Also, his team was professional and passionate about explaining the features and benefits.
Some of the best branding and packaging was by Nanocraft CBD. The hall was filled with thousands of similar products, many of them were indistinguishable and had average labels and crinkly cellophane packs. This San Diego-area company had packaging and labeling for its nano-CBD water and drops that definitely ‘looked the part’ of a high quality CBD product.
I also liked some of the combination CBD + nutritional supplement products I saw. Dope Minerals had a nice CBD + magnesium cream. A lot of people are magnesium deficient and don’t know it, along with endocannabinoid tone imbalances. Myco Sativa has some cordyceps and other traditional Chinese herbs blended with CBD. Original Hemp had some CBD capsules with solid-looking terpene + herbal supplement formulations.
I didn’t see any high quality vapes or flowers that caught my eye. Plenty of ‘average stuff’ from last year’s harvest and OK pens.
Marketing Sizzle & Bling:
Hedonistic Instagram celebrity Dan Bilzerian showed up with his ever-changing harem of lingerie models. He appears to have put his passions for guns and goats on the backburner in order to focus on the lucrative domestic CBD market with his Ignite brand. Dan was chill and met with his fans and staff while his girls puffed vapes and checked their iPhones. Dan hosted an after party at the Fountainebleau Hotel’s LIV nightclub. I showed up uninvited and tried to talk myself into the venue but couldn’t get added to the guest list at the door, no matter how nicely I asked.
A CBD energy drink company sponsored a huge stage with a booming bass sound system and dozens of scantly clad dancers. Israel-based vape pen startup PhenoPen sponsored an amusement park with games, prizes and cotton candy.
Trends in the CBD Industry – Aug 2019
There is a huge boom in industry with hundreds of large scale extractors that manufacture CBD by the kilo (or ton) and tens of thousands of smaller, mom-and-pop “white label” brands who buy it and put their logo on it. It seems to me like most of these smaller brands will eventually fold when the bubble bursts and CBD is a ubiquitous, legal commodity with no more room for the “little guy” or middle man with an average product.
- 2019 is pretty late in the game to jump into the market with a ubiquitous product like CBD oil in a dropper bottle. Soon I think CBD will be like beer or soft drinks – a handful of brands will dominate the mass market. There is only so much potential ‘bandwith’ in a consumer’s mind and I could feel my brain ‘overloading’ at the show with too many products. There will probably always be room for smaller “craft” brands with niche appeal – but they must be high-quality and target a specific market.
- Brands must make and emotional and personal connection with consumers. As the market gets more crowded, it’s crucial to have a “human element” of design, content / copywriting, sales and customer service that makes a warm and compelling emotional impression on the customer.
- CBD retail stores are currently booming. I met CEO Marcus Quinn an analytical chemist Dr. Tony Ferrari of Your CBD Store. Their franchise has over 400 locations and business is booming, allowing people people to quickly open a local retail shop and profit off the CBD boom. To do well these stores must offer an exceptional customer experience and service.
- Vapes are a major sub-market. There were a lot of Chinese vape companies at this show. It’s almost like vapes and flowers are a slightly different market for smokers than oral CBD products.
- Less free samples. The last CBD trade show I went to, I came home with full-sized CBD oil bottles, jars and softgels that were given to me as samples. This time I got mostly tiny testers and gummy bears.
The show was decently organized but it was not quite as big as the “one of the largest shows in North America” and “700 vendors expected to attend” predictions teased on the expo website. I felt like the CBD Expo show in Orlando I went to had somewhat better speakers, vendors and perks – free coffee or snacks, press rooms, multiple simultaneous panels of higher quality and an actual networking party with a DJ and good food. It also had much better products on display. The advertised ‘afterparty and networking event’ on Friday at USA CBD Expo was actually just a commercial sales pitch for a payment processing platform on the main stage and it was difficult to network while the speaker was hawking her biz. USA CBD Expo was basic in that it mostly just a big room filled with CBD company booths and a main speaker stage in the center of it, but everything worked OK and there was plenty of CBD products and networking — to be had by all.