By Melissa Hutsell
Photos by Nik Z Photography
It wasn’t long ago that eating an edible meant getting unpredictably high. Now, these infused goodies are more palatable and more precise than ever before.
A Brief History of Edibles
Humans have infused their food and drink with cannabis for thousands of years.
Bhang was (and still is) popular in India. Drying, grinding and soaking cannabis sativa leaves creates the centuries-old mixture. It is then added to different dishes and drinks.
In Pot in Pans: A History of Eating Cannabis, author Robyn Griggs Lawrence offers more insight into the use of the plant in Asia. In Uzbekistan, for example, she writes about a traditional favorite, known as guc-kand, “a confection made from cannabis, sugar, saffron, and egg whites.”
Another age-old infusion, majoun or mahjoun, comes from Morocco, the hash capital of the world.
According to the California Weed Blog, “majoun is an ancient recipe of the nomadic Berber people, a group that predates Arabic settlers in Northern Africa. This fruity treat has been used for centuries to aid in self-healing and meditation and was usually eaten after dinner.”
In 1954, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook—one of the best selling cookbooks of all time—was published. It featured the now famous infused fudge recipe, made with hash and inspired by majoun.
Soon after, the brownie became a staple of counterculture.
There’s nothing new about edibles, except their legal status, quips High Times reporter, Elise McDonough. Now, “edibles makers have revived both mahjoun and bhang, claiming these ancient words as brands for new businesses […],” McDonough writes. “Lab testing has revolutionized the industry, making consistent, predictable experiences possible for the first time in human history.”
The Rise of the Edible
Edibles are a popular method of consumption. And that popularity is growing.
That’s, in part, because they offer discrete alternatives to smoking, or vaping.
MJBizDaily reports edibles sales are on the rise since the vaping crisis hit headlines this summer. Generally speaking, however, sales have steadily increased in legal states since each market was introduced, according to the Seattle-based data company, Headset.
The market share for edibles in California has grown from 10% to more than 13%. That may sound small, but between November and December 2018, consumables earned a whopping $42.5 million in sales, according to BDS Analytics.
Overall, edibles are expected to earn $4.1 billion in sales by 2022, reports the ArcView Group.
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Keeping Pace in an Emerging Market
The legal edibles market is still a new one. That means companies must evolve with emerging trends.
Outer Galactic Chocolates (OGC)—a infused chocolate company from Mendocino County—is a small, family-run company that’s trying to keep pace.
Since launching in 2017, their colorful line of milk, dark, and sugar-free dark chocolates have been recognized as, “Best Dark Chocolate Hybrid,” and “Best Chocolate Truffle” by Edibles Magazine. OGC also took home the prize for, “Best Chocolate” at the Emerald Cup in 2017.
As one Emerald Magazine contributor, Nora Mounce, previously wrote about the chocolates, “[they] are deliciously old-school […]. Like an Ella Fitzgerald song playing at a rooftop party, Outer Galactic Chocolates are timeless, elegant and fitting for nearly every occasion.”
The 10mg treats are made in small batches with recipes developed deep in the Emerald Triangle. Each is hand molded, and hand painted with a colorful cosmetic design.
Not Just for the Cannabis Savvy, but Canna-Shy too
Despite the accolades, OGC is evolving to keep up with consumer demand.
One way they’ve done this is by updating their line of chocolates.
In 2018, OGC updated its sugar-free dark chocolate recipe to include monk fruit instead of stevia.
Monk fruit offers a smoother taste and texture, explains Emily Stewart, director of marketing at OGC, and daughter of Jeff Stewart, who co-founded the company alongside Jim Halpin.
In 2017, the company also introduced distillate to their recipes.
The original line of chocolates featured shatter, a glass-like extract. Recipes were inspired by the formulations Jeff previously made for himself as a longtime grower. But, when he started to meet more people in the legal industry, he realized consumers craved more controlled dosages, and quicker onsets.
He also discovered that people were still deterred from edibles. Some proved to be too potent, and others tasted too “weedy.”
Cannabis can be made into a treat. “At the same time, it’s still cannabis,” says Emily. “You still have to be careful with it.”
“That can make people weary, but also more knowledgeable about edibles. They know what they want,” she notes. “And consumers won’t take the first thing they see.”
But that means we have to adapt to that, and adhere to what people want, says Emily. “And people want different things.”
So, they looked at alternative extracts to appeal to a larger market. “That’s when we found distillate,” she adds.
Distillates are systematically stripped of all materials and compounds except one specific cannabinoid, according to Leafly.
Because it’s pure THC—there’s a reliable high, says Emily. “It’s very controlled. It’s consistent every time.”
Though it isn’t “full spectrum,” she assures, it’s still strong; has a quick onset; and delivers more of a head rather than body high.
Extending an Olive Branch
Another major advantage to distillates is that they’re virtually flavorless. So, no more weedy taste.
This gave the company the opportunity, “to be able to extend that olive branch out to people who have a preconception about what cannabis is, what edibles are,” says Emily.
It also allows OGC and its consumers to see the bigger picture. “It’s not just about the actual cannabis, but about having a high-quality culinary experience,” she adds. “We’re introducing the wonder and magic of cannabis to people who’re looking at this beautiful chocolate like something they’ve seen in European or speciality store.”
However, OGC wants to provide all the different experiences one can get with cannabis edibles.
That has opened the door to a world of possibilities in the infused market, from varying dosages, to use of different extracts. Now, the chocolatiers are exploring other product lines, like gummies, ratio lines of chocolates, and CBD goodies.