While infusion is the favored method for incorporating cannabinoids into many different types of foods, legal cannabis edibles manufacturers might use an alternative approach, topical application, for other product varieties, including pretzels, nuts, chips, and other foods.
Developers of seasoning systems say they’re ready to serve manufacturers seeking to apply cannabis topically and evenly without breaking apart the base product.
Tim Nanney, technical sales manager, Spray Dynamics brand, Heat and Control, Inc., Hayward, CA, notes the company offers equipment for processing, coating, conveying, packaging, and inspecting, and develops innovative solutions for production challenges for manufacturers globally.
Nanney says Spray Dynamics doesn’t have any equipment spraying cannabinoids in the field, but the system is currently being considered by some edibles companies. In June, the brand was also set to ship a test unit to a California customer to spray CBD onto cannabis flower for a higher-CBD option.
Similarly, Saxon Robinson, chief marketing officer, tna solutions, noted tna isn’t actively working with cannabis edibles manufacturers, but the company is interested in evaluating projects in the edibles space.
“With cannabidiol (CBD) being legal in 50 states, tna can offer a variety of solutions to help producers in the CBD cannabis industry be more efficient,” Robinson says. “From seasoning to distribution to bagging, tna has the products, the experience, and the expertise to help businesses small and large achieve their production goals.”
Seasonings and coatings are sometimes applied by spraying on a liquid—often an oil—and then potentially following with application of a powder mixture, if desired.
In a whitepaper titled “Seasoning Systems to Match Your Needs,” David Woollard, group sales manager, tna solutions, notes manufacturers must take the physical structure of their product into account when selecting a seasoning system and application method. Some products may need only a dry powder application, while others may require oil or a slurry mix.
No matter the application format, snacks or other products can be tumbled in a drum to ensure even coating. Nanney noted it’s critical that these tumbling drums do not break the pretzel, chip, or other base product.
“Our coating drum designs gently lift and fold the product, allowing us to expose each product piece for liquid and dry coatings,” says Nanney. “Our coating systems have long been designed to handle fragile products such as tortilla chips, snack crackers, and even whole nuts and cashews with minimal breakage to the product.”
Robinson also pointed to the importance of a gentle tumbling motion to prevent product breakage, and by extension, minimizing loss of expensive product and ingredients. “We have proven expertise in applying seasoning to extremely fragile products with great success,” Robinson says. “Our drums have been designed to ensure gentle product tumbling whilst ensuring an evenly seasoned product.”
Managing dosing is another key component to topical application. Nanney says the Spray Dynamics MS-I oil spray system accurately applies oil-based liquids, particularly at minimal amounts. The MS-I’s “airless” spray feature prevents atomization of the oil loss into the environment. Nanney added Spray Dynamics’ powder feeders and scarf plates are also capable of metering and applying dry ingredients.
The tna system also has safeguards in place to help minimize loss of expensive cannabis-derived ingredients. Robinson says the tna intelli-flav 5.1 on-machine seasoning system (OMS) utilizes loss-in-weight sensors on both the product being seasoned and the seasoning itself. “This ensures that the seasoner will automatically adjust based on the weight coming in to ensure the same coverage, irrespective of the product flow into the tumble drum being high or low,” Robinson says. “The system constantly communicates and adjusts to ensure accurate seasoning coverage. The tna intelli-flav OMS 5.1 was designed keeping all these aspects in mind and taking into account the high cost involved in seasoning a product.”
Manufacturers must also consider how to move the product away from the seasoning stage and into the next step of the production process. Blake Svejkovsky, general manager, product handling systems, Heat and Control, Inc., pointed to the gentle movement of the FastBack G3 conveyor, which cycles through slow-forward and fast-back horizontal motion.
“Conveying during processing can damage product, disrupt its coatings, and expose it to contamination,” Svejkovsky says. “FastBack conveyors are both gentle and powerful, leaving product undamaged, and coatings intact and uncontaminated.” The system also has a hygienic design so surfaces are easy to clean, he notes.
Growing with Equipment
As manufacturers of legal cannabis edibles expand their operations, they’ll need equipment that can support their seasoning and application needs as they grow.
Robinson says tna’s intelli-flav OMS 5.1 is a suitable solution for small producers that will continue to serve them as their capacity increases. Its application rate for dry powder reaches up to 132 pounds per hour, while the liquid injection rate ranges from 1.2 to 23.8 pounds per hour. Its density rate is up to 200 ounces per gallon.
Nanney also suggested relying on the technical experience of equipment vendors like Heat and Control as edible manufacturers grow their business. “We have a broad range of accurate and dependable equipment that efficiently processes product, so our team can guide our clients to a solution that can perfectly fit their budget, objectives, and long-term growth.”