From established players to new starters, brands developing cannabis and hemp food, beverage, and wellness products are turning to flavors to fuel product growth and satisfy consumer desires. Terpenes lay at the heart of this explosion in flavor innovation. This should come as no surprise, as terpenes are the dominant organic molecules that lend cannabis (and all plants) their flavor, aromatic, and therapeutic properties. Once a term of unfamiliarity, terpenes (and their many benefits) have gained in awareness and understanding with the growing market and popularity of legal cannabis and hemp products.
When it comes to integrating the flavors, fragrances, and wellness benefits of terpenes into your product manufacturing, format matters.
Terpenes are volatile compounds and are sensitive to traditional processing variables like high temperatures. For instance, when isolating delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other cannabinoids from plant matter for maximum potency, the valuable terpenes present in the plant can be lost through volatilization. This is why product applications like vapes and edibles that utilize extracted cannabis oils often “add-back” botanically-derived terpenes to replace those degraded during processing.
Selecting the right type of terpenes for your product application can mitigate manufacturing challenges. Today, terpenes can be found in a variety of formats—from oils, to liquids, to water-soluble powders.
For beverage products, water-soluble, powdered terpenes are a great solution. Powder terpenes offer all of the same benefits as their traditional counterparts in a water-soluble format. This makes powdered terpenes the ideal match for beverages, instant and dry mixes, nutraceuticals, capsules, pet products, and any product applications requiring a dry format for manufacturing.
The right type of terpenes for your product may also come down to more than just format. In the case of brewing with terpenes, regulation is equally important. As hemp- and cannabis-derived terpenes remain illegal in beer, brewers can turn to botanically-derived terpenes. Considering the chemical similarities between cannabis and hops plants, this pairing gives brewers new ways to enhance the natural aromas and flavors already present in the beer. Terpenes specially formulated for brewing are imparted with alcohol to blend into the beer without separation—most often during the dry-hopping or finishing stages of the brewing process. Selecting terpene blends that are already approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) gives brewers further confidence that their formulas will not face any regulatory hurdles.
As important as selecting the right terpene format, is selecting the right profile to enhance your product.
Professional flavor chemists and formulators put their extensive sensory expertise to the task of identifying the flavors and aromas behind a vast array of cannabis terpene profiles. From this work, terpene blends are carefully crafted using precise ratios to mimic the flavors, aromas, and effects of signature cannabis cultivars. While these cultivar-specific terpene blends are a great choice for those looking to add those cannabis terpene notes to their products, some may wish to utilize blends that highlight other characteristics. The variety of profiles available in the space presents endless opportunities to develop products with trending flavors to capture consumer interest.
Citrus profiles are one of more popular flavors trends that continue to grow year over year. With refreshing and energetic properties, citrus flavors are a natural complement to the citrus notes found in many cannabis plants. In fact, limonene, the terpene behind the powerful citrus notes of lemons, limes, and oranges, is the second most abundant terpene found in cannabis.
Botanical flavors (e.g., lavender, mint, ginger, etc.) continue to be on the rise as well. Increasingly popular in beverages and topical products, botanical flavors are often connected to the health and wellness benefits of those products. They play a major part in the “better for you” positioning of many health beverages and nutraceuticals. Dark berry and fruit flavors like blackberry, blueberry, pomegranate, and elderberry take on a similar role as wellness flavors.
For those looking towards flavors that can help distinguish their products from the crowd, exotic and tropical flavor profiles transport consumers’ senses and imaginations to far-off places beyond the everyday. These complex and exciting profiles are a growing hit as the tastes of consumers get more adventurous.
While exotic flavor profiles drive innovations in the market, there will always be a place for the more traditional profile. Seasonal flavors can offer consumers a comforting taste of the familiar and draw upon powerful nostalgic strings. These blends often play towards the sweeter and more indulgent side of our senses.
Repeatable Results Drive Repeat Customers
While understanding the latest flavor trends and manufacturing possibilities of terpenes lends an advantage in product development, without products that deliver consistent and repeatable results, it is all for naught. As with most things, for terpenes, consistency is the key to success. Working with a terpene provider that not only uses the highest quality ingredients, but is focused on the safety, purity, and transparency of their products is critical. Experienced terpene producers will ensure the flavors in your products deliver every time.