The venerable cookie is perhaps America’s quintessential treat. While the British were no strangers to individually portioned, cake-like confections, which they dubbed “biscuits,” we can thank early American immigrants from the Netherlands for the American word “cookie,” inspired by the Dutch term koekjes, which translates as “little cakes.”

Most cookies are nicely portion-controlled in acceptably indulgent sizes, often with one or two cookies comprising a serving. It’s a little boost—an uplifting and beautiful combination of sugar, flour, and—most importantly—fat.

That’s why early cannabis-infused edibles bakers gravitated toward the product format. Highly lipophilic cannabinoids are a natural for infusion into butter—a practice that’s still common today for commercial cannabis bakers.


Within the regulated dispensary cannabis space, BDSA, Boulder, CO, projects total sales for all regulated cannabis to top $21.7 billion in 2021, reflecting an over 25% increase vs 2020, which ended the year around $17.6 billion, notes Kelly Nielsen, vice president, insights and analytics, BDSA. By 2026, BDSA forecasts a total U.S. cannabis market value of $41.3 billion.

Cannabis-infused foods and beverages comprise about 13% of dollar volume of the total cannabis space, says Nielsen. “But, growth in this category is outpacing the industry, and we expect edibles to be closer to a 15% share by 2025.” Baked goods still comprise a small slice of the pie, at around 4% of total share, but cookies make up around 50% of product volume across existing markets.

Nielsen notes 70% of cannabis consumers consume edibles, and 34% actually prefer edibles over inhalables or topical products. BDSA notes 42% of edibles consumers in legal states have consumed baked goods in the past 6 months, while 15% of edibles consumers prefer baked goods over other product forms.

Products like THC-infused cookies and similar baked goods have great potential as an alternative consumption form for those that do not want to consume smokables, as well as those looking for a combination of discretion and flavor enjoyment, notes Nik Rodriguez, field brand supervisor, Curaleaf, Wakefield, MA.

“Most people love great baked goods, partly because these are familiar formats for most consumers, making them approachable and easy to ingest—not to mention delicious,” says Rebecca Maestas, brand development manager, LivWell Enlightened Health, Denver. “We continue to see demand for these types of products within the baked goods category with brownies, blondies, and cereal bars growing more than 25% year-over-year in the Colorado market. Cookie sales have slumped a bit in Colorado over the last 12 months, but still represent over $5 million in total sales. Overall market potential for these types of products is strong. Manufacturers should be looking at package size to determine the best products for the consumer base—100 mg THC packages with 10 total 10 mg THC doses still reigning supreme followed by 10 mg THC single-serve options for recreational consumers.”

The CBD market also holds strong potential. “Accounting for the largest share of the CBD-infused products market in 2020, brick-and-mortar stores, including bakeries, have seen an increase in demand for completely non-psychoactive CBD-infused cookies, brownies, and other baked goods,” says Maestas. “Over the last year, the growth has been attributed to the perception of purchasing authentic, good-quality products that are normally only found at boutique retailers.”

“There is plenty of room for more innovative products to enter the retail landscape, as well, bringing comfort food to cannabis consumers.”

Rebecca Maestas “There is plenty of room for more innovative products to enter the retail landscape, as well, bringing comfort food to cannabis consumers.”

Unlike THC-containing cannabis products, whose sales are restricted to licensed dispensaries, CBD-infused products are available at mainstream retail locations like grocery stores and mass merchandisers, notes Maestas. “Convenience and e-commerce platforms offering CBD options has bolstered rapid penetration of infused products. According to BDSA, the overall U.S. CBD market revenue was $4.1 billion in 2019 with dispensaries overshadowing other retailers, but grocery and convenience stores snatched up 12% of this market share.”

Of course, we are still early in this game. “This segment of the CBD market is just getting started,” says Maestas. “There is plenty of room for more innovative products to enter the retail landscape, as well, bringing comfort food to cannabis consumers.”


