With the proliferation of legalized marijuana in states across the country, production of baked foods made with cannabis, hemp and CBD — also known as “edibles”— are on the rise.
BEMA kicked off its annual convention, being held June 17-21 in Vail, Colorado, with a panel of edibles producers, legal counsel, and a vertically integrated cannabis company discussing the biggest issues facing this category as it gains popularity and market share. In fact, Bill Bogot, partner, Fox Rothschild, indicated that the latest projections estimate sales for edible marijuana products could near $30 billion by 2023.
The primary consideration for edibles producers is that marijuana is still illegal on the federal level; that makes compliance at the state level a critical factor. And when the laws vary from state-to-state, compliance and repeatability are challenging, especially if a company is producing in more than one state.
“One of the biggest issues facing the baking industry in terms of cannabis is the federal and municipal regulatory uncertainty surrounding that space,” said Corey Ravelson, northeast operations manager, 4Front Ventures, Phoenix.
Peggy Moore, founder and chief executive officer, Denver-based Love’s Oven, noted that because marijuana is still illegal federally, the bakery must remain diligent to comply with all the state and local regulations.
“We’re also really focused on bringing in those components of federal guidance,” she said.
This leads to another issue, which is labeling and packaging.
“At Sweet Grass, we have to navigate a lot of challenges, but at the top of my list would be packaging, scalability and navigating the regulatory environment,” said Lauren Finesilver, director of production and executive chef, Sweet Grass Kitchen, Denver.
Packaging can be a complicated area for edibles producers.
“Each state that we operate in has different regulations regarding packaging,” Ravelson said. However, the company has begun automating its packaging using flowwrapping equipment.
At Sweet Grass, Finesilver identified this as a big challenge because all its products require child-resistant packaging.
“That’s an area of production where we can grow as we scale our business up,” she said.
In Love’s Oven’s 8,500-square-foot facility, a large portion is dedicated to packaging in addition to kitchen space, warehousing and extraction lab. The company produces roughly 10,000 packages of infused baked foods per week.
“In Colorado, as well as other states, all cannabis products have to be marked with a universal symbol,” Moore said. “In the baking space, we needed to find a unique solution.”
The bakery currently uses an edible printer for its labeling.
Sweet Grass uses a custom-designed laser printer for its labeling. It took about a year to design and develop.
“Those are big expenses, but they’re necessary evils in this space,” Moore added.
During the BEMA convention, these producers had an opportunity to connect with equipment manufacturers, ingredient suppliers and other allieds to find solutions to these challenges and more. On June 19, all baker guests will participate in BEMA Connect, an event designed to bring bakers and suppliers together to identify these types of processing challenges and opportunities.