While confectionery applications continue to take the edibles category by storm, the familiarity, fondness and format of infused baked goods make them an enduring option for cannabis consumers — even with declines in mature cannabis markets.
BDSA reported in a recent webinar that the infused foods category, which includes baked goods, has dropped from a 7% share of the edibles market in 2020 to 4% in 2022. Overall, sales of the infused foods category were down 26% from 2021 to 2022.
Love’s Oven CEO Peggy Moore said the company has experienced a drop in baked goods sales, especially with the overall downturn in Colorado’s cannabis market.
“We’ve definitely seen a dip,” she said. “Gummies have really taken the world of edibles to a completely new place, but we still hold a bit of market share. We’re certainly trying to make sure that we stay relevant in the space with baked goods.”
Meanwhile, Pete Feurtado Jr., CEO of Big Pete’s Treats, pointed to the post-pandemic slowdown in California.
"It’s been a little flat,” he said. “We saw a huge increase in March 2020. When COVID shutdown happened, our business really went through the roof. It’s leveled out since then a little bit. This year, we’ve seen solid growth.”
Innovation — as well as expanding into other categories — is allowing baked good manufacturers to continue providing indulgent offerings to cannabis consumers.
When it comes to developing cannabis-infused baked goods, Feurtado and Moore maintain that cannabutter is better.
Moore said Love’s Oven makes its solventless cannabutter in house, using a heat process to extract THC from kief. The company infuses cannabutter into its brownies and cookies, and since its recipes are butter-based, the cannabis is processed through the liver, offering long-lasting effects for many consumers.
“We all have different metabolic systems, so not everybody is affected the same way, but people really seem to gravitate towards the high that they get from cannabutter once they’ve tried it,” she said.
Feurtado agreed, noting Big Pete’s three-day cannabutter manufacturing process involves using trim and biomass from farmers in Santa Cruz, California.
“Not every 10 milligrams is created equal,” he said. “Our cookies are going to hit you hard…There’s definitely a big difference on the high.”
However, cannabis baked goods have a shorter shelf life, which presents challenges for retailers. Feurtado said Big Pete’s Treats encourages smaller, more consistent orders for its dispensary partners to maintain product freshness.
Meanwhile, Moore said over time Love’s Oven has increased the shelf life of its products from three months to six months without using artificial preservatives.
“Through a lot of hard work and a lot of intense scrutiny — and a few tweaks to the recipes — we’ve been able to really get that shelf life out to something that is tolerable from a retailer’s perspective,” she said.
Moore also pointed to the importance of mixing in the production process. Thorough mixing is necessary for achieving homogeneity in the formulation, but overmixing doughs and batters can result in undesired textures.
“Our corporate chef has really developed recipes and processes that allow us to do that good infusion — make sure the THC is dispersed evenly throughout the product — and the product at the end of the day still tastes great and has great texture,” she said.
Innovations and collaborations
Classic flavors such as Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Birthday Cake are among Big Pete’s Treats’ popular offerings. Each mini cookie features 10 mg THC.
But earlier this year, the company expanded into the arena of effects-based products, launching Sleepytime mini indica cookies with 10 mg THC and 5 mg CBN. Feurtado said Big Pete’s built on the increasing popularity of sleep-supporting cannabis products.
“Our cookies have always been really good to help you sleep at night because of the butter,” Feurtado said. “If you eat enough, you’re going down for sure. We saw the top two selling edibles are sleepytime gummies. There was no sleepytime cookie. Fifty percent of the people going to the stores are buying something that is sleep-related. It’s a huge category.”
Big Pete’s has also introduced collaborations with celebrities in the cannabis space. The company developed a 100 mg THC cookie for the Tyson 2.0 brand. It’s available in an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip flavor — heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson’s favorite, Feurado said.
In April 2021, Big Pete’s launched a collaboration with the Insane brand, founded by Cypress Hill frontman and cannabis entrepreneur B-Real. Drawing inspiration from B-Real’s Mexican heritage, the Insane Churro cookies each feature 10 mg THC.
Feurtado said Big Pete’s Treats has plans to introduce additional collaborations with B-Real’s Dr. Greenthumb’s brand later this year.
However, Big Pete’s Treats has more than cookies on its plate. The company has been offering its cannabutter in dispensaries for about a year, allowing customers to make their own baked goods or other savory creations.
“We’ll be getting into more categories and continuing to grow our brand, proving we can go beyond just the baked good category,” Feurtado said. “We’ve done that a little bit with the butter and we’ve got some products coming out this year.”
Love’s Oven has also seen success with its Chocolate Chip cookies, but Moore said it alternates with the company’s Turtle Brownies as its top seller. The Turtle Brownies are drizzled with homemade caramel sauce and topped with crunchy pecan pieces. Each brownie piece features 10 mg THC.
In Colorado, Love’s Oven also offers Red Velvet Cookies, Peanut Butter Brownies and S’mores Brownies, topped with graham cracker crumble and mini toasted marshmallows.
The company recently introduced Crème Brûlée bites, featuring a browned butter salted caramel drizzle. They’re formulated with Azuca’s TiME Infusion fast-acting cannabinoid delivery technology, offering an onset of 15 minutes and a duration of about two hours.
Love’s Oven has also expanded to Florida, partnering with Trulieve. Moore said the Sunshine State has specific requirements around toppings and inclusions, so its portfolio is different. In addition to Chocolate Chip Cookies and molded Brownie Bites, Love’s Oven also offers a seasonal Strawberry Lemonade cookie.
Aside from its own baked goods, Love’s Oven also produces Pass the Peace sandwich cookies, Sinsere chocolates and Major beverages through brand partnerships in an effort to stay relevant within the baked goods space, Moore said.
“We’re really trying to be super smart about how we are managing our business,” she said. “We watch every penny. We take a close look at our products and really make sure we have a decent profit margin on everything that we’re producing because we can’t afford not to.”
Late last year, Old Pal partnered with TILT Holdings to introduce the Baked at Home Brownie Mix in Massachusetts. Big Pete’s Treats produces the mix in California.
The brownie mix features dry ingredients – sugar, salt, baking powder and real cocoa – infused with 100 mg THC in powdered form. To prepare, consumers can add eggs and butter before baking at 350 degrees. The box produces 20 brownies, at roughly 5 mg each.
"Most cannabis consumers remember their first infused brownies as being a formative experience,” said Old Pal co-founder and CEO Rusty Wilenkin. “However, they were probably messy, uncertain and impossible to dose correctly. That’s why we collaborated with the team at TILT to develop ‘Baked at Home’ as a convenient box mix. We wanted to create a mixture as easy to make as any other non-infused version.”
Last month, Columbia Care announced a partnership with ButACake. Founded in 2015 by CEO Matha Figaro, ButACake was a non-infused line of baked goods sold in New Jersey that has since transformed into an edibles brand through collaboration with Columbia Care.
Launching in Delaware, the initial offering includes Peanut Butter & Jelly brownies, as well as ChocoChunk and Oatmeal Raisin cookies.
“It’s been our dream to get ButACake on shelves in dispensaries across the country in order to bring relief to patients who need it,” Figaro said. “We’re thrilled to work with Columbia Care to make that dream a reality. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry and help normalize and celebrate the benefits of cannabis for patients in Delaware, and we can’t wait to see this relationship continue to develop and expand.”