Back in 2019, the cottage cheese brand Muuna (now defunct) pranked its customers on April Fools’ Day with a fake flavor: Muuna Cannabis cottage cheese. The limited-edition variety was said to feature a sprinkle of food-grade cannabis on the bottom, “creating an element of carefree relaxation while delivering a delightfully earthy taste.” Muuna marketed its fake flavor on its website, as well as on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
As pranks go, I’m betting very few people fell for it. After all, who would associate a wholesome, healthy dairy product such as cottage cheese with an ingredient that remains controversial — and not yet legal both at the federal level and in many states?
Not too long after Muuna’s prank — in May 2019 — ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's announced a commitment to include cannabidiol (CBD) in its ice cream innovations. The company said it intended to make CBD-infused ice cream available once CBD is legalized at the federal level.
That announcement definitely was not a prank. But considering the cool vibe of the inventor of Cherry Garcia ice cream and the overall playfulness of the ice cream category, it didn’t come as much of a surprise (although any CBD-infused ice creams from the company are still likely a long way off).
Plus, although CBD is sourced from the cannabis plant, it does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana that produces a high, the Mayo Clinic points out.
Fast-forward to August 2021. That’s when MariMed Inc., a multi-state cannabis operator focused on health and wellness, announced a joint collaboration with the Boston ice cream brand Emack & Bolio’s.
MariMed and Emack & Bolio’s said they will create a lineup of cannabis-infused ice cream and frozen desserts in “outrageous flavors.” The ice cream will contain MariMed’s formulations, which include the same full spectrum of natural cannabinoids and terpenes from whole plants that are used in its products under its Betty’s Eddies, K Fusion and other brands.
Although homemade cannabis-infused ice cream apparently is already a big thing (judging by the number of recipes posted online), this new ice cream line marks the first-ever commercial endeavor of its type. The initial products are expected to debut in Massachusetts dispensaries this year, followed by launches in other legal cannabis markets.
A growing category
According to a 2021 report from Triton Market Research, the global cannabis food and beverage market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15.2% between 2021-2026.
“The legalization of medical or recreational cannabis, coupled with the availability of various flavors in wellness drinks, are key factors propelling the cannabis food and beverage market’s growth,” Triton Market Research states. “As legalization has brought cannabis into the mainstream market, several high-end products are including CBD compounds across North America and Europe. Moreover, several drinks include CBD to offer users a sudden energy boost, increased focus and more alertness.”
That being said, could cannabis spell opportunity for dairy products in the years to come? Or would product development in this direction adversely impact dairy’s health halo? Certainly some food for thought.