Infusing cannabis ingredients into baked goods is a strategic investment, and bakers need to protect that investment through sound baking industry technologies. “Shelf life is a major challenge for infused baked goods,” says Maestas. “Most SKUs have a shorter shelf life depending on the formulation and how preservatives have been introduced into the recipe. If a product has a 30-day shelf life, retailers may not be able to move through a significant number of units in that timeframe before expiration dates start to pop up, therefore forcing the retailer to destroy product—not a great situation to be in.”

One way to overcome the shorter shelf life dictated by some foods is to create an event, such as a limited-time release, and then pre-sell units to retailers, suggests Maestas. “Once sales have ended, the manufacturing team can produce exactly what the market demands, reducing the risk of having to destroy units.”

Rodriguez notes bakers working in this market need to pay extreme attention to detail, procuring only the finest ingredients, producing each product with care, as well as paying close attention to what the consumer wants. “Listening to consumer needs above all else is crucial,” she says.

“Fast-acting products are always an advantage, allowing the consumer to experience cannabis effects in less time than traditional edibles,” says Rodriguez. “Attractive packaging is also another differentiating factor when choosing edibles, as the consumer often purchases what catches their eye. Additionally, offering vegan and gluten-free options to cater to those with dietary restrictions.” Curaleaf offers gluten-free Blue Kudu Mint Kookies for such consumers.

The cannabis cookie market follows overall trends in the traditional, non-infused market. “Familiar flavor profiles win,” says Maestas. “Don’t attempt to reinvent the wheel. Chocolate chip is still the top-selling baked good SKU across both recreational and medical channels. Sticking to tried-and-true crowd favorites is always a safer bet.”

The LivWell brand Sweet Grass currently offers the following bakery SKUs, found at cannabis retailers throughout the state of Colorado:

  • Recreational and medical cookies in Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, Snickerdoodle, White Chocolate Chip Butter Pecan, and Peanut Butter with Chocolate Bits
  • Recreational and medical brownies
  • Recreational cannabutter divided into 10 total 10 mg pats of butter
  • Seasonal, LTO, small-batch, single-serve, recreational and medical pies in Key Lime (summer) and Pumpkin (fall)

Sweet Grass Kitchen Cannabutter

“This year marks the 10th year that Sweet Grass has been producing seasonal pies,” says Maestas. “To celebrate a decade of decadence, Sweet Grass started the Baked Society to endear consumers to the brand, providing a behind-the-scenes look at manufacturing and sharing exclusive offers and events.” Sweet Grass fans can join the Baked Society and be part of this private club to keep a pulse on new product launches, recipes, and other Sweet Grass goodness, she says.

When considering other bakery product formats, it’s important to consider how you will infused the food—and how labs will test the products. “While being able to offer more unique formats is appealing, it can be challenging for cannabis manufacturers to make products that are homogenous and will pass the rigorous testing regulations that are in place,” says Maestas. “For example, coating doughnut holes with frosting vs. dusting with confectioners’ sugar or cinnamon sugar may yield drastically different test results, depending on how the lab tests the units. Another consideration is to infuse one portion of a product, such as a pie crust, while not infusing the filling. Depending on the type of filling, it may impact the consistency of the dosage of cannabinoids, since water activity can play a major role in how the molecules move about the product.”

Another potential point of differentiation is designing packaging that provides a more-holistic experience, completing the consumer journey, says Maestas. “Adding QR codes that can be scanned by the consumer is a great way to drive traffic back to important information such as ingredient declarations, nutrition facts, or another marketing initiative.”

Maestas also suggests marketing cannabis-infused butter for DIY home baking. “Cannabutter, accurately dosed and divided into servings, is a great way for consumers to experiment with recipes at home,” she says. “Taking everyday recipes up a notch and being able to control how much THC is being introduced to a specific food provides consumers with endless options.”

Image Source: Courtesy of Curaleaf and LivWell Enlightened Health

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