A quick scan of pharmacy shelves illustrates that manufacturers view confectionery applications as ideal methods for delivering functional ingredients.
Throat-soothing lozenges are a wintertime staple for many consumers, while a potpourri of vitamins and minerals are available in gummy form. Additionally, chewing gums and mints have helped many cigarette smokers reduce or cease their nicotine intake.
So it’s no surprise that edibles manufacturers are turning to confectionery formats to offer consumers cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids in flavorful, odorless and precisely portioned pieces.
While many edibles manufacturers make ever-popular gummies, others are focusing on or expanding into mints, hard candies and similar products designed to allow consumers to control their cannabis consumption experience through a product format they understand.
“Hard confectionery products are a good format for THC because they are delicious, discreet and offer microdosing options,” says Nancy Whiteman, founder and CEO, Wana Brands, Boulder, CO. “Most consumers are familiar with drops and lozenges as a wellness delivery platform—think about the different types of lozenges available for various conditions—so people are comfortable with consuming confectionery lozenges to address a wellness need.”
Since 2011, Wana Brands has offered a line called Wana Drops, hard candy pieces with 5 mg of THC or THC/CBD per piece. They’re available in three flavor and strain profiles: Tangerine Sativa, Watermelon Indica and Kiwi Strawberry, which features a 1:1 THC/CBD ratio.
Wana Drops have undergone reformulations over the last eight years with the goal of refining flavor profiles. Whiteman points to the ongoing challenge of balancing or masking cannabis flavor in confectionery pieces.
“Wana aims to have delicious products without the taste of medicine, so we spend a lot of time and energy on developing and perfecting our recipes,” says Whiteman. “One significant aspect of this is the quality of the distillate that we use. We have also found certain flavors, such as blueberry and citrus fruits, work well in blocking some of the bitter notes in cannabis.”
Wana has incorporated berry and citrus flavors into its newest launch, Wana Tarts. These chewable tablets, each containing 5 mg of THC or THC/CBD, are available in three flavor and strain profiles: Mixed Berry Indica, Hibiscus Lemonade Sativa and Black Cherry, which features a 1:1 THC/CBD ratio.
Kiva Confections, Oakland, CA, works to complement the “strong, bitter, often skunky notes” of cannabis, says Kristi Knoblich Palmer, co-founder. “Some flavors that you think would be amazing actually enhance the less-than-pleasant cannabis flavors. You just have to think a little outside the box and try different things. We look for unique flavors that marry well with the cannabis taste, rather than completely cover it up or let it be the primary flavor component.”
Originally available in Moroccan Mint and Eucalyptus, Kiva Confections has expanded the Petra mints line to include Tart Cherry, Pineapple and Saigon Cinnamon, which all feature 2.5 mg THC per mint. Kiva Confections also offers Citrus CBD, with 2.5 mg CBD per mint. Knoblich Palmer said the Kiva Confections team conducts regular taste tests on products in development to pinpoint the exact flavor profiles they’re pursuing.
“The blend we seek is just the right balance of whatever flavor that we’re trying to feature, a subtle hint of cannabis and sophisticated, interesting flavor combinations,” says Knoblich Palmer. “Flavor is everything at Kiva. We put in the time and attention required to make not only effective, but undeniably delectable, treats.”
Consistency in Dosing and Quality
Perfecting the flavor is only part of the equation. Each hard candy or mint must have the same cannabinoid content to ensure a safe and repeatable consumer experience.
Whiteman notes that Wana Brands has already implemented good manufacturing processes (GMPs) and hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plans at its manufacturing facilities. She adds that detailed, continuous documentation is key to supporting claims of product quality and consistency. “By tracking ingredients and materials though our entire manufacturing process and keeping a reliable record of it, we are able to ensure consistency and quality throughout our entire process, which protects businesses, patients and customers,” she says. “In 2018, Wana Brands boasted 99.9 percent product acceptance rate by our customers.”
Whiteman also notes that Wana Drops are infused with a highly refined distillate during the cooking process, rather than it being sprayed on the finished product. She also said Wana Drops do not contain sorbitol or mineral oil, which can cause an upset stomach in some consumers.
While some of Wana Brands’ manufacturing and packaging processes are automated, that’s not the case for Wana Drops. “Our drops are still largely made by hand and are poured into precisely made moulds to ensure exact dosing,” says Whiteman.
Wana Brands also recently opted to individually wrap each drop to prevent stickiness during the summer months. Whiteman said the company has introduced processes that enable it to package and tamper-proof products on a significantly larger scale, driving down costs and increasing margins.
Kiva Confections uses a standard tablet press to produce Petra mints, equipment that’s designed for accuracy and is frequently used in the pharmaceutical industry, Knoblich Palmer says.
Each Petra mint contains 2.5 mg of THC provided by a golden distilled oil that’s incorporated into the base material of the mint.
“Confection-making at Kiva is all about consistency of the product,” Knoblich Palmer said. “We are constantly weighing, measuring and calibrating to make sure each piece is on target, allowing us to deliver the right amount of THC in every dose, every time.”
The low THC content is suitable for microdosing, or consuming small amounts of a substance in order to better manage its effects. Microdosing allows consumers to customize their experience and determine the right amount of cannabis to meet their desired outcome.
“Mints are an excellent format for microdosing THC in particular, primarily due to the way consumers have been trained to enjoy them when they don’t contain cannabis, one or two at a time,” Knoblich Palmer said. “This lends itself to moderation, the perfect match for microdosing.”
This is especially important for consumers new to cannabis, adds Knoblich Palmer. Microdosing allows the user to go about their day without feeling unfocused, lethargic and groggy. “In addition, with such a small amount of THC in the product, this is a great introductory product for people who are curious about cannabis and edibles but are afraid of overdoing it.”
As more U.S. states legalize cannabis use, notes Knoblich Palmer, offering safe, reliable and easy-to-use products will be key to capturing the wide diversity of potential cannabis consumers.