Cannabis food and beverage technology has evolved greatly over the last several years. While many consumers have been making DIY cannabis edibles for decades, new technologies are helping to advance the commercial applications for cannabis foods and beverages, as well.
In 2021, New York State passed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act which legalized adult use of recreational cannabis. As a result, this fall will bring a wave of state-wide licenses for businesses to sell cannabis edibles or food and beverage (F&B) products. However, the Office of Cannabis Management is still deciding whether to allow for the sale of freshly-made cannabis-infused foods, like pizza.
Situations like this are not uncommon across the U.S. as states quickly scramble to establish comprehensive laws for cannabis consumption in an increasingly destigmatized consumer market. Many non-cannabis businesses anticipate offering cannabis-infused products but are being met with confusion about dosages, licenses, and opposing definitions.
Cannabis as a Food & Beverage Ingredient
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), cannabis products containing CBD and THC cannabinoids cannot be marketed or sold as dietary supplements or added to any foods transported via interstate commerce channels. However, non-CBD and THC products (such as hemp seed oil) may be added to and marketed as dietary supplements and conventional foods only after meeting safety requirements and complying with all regulatory laws.
Conversely, cannabis companies and individual brands can produce, sell, transport, and distribute cannabis-infused foods within their state borders according to state laws and regulations with the appropriate licenses or within each legalized state in which the company meets the local operating requirements. While this may limit private enterprise expansion in the long run, the federally implemented restrictions create opportunities for regional, niche markets and more specific audience segmentation, enabling outreach and marketing budget optimization.
Regardless of federal-level legislation, companies are already taking advantage of the licenses and the rising demand for cannabis F&B products. Emerging infusion technologies, research and development (R&D) practices, standardized testing, and marketing strategies make cannabis F&B a more accessible business opportunity.
Here are some examples of businesses leading the cannabis food and beverage technology space:
Cannabis Food and Beverage Technology
Kineticann is an Israeli-based company leading the way in the global development of cannabis F&B. The company’s proprietary technology and partnerships with F&B manufacturers enable a high standard of quality control. The result is reproducible and scalable products with determinable bioavailability, controlled release, shelf life, dosage, concentrations, taste, and smell. Part of this production process requires a comprehensive understanding of how cannabis acts within various food ingredients and its appropriateness for each target product, in addition to the company’s water-soluble terpene technology offerings.
The company – whose technology is currently patent pending – already holds manufacturing and distribution agreements with some European and Asian countries and has already supplied brands like the U.K.'s first CBD-infused craft brewery, Cannabrew, demonstrating its ability to meet country import and export standards, food safety requirements, as well as national and cross-national cannabis regulations.
Mile High Labs is a hemp-based cannabinoid manufacturing facility operating in Colorado. But what sets this company apart from the rest is that in 2021 it was the first of its kind to be granted both NSF International (GMP) certifications: Dietary Supplement and Cosmetics/Personal Care Good Manufacturing Practice.
Mile High Labs’ position as one of the only U.S. manufacturers with dual NSF certifications serves as its own best marketing tool, offering consumers and businesses looking to develop, test, and produces its products a blanket of compliance standard and security that other manufacturers can’t. And with the company picking up steam in the E.U. with its pending compliance conformity efforts, its prospective portfolio continues to expand, even attracting a commercial partnership with health, nutrition, and bioscience chemical company, Royal DSM. And with CBD on the verge of anticipated federal regulatory changes, businesses and consumers can trust Mile High Labs as an established standard for F&B development.
TESTING AND MARKETING TO THE CONSUMER
Cann, a seltzer water brand, is becoming the most well-known and fastest-growing cannabis beverage business in the U.S.
Being neither a heavy smoker nor a drinker, the startup's founder, Jake Bullock, discovered success in offering micro-dosed products after experimenting with different recipes in his Palo Santo garage and teaming up with co-founder Luke Anderson to raise $1.5 million in seed money. The brand offers a generous selection of THC and CBD-infused beverages made with natural ingredients to compete with beer and wine beverages for a light buzz and a good time. While perfecting the optimal micro dosage of THC and CBD balance in beverages remains a moving target as the market grows, companies like this are meeting their demand at just the right crossroad of health-consciousness and social bonding.
Cann holds nearly 17% of the cannabis beverage market in California alone. With distribution channels in California, Nevada, Rhode Island, Illinois, Massachusetts, and now expanding into Canada, the brand's ability to effectively capture and market to its niche consumer, the “healthy hedonists,” has proven there is untapped demand in the cannabis F&B space.