Innovating the £80bn chocolate market with cannabidiol

Posted on 11 Mar 2019 by Maddy White

First we had the cronut, then came gin-flavoured everything and most recently we were gifted with Gregg’s vegan sausage rolls that have reportedly driven the company's profits up… It seems if you can merge two trends together, you may be on to a winning combination.

Innovation within the food and drink sector is happening all of the time. What has 2019 brought us? An array of CBD products.

Not long ago many (including myself) would not have been familiar with CBD and could only guess what those three letters stood for.

Cannabidiol is being hailed as a magic cure for its analgesic effects, you can even buy a suite of CBD products in global healthcare retailer Holland & Barrett. It has hit the mainstream.

Lotions, oils, chocolate and even dog treats now proudly promote CBD as an important ingredient.
Lotions, oils, chocolate and even dog treats now proudly promote CBD as an important ingredient.

The chemical compound found in the marijuana plant is becoming a household acronym, available across sectors and in numerous forms.

Lotions, oils, chocolate and even dog treats now proudly promote it as an important ingredient that can aid ailments such as anxiety and depression.

Businesses are capitalising on using CBD as an ingredient, it is expensive and pushes the price of products up, meaning potentially higher profit margins. As such a burgeoning ingredient it is also hard to regulate, so consumers should be careful if they are purchasing CBD labelled products.

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed cannabidiol may help to treat symptoms relating to a wide range of medical conditions including Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, MS, general pain, cancer and diabetic complications.

“CBD or cannabidiol is one of the non-intoxicating components of cannabis, touted for its pain and inflammation relieving benefits,” Olivia Rose, a naturopathic doctor, tells me. “Patients of mine who have tried CBD oil comment that it either helps or it doesn’t. CBD is not known to cause many side effects.”

She explains that the benefit of using CBD is that it doesn’t cause the psychoactive effects such as drowsiness and the sensation of being ‘high’ like its THC cousin does, and that it has shown in several studies to be beneficial in the treatment of certain conditions.

CBD in… Chocolate?

Anne-Marie Ryan owner of Slab & Tipple, an artisan chocolate company in North London has launched chocolate bars with CBD oil infused into them. I visited the business to make my very own cannabidiol chocolate bar.

Ryan, who is an experienced pastry chef, explains her reasons are personal as to why the business has chosen to create the bars, “My mum passed away from cancer, and I just wish there had been products like this available at the time, a natural option to try. All of the drugs given to cancer patients just makes them sicker and then they are given more medicine to counter how sick they have become.”

She says that CBD oil can often taste “quite bitter”, so combining it with chocolate “seemed obvious.” She added: “Our bars come in a 72% and 80% dark, milk and ruby chocolate, and are infused with a choice of 20% or 40% strength oils.

“We took a lot of time to find a trusted UK supplier, and the oil we use is completely vegan, gluten and GMO-free. Though I must stress we do not claim to treat or prevent any disease or condition.

Whilst tempering dark chocolate with the oil in, she says that the oil comes from the South London company, Love Hemp. “The reason he [the owner of Love Hemp] started distributing CBD, is that his dad was also ill with cancer, CBD was relieving his pain but he couldn’t find a trustworthy supplier of it.

“With our products, our supply chain is key, the chocolate comes from an ethical company in Colombia, Casa Luker, everything is traceable, it has to be. ”

She explains that the chocolate and oil must be carefully measured, mixed and logged in order to assure accountability and consistency within batches. “We measure everything, the chocolate is tempered for six hours with the oil infused, before it is set, packaged and sold.”

Case study: The acceleration of the vegan market

Macphie, the UK’s leading food manufacturer for bakery ingredients and food-service solutions, has launched the first vegan-certified cake mix and icing range aimed at the bakery sector.

The international bakery supplier intends to leverage the growing vegan market that saw as many as one in six (16%) food products launched in the UK in 2018 with a vegan/no animal ingredients claim, doubling from 8% in 2015.

Macphie told TM: “Veganism and vegetarianism have become more mainstream over the last few years. We have been looking at many of our most popular products and where possible reformulating them to align to this.”