Baked foods — namely brownies — have long been a preferred delivery method for consuming marijuana, a cannabinoid derived from the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa) that contains the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It also contains cannabidiols (CBD), compounds associated with relaxation, pain relief, improved sleep, positive mood, better memory and stress response.

Attitudes toward these substances are changing with marijuana becoming legalized state-by-state. Today, 11 states have legalized the substance for recreational use and 33 for medicinal use. CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in hemp, is legal in some capacity in 46 states, and cannabis data and research firm Brightfield Group found CBD sales reached $5.3 billion in 2021, a 15% increase from 2020. The firm projects CBD sales to reach $26 billion by 2026.

Despite this growth and demand, there’s still a lot of room for ingredient technology to grow to make it safe, consistent and effective in baked foods.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized hemp-derived cannabis ingredients with less than 0.3% on a dry weight basis of THC and CBD as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for human products such as tinctures and extracts in December 2018.

“While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, the FDA has not approved hemp-derived CBD for use in food and beverages,” said Hilary Brown, director of technical and analytical services, SōRSE Technology. “Despite this, CBD-infused products are on the market. Some states, like California, have taken steps to approve CBD for use in food and beverages and have created regulations for that use.”

Hemp-derived CBD ingredients can be used in a wide range of products; all types of baked foods are popular delivery vehicles.

“Product developers are creating CBD-infused products that replicate formats consumers are familiar with,” Ms. Brown said. “Baked goods and snacks are a solid platform for CBD because of the small format, the strong flavor profiles that can cover the CBD’s off notes and the amount of product a consumer would typically ingest. Baked goods and snacks are very consumer-friendly products; they provide an easy way to incorporate functional ingredients into your daily routine.”

While bakery products may be a good fit for CBD, Russ Cersosimo, founder and chief marketing officer, Hemp Synergistics, noted that in its raw form hemp or CBD oil present several challenges.

“When it comes to manufacturing, the oil itself is highly viscous, making it difficult to work with and evenly dose, and requires the use of chemicals to clean machinery and utensils,” he said. “As far as challenges to the formulation, CBD oil is extremely bitter, with a chemical taste and an off-putting odor. This has caused the market to search for better, more efficient alternatives to cooking with the oil itself. One of the ways to overcome these problems is to look for a powdered form of CBD oil. Some have been specifically developed for baking.”

This article is an excerpt from the August 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Cannabis & CBD, click here.