The rise of CBD based confectionery continues to make its industry mark

Confectionery Production examines CBD candy and the processing machinery actuating this ever-growing trend. Daisy Phillipson reports

Anyone who graced the aisles of last year’s sweet and snack trade shows will have likely heard murmurings of the coming cannabis boom.

Unlike THC – the psychoactive component in marijuana – cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is legal for consumption in many countries across the globe. Derived from
the cannabis plant, it comes with a whole host of perceived health benefits, from anxiety relief to pain management.

As such, this year has seen a monumental growth in its use in confectionery products. A new 2020 trend tracker report from Innova Market Insights describes the relative newcomer as one of the most high profile ingredients in recent months. As consumers become familiar with the benefits CBD can bring to their mental and physical health, companies are increasingly tapping into the hottest new trend, leading to new product launches such as mood-uplifting chocolate, relaxation tea and sleep aid gummies.

In the context of hard and soft candies, we’re only at the start of this flourishing sector, one that leaves plenty of room for NPD. The global cannabidiol market was valued at $4.6 billion in 2018 and is anticipated to witness a lucrativ CAGR of 22.2 per cent over the forecast period, with candy products described as a significant vehicle for consumption.

But how is it possible for confectionery manufacturers to get involved and what challenges arise when adding this functional ingredient into the mix. We spoke with UK sweet expert Andy Baxendale, a member of our editorial board, to find out.

He is currently working with confectionery manufacturer Sweetdreams to produce a unique selection of products combining the current appetite for legally-sourced, cannabis-derived oil. When speaking about the process, the candy consultant reassured that cannabidiol is oil-based and is therefore simple to integrate with any hard or soft sweet recipe.

“The only challenge that might arise is with regard to taste, depending on the strength of CBD oil used,” he explained. “You’ll need to increase the dosage if using a low-strength oil, which can lead to an earthy or bitter taste.”

However, this is easily overcome when creating sugar candy products as suppliers can simply increase the flavour levels within the recipe.

“Because CBD is plant-based you have to be careful with the candy and may need to use an emulsifier to ensure the oil is combined with the other ingredients,” said Andy.

“But overall it works well in candy recipes, especially when using a high strength oil.” Manufacturing machinery for medicinal candy Besides the ingredients, a number of equipment manufacturers have updated their machinery to provide the means for confectioners to bring CBD-infused products to the market.

One of the major players within this ever-growing sector is iSweetech, a China-based provider of confectionery processing machinery.

The company’s founder outlines the benefits of adding healthier ingredients such as CBD oil to hard and soft sweet recipes. “As well as relieving chronic pain and offering relaxing properties, it’s a great option for pill-averse consumers,” iSweetech founder Angela explained.

“The production of CBD-infused candies applies the same process and machinery as ordinary candies. The challenge is finding the right method for infusing and balancing the oil with the other ingredients.” The plant-derived additive has a boiling point within the 160-180°C range, and so to avoid volatilisation, Angela recommends utilising a cooling table when incorporating cannabidiol. In addition, a pulling machine will ensure a better balance of the oil with the mixture, as well as a batch roller for the next manufacturing steps.

iSweetech offers a whole host of solutions for this process, including entire production lines for hard candy, gummies and lollipops. The company’s Gummy Making Machine GDQ Series, for example, can be used to create CBD-infused gummies, and consists of a batch-wise jelly cooking system, FCA (flavour, colour and acid) dosing and mixing system, multi-purpose candy depositor, cooling tunnel, sugar coating machine and oil coater.

Another example is the GD Hard Candy Production Line, a compact unit which can continuously produce various kinds of hard candies under strict sanitary conditions. Such innovations are just a sample of iSweetech’s wide-ranging portfolio of machinery lines capable of producing high-quality candies with updated formulas.

The CBD seal of approval Confectioners are right to bet on this booming industry, as the trend is set to grow in the coming months – particularly after distinct regulations are mandated. Many nations including Australia, Canada and the US are reviewing CBD safety in food but have not yet endorsed its sale or production methods, creating confusion about its legality.

