With complementary fat contents and a format consumers love, chocolate and cannabis just go hand in hand.
Julian Rose, head chef and chocolatier, Insa, Chicopee, MA, understands this well. He creates chocolate bars with the company’s in-house distillate in popular flavors such as Mint, Birthday Cake, and Caramel Sea Salt, as well as seasonal flavors such as Strawberry Dreamsicle and S’mores.
Rose recently spoke to Cannabis Products about working with cannabis and chocolate, the company’s most popular bars, and the inspiration behind one of its newest innovations, the Big Bar.
CP: Why is chocolate an ideal format for delivering cannabinoids?
JR: Chocolate is an excellent format for delivering cannabinoids because of how cohesively chocolate combines with distillate. Both mediums have a high fat content that allows the cocoa butter to blend well with the THC-infused concentrate, unlike our fruit-based edibles which are more difficult to combine because fruit has a water base that doesn’t blend as easily with oil.
CP: What challenges are there in incorporating cannabis into chocolate? How does Insa overcome them?
JR: The cannabis flavor can be overpowering to more delicate flavors, so it has taken some trial and error to find the best flavor combinations. We produce, extract and control the quality of our distillate in house, giving us a very pure and light flavored distillate. Precise measuring and 24 hours of mixing gives us the best results and consistency – then, a clever choice of flavors. For example, mint is a great ingredient to use when we want to mask cannabis flavor because of how potent the flavor is. Adding texture is another trick. Crunchy, sweet, and salty add to the pleasure sensation. We are always looking at ways to incorporate unusual and unexpected ingredients into our edibles and drops, from cacao juice to chardonnay to chipotle pepper.
CP: Within the chocolate-infused cannabis space, have you noticed any trends in flavor, type of chocolate, inclusions, or dosages?
JR: Chocolate-infused edible creations are getting more and more creative, and at Insa, we are developing limited-edition seasonal releases to bring more variety to our customers. Another trend we have noticed is microdosing, which allows the consumer to eat more chocolate while consuming less THC to find their exact dosage slowly, which is why we created the Big Bar for consumers to customize their consumption journey.
CP: How does Insa approach flavor development? Does Insa work to complement the cannabis flavor in its chocolate products? Or are they made without cannabis flavor?
JR: Our approach to flavor development is to first produce high quality, delicious chocolate and add in only the best ingredients. We embrace the natural flavor of cannabis and incorporate interesting ingredients that complement its flavor.
CP: What are Insa’s most popular bars?
JR: Our Double Caramel Sea Salt Chocolate Bar won Massachusetts’ first People’s Choice High Times Cannabis Cup – a great honor. We also have a Birthday Cake Chocolate Bar and Mint Dark Chocolate Bar that our customers love any day, any week, any season of the year.
CP: What was the inspiration behind the Big Bar? Are there any plans to offer the Big Bar in other flavors?
JR: The idea for the Big Bar came when we considered feedback from our consumers that our chocolate was so good that they wanted more of it. We liked that by offering more chocolate and less THC per piece, consumers would get to choose how much or little they wanted to consume more effectively. We don’t have plans at the moment to expand the Big Bar line, but it is certainly a prospect we will explore in the coming years depending on feedback from our customers now that it’s rolling out.
CP: Does Insa have any other recent product launches you’d like to highlight?
JR: Yes, we just released our summer seasonal products, including a S’mores Milk Chocolate Bar. We’re bringing some of the best flavors of summer to our line of edibles, drops, and vapes that people look forward to all year. Also, we are constantly innovating in flower as well, this time by launching four new exclusive flower strains developed in-house, that we call the 413 Cultivars, paying homage to Insa’s hometown of Springfield, MA.
CP: What would you like to see happen in the cannabis-infused chocolate category?
JR: I’d love to see more creativity and have personally been experimenting with savory flavors to contrast with the sweetness of chocolate.
CP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JR: As a chocolatier, I am always looking for new challenges, and soon we will launch fall flavors and new, innovative products to our lineup of award-winning cannabis products. Cannabis is a wonderful ingredient that I work with for the many ways that it makes people’s days better.