Long loved for their taste and popularity, confectionery applications are a favored delivery vehicle for functional ingredients—and cannabinoids are no exception.
BDSA reports candy represented nearly 70% of the edibles market in 2020, with chocolate occupying another 13%. While gummies are king—making up just over 85% of the confectionery edibles market—hard candy and mints represented just under 10%, at 4% and 5% respectively.
While hard candy and mints are known for offering consumers a burst of flavor and freshness, they’re also at the intersection of trends permeating the cannabis-infused food and beverage industry—microdosing and dosing control, addressing specific need states, and moving beyond cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Staying on trend
Kiva Confections, Oakland, CA, introduced its line of Petra mints in 2016, one of the “first truly microdosed edibles on the market,” says co-founder Kristi Knoblich Palmer.
“Mints are pretty universally embraced,” she says. “They freshen your breath—a bonus for cannabis smokers—are portable, convenient, discreet, and avoid most dietary restrictions. You can put them in your purse or bag, and even in the middle of a California summer, unlike our chocolate products that we’re known for, mints do not melt.”
Their small packages also make them ideal for consumers who are new to cannabis or those who want a subtle, more controlled experience. With 2.5 mg THC or less, Petra’s nickname is “Mom mints,” Knoblich Palmer says, adding she’s heard of parents passing them around at PTA meetings.
“You don’t have to worry about someone having an uncomfortable experience—it’s just enough to take the edge off,” she says. “People love Petra’s modest buzz because they can actually do things using them they can’t after say, smoking a joint or using a stronger edible. Consumers report enhanced creativity, feeling ‘in the zone,’ and even say they become better, more attentive parents when they’ve taken a mint.”
Stephanie Gorecki, VP of product development, Cresco Labs, Chicago, added some consumers may find typical THC dosages, such as 5 mg and 10 mg, overpowering, especially if they are trying cannabis for the first time.
In December 2020, Cresco Labs introduced the Wonder Wellness Co. brand with new consumers in mind. The brand features three varieties of Minis tablets, with no more than 3 mg of cannabinoids per piece.
“With Relax, 1 mg THC per serving is about as low of a dose offered in the cannabis space,” she says. “Speaking in milligram terminology is an easy concept for people to understand, measure, and control. The recommendation for a new edibles consumer, or a person trying a new edible type for the first time, is to start low and go slow.”
Many cannabis consumers are seeking products to support or transform mood states or fulfill specific needs. Wonder Wellness Co.’s tablets are available in Laugh, with 3 mg THC in a Tangerine flavor; Sleep has 2 mg THC and 1 mg CBD in a Plum flavor; and Relax provides 1 mg THC and 2 mg CBD in a Blueberry flavor.
“Wonder Minis, and now Wonder Gummies, address some of the most requested and desired needs such as better sleep and relaxation,” Gorecki says. “These products have been revolutionary for me and my restless-leg condition that I experience when it is time to go to sleep.”
Products that encourage sleep, especially by using cannabinol (CBN), continue to hit the market. Kiva Confections recently added Blackberry, featuring 2 mg THC and 1 mg CBN, to its line of Petra mints.
“Kiva first infused CBN into our Midnight Blueberry Camino gummies and it became our best-selling product very quickly,” Knoblich Palmer says. “We knew there was demand for products that promote restful sleep, but this was beyond our expectations. We are hoping consumers looking for an even lighter balance of THC and CBN will discover and embrace Petra Blackberry. When it comes to edibles, less is often more.”
While cannabinoids are functional in their own right, they can be combined with other powerful ingredients, like vitamins and botanicals, for additional benefits. In August 2020, Essential Candy introduced hard candy pieces infused with both CBD and essential oils. Featuring 10 mg CBD per piece, the range includes Mandarin, Peppermint, Lemon Ginger and Fennel Mint varieties.
Maintaining precise dosages is necessary for developing all kinds of safe, consistent edibles, but it’s critical for perfectly portioned pieces like hard candy and mints.
Knoblich Palmer says Kiva Confections uses a pill press to produce Petra mints, making it the most precise of the company’s products. She also notes controlling the manufacturing atmosphere is essential.
“The manufacturing environment is key—too much humidity or the wrong temperature in the room can start a cascade of problems, so extra attention is put on keeping the environment consistent,” she says.
Cresco Labs also uses a tablet press for the Wonder Minis. Gorecki points to the importance of testing throughout the tablet production process.
“One of our top focuses was frequent internal potency testing at the start, middle and end of blending and tablet pressing to understand and validate potency uniformity throughout the entire manufacturing cycle,” she says.
Meanwhile, hard candy is made by heating and cooling a sugar solution. In 2019, Candy Head, LLC, Providence, RI, introduced lozenges containing 15 or 25 mg CBD. In addition to the infused hard candy base, each piece features a center cross infused with CBD.
Flav, Inc. launched its Sweet Creations line two years earlier, which features hard candy pieces with 10 mg THC per piece. Available flavors include Banana cream, Blueberry, Green Apple, Juicy Mango, Juicy Pear, Orange creamsicle, Root Beet, Tangerine, Vanilla Cream, and Watermelon.
Packaging is also important for protecting and dispensing the product. Earlier this year, Hervé, known for cannabis-infused macarons, introduced the Le Mirage refillable hard candy system in partnership with Silver State Wellness.
Le Mirage holds a proprietary hard candy insert scored into five equal pieces with a numeric indicator that displays the quantity of the remaining pieces. The dispenser is sold with a replacement cartridge or a razor with separate blade attachments. Available varieties include Sour Green Apple, Sour Peach, and Sour Cherry flavors, each with 5mg THC per serving; and Cristal Peppermint with 5 mg THC and 5 mg CBD per serving.
"We are excited to bring a stylish and refillable edibles dispensing system to the cannabis industry, and to meet the need for products that provide an elevated, luxurious experience for consumers in a discreet manner," said Sébastien and Frédéric, founders of Hervé. "As we expand our product offerings we strive to combine contemporary design with sensational flavors using only the best ingredients and Le Mirage absolutely meets that goal."
Image Source: Courtesy of Kiva Confections, Wana Brands, Candy Head, LLC, Essential Candy, Herve and Flav, Inc.