The UK, however, has set a new standard this year thanks to the FSA’s announcement of a regulation to set dosage recommendations and warn pregnant and nursing women to avoid CBD consumption. The new ruling gives the CBD industry, including partaking confectionery producers, a year to apply for safety evaluations in order to remain on the shelves. “This will clean up the industry and hopefully we’ll see more advanced uses of the product,” explained Andy. Certainly, this is already unfolding across the pond and in other countries where marijuana for medicinal or recreational use has been legalised.

In Canada and the US, the cannabis edibles market is projected to quadruple to $4.1bn by 2022, with significant growth attributed to candy products. “The demand for cannabis-infused edibles has grown steadily for the last four or five years in the US as each state adopts its own laws and rules governing both medicinal and recreational use,” said Jim Greenberg, co-president, Union Confectionery Machinery.

A series of candy edibles have proved popular with customers, from US-based Dixie Elixirs and Cheeba Chews’ respective THC-infused hard candies and taffy, to Canadian cultivator Aurora Cannabis gearing up for a release of mints and gummies containing the psychoactive cannabinoid.

“As each state adopts rules allowing either medicinal or recreational cannabis use, the demand for these types of products will continue to grow and we have already seen a notable increase in machinery purchases by cannabis-based manufacturers,” added Jim. Complete solutions for appealing edibles When it comes to the processing of products containing THC, global chocolate and confectionery machinery supplier Loynds has been working with cannabis companies for the past five years and can offer complete solutions for those looking to manufacture and wrap premium candy edibles. “Initially people were investing in our small scale machinery, but in the last two years it’s really picked up with those companies now investing in much larger production lines,” noted director Richard Loynds.

A major concern for suppliers is waste, added Richard, an area in which Loynds’ small scale candy machinery can help. Equipment from the company’s Artisan and Laboratory series is a good place to start for a compact and affordable manufacturing solution. Creating smaller batches means any waste made is easier to reprocess and send back into production.

“We have developed a range of machinery that is low output, very flexible and unique to the market,” said Richard. “By ticking all of the boxes of the cannabis and vitamin market for both hard candies and jellies, this is giving manufacturers the edge against using high output machinery.” After many requests for small scale gummy machinery, Loynds is in a position to help suppliers looking for small outputs from 5kg to 150kg per hour.

For example, the newly developed semi automatic starch moulding line is ideal for where scratchless moulding doesn’t work. Winkler und Dünnebier Süßwarenmaschinen (WDS) is another leading supplier of technologies and machinery for the production of active over-the-counter confectionery and cannabis products.

As outlined by the company, the number of confectionery products becoming sweets with health-promoting or biologically-effective properties by adding various ingredients has been increasing for years. From vitamin candies to fruit gums for headaches or smoking cessation, the market is diverse and growing steadily. Fast forward process Based on experience, WDS offers customers complete lines for the development of individual OTC-sweets, tailor-made production processes and exact dosage of active ingredients, all with hygienic, GMP-compliant design.

In addition, together with ingredients supplier Gelita and machinery manufacturer Hänsel Processing, WDS developed a novel processing method for fortified gelatin gummies. A key problem when adding active ingredients into the formulation is starch based cross-contamination.

This could only be avoided by replacing the starch during each changeover, although this would not be economically viable, as approximately five to six kilograms of starch is used for each mogul machine tray. This is where the so-called ‘fast forward process’ comes in. A starch-free process avoids cross-contamination and reduces the production time of gelatin gummies from 24 hours to one hour or less. Instead of using traditional starch trays, the production method utilises reusable silicone moulds and provides a cleaner working environment.

This process, alongside numerous others, has positioned WDS as a successful supplier of safe, hygienic and compliant solutions for cannabis and pharmaceutical gummy products. As for the future, market insights suggest cannabis candy is only at the beginning of its journey. Considering the wealth of NPD and forecasted growth, it’s clear the cannabis confectionery sector will continue to develop innovative ideas to overcome any processing challenges. “This trend isn’t going away,” concludes Sweetdreams’ Andy. “It’s the biggest I’ve seen in 25 years and once it’s properly regulated, it will continue to boom and become another major food offering.


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