A review of claims that differences in extract type can affect cost, ease of formulation, and end product experience.
In last month’s article, the wide variety of cannabis concentrates was defined and clearly differentiated. Every type of concentrate, from raw ethanol extract to distillate, can be used to produce edible cannabis. Cannabis extract is an ingredient in the production of edible cannabis products and, as with your food, the quality and composition of the ingredients affects the quality of the final product. Many have claimed that differences in extract type can affect cost, ease of formulation, and the experience of the finished product. In this article, an examination is made of each of these claims to better understand whether it really matters what type of cannabis extract is used in the production of a cannabis edible.
The cost of producing cannabis extracts varies widely due to a number of variables. The cost of cannabis plant material, solvents, labor and equipment are the primary costing factors. If the cost and quality of cannabis plant material were fixed, the cost could be assessed solely on the basis of the method of extraction. To keep things simple, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) dominant extracts are the focus of this costing. Table I shows a list of concentrates used in the production of edibles ranked by price and THC content, with 1 being the highest and 4 the lowest.
The amount of extract used to produce a THC-infused edible depends on the concentration of THC in the extract. If the target dose of a food is 10mg, a higher amount of extract should be used if the THC concentration is lower. Based on this, more extract is needed to infuse THC edibles when using a live resin extract compared to a distillate. The cost of production is directly correlated to the wholesale price of the extract. Many edibles manufacturers select their type of extract based on cost per mg of THC. This is one of the reasons most edibles are produced with distillate.
Ease of formulation
Cannabis extracts are a complex matrix of many different compounds. Just ask your local analytical chemist! This complexity translates into how the extract interacts with the ingredients of an edible product. An edible needs all of its ingredients to be stable and retain its target structure, flavor, and composition until expiration. The more complex the extract, the more difficult it can be to incorporate the extract into an edible product. Flavor is another factor in formulation as the type of extract will affect the flavor of the final product. The higher the concentration of cannabinoids, such as THC, the lower the concentration of other compounds such as terpenes, aldehydes, ketones and esters. These “other compounds” have unique flavors, which can pass through the edible when the consumer eats or drinks the infused product. Many consumers dislike the flavor of cannabis, which has influenced how manufacturers produce edibles. Manufacturers can select a high-THC distillate, which has little or no flavor, or formulate an edible that can mask the flavor of the cannabis extract. The market contains edible options that use distillate, full spectrum, live resin, or full extract canna oil (FECO) with a wide range of flavor profiles.
The THC in cannabis is one of hundreds of compounds that influence the effect of cannabis. The jury is still out on whether ingesting terpenes and aromatic compounds can influence the cannabis experience. However, there is anecdotal evidence to show that the type of extract impacts the effect of an edible. THC, whether in a full-spectrum extract or a distillate extract, is still THC. However, the hundreds of other compounds that can be found in full spectrum, live resin or FECO are not found in the distillate.
Science has yet to prove the theories about the effects of extract type in an edible, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that different extraction methods produce different chemical profiles. The chemical composition of the distillate is very different from the chemical composition of a live, full-spectrum or FECO resin. So it’s easy to theorize that a different chemical profile will result in a different experience. These differences seem to show up in the duration of the high and the complexity of the high. While it’s hard to express how someone feels when “high”, anecdotal evidence suggests that distillate edibles are more cerebral and affect the mind. While full spectrum, live resin or FECO infused edibles can be felt in the body and some have a distinct energizing or sedating effect depending on the product. These richer and more complex experiences can make consumers more satisfied with the product. That’s why markets are starting to see consumers shift their purchases from distillate-based edibles to edibles infused with other types of extracts (1). Consumers associate distillate-based edibles with potentially lower quality products than other brews and this is causing a change.
Consumers drive the market. Many consumers are still looking for the most profitable products on the market. However, market trends are changing and show that consumers are willing to pay more for “better quality” products. Manufacturers must make decisions about how to formulate edibles to meet their business model. Manufacturers must balance cost, ease of formulation, and consumer experience to understand the way forward. Time will tell if consumers have a preference, but for now, full-spectrum, live-resin edibles are taking the market by storm.
About the columnist
Lo Friesen is the Founder, CEO and Chief Extractor of Heylo. With a background in chemistry and clinical research, Lo was inspired to explore cannabis as a medicine and to enter the emerging industry. She joined Eden Labs, a leading manufacturer of CO2 extraction equipment, to support and develop a research and development department. There she managed the development of their latest and greatest CO2 extraction system. In 2017, after working with Eden Labs and another cannabis processor, Lo started Heylo with a mission to help people get the most out of life with cannabis.
How to cite this article:
L. Friesen, Cannabis science and technology® Vol. 5(7), 14-15 (2022).