The cannabis industry term “rapid delivery” first appeared in 2017 with the launch of a proprietary portfolio of THC-infused, effects-based chocolates made by the brand 1906.
But two years later, the category matured when Wana – the number one cannabis edibles company in North America – teamed up with Azuca and officially renamed it as “fast-acting.” They incorporated Azuca founder and chief creative officer Ron Silver’s quick onset technology, known as “Time Infusion,” into an expansion of its best-selling line of all-natural, sugar-coated gummies with Wana Quick.
Since then, both Wana Brands and Azuca have led the charge in providing cannabis consumers a quicker-hitting and more consistent high than that of traditional edible products.
“In Azuca’s formative years, the only focus was how to get control of these cannabinoids and make them act in a way that would be predictable,” explained Silver, also Azuca’s chief creative officer. “At that time, maybe eight years ago, no one was thinking about fast onset edibles. We have remained hyper-focused on delivering cannabinoids in tightly controllable doses so that a consumer could choose one milligram or half a milligram if they wished.”
Today, Azuca lends its patent-pending technology to brands beyond Wana – which just debuted a multi-cannabinoid, health-focused Optimals offshoot – to cannabis companies including Columbia Care, NectarBee, High Life Farms, Everest Apothecary and Revolutionary Clinics. Established edibles purveyors have also recently entered the category independently, including Coda Signature with a just-released, fast-acting version of its gourmet Fruit Notes product using technology from MedPharm.
According to an exclusive fast-acting edibles report shared by cannabis research firm BDSA, Colorado is the most developed market in this space with 27 SKUs available (up by seven compared to 2020); California is a close second with 23 fast-acting SKUs now on dispensary shelves with Wana and Sunderstorm as two of the top performers within the category in both states. In 2020, edibles accounted for 12% of U.S. adult-use cannabis sales ($2.2 billion); by 2026 edibles’ share of sales is forecasted to increase slightly to 14% ($6.7 billion). While in Colorado and California, gummies make up more than 95% of edible sales overall.
“Fast-acting edibles are a relatively new phenomenon,” the BDSA breakdown explained. “One of the key challenges consumers face with edible cannabis products is that until recently, the time that it takes an individual to start feeling the effects of a given product was fairly unpredictable with onset times ranging anywhere from 30 minutes to more than two hours in some cases.”
As this trend continues to evolve, I tapped five leading innovators in the category to share what’s behind the science, how fast-acting edibles affect the system differently and insight into what’s next.
Kim Rael, President and CEO
On the evolution:
I often use tech analogies to talk about cannabis and this one is a favorite: I think that traditional edibles are the equivalent of dial-up internet, and fast-acting edibles are broadband. I personally believe that the industry will convert to fast-acting just as the internet has converted to broadband, except way faster! Why would you, as a consumer, put up with the painful, unpredictable, SLO-O-O-O-O-W experience of dial up internet when broadband is available, plentiful and cost-effective? When the internet ecosystem moved from dial up to broadband, the transition took about 13 years. I think that the conversion in cannabis edibles will happen in the next two to three years, and close to 100% of the ingestible category will be fast-acting.
On the difference:
I’d emphasize that not all fast-acting edibles are created equal. What our consumers report is that Azuca Time Infusion products deliver a sensorial experience that is much closer to smoking, or a Delta-9 experience, and very distinct from traditional edibles. Our process encapsulates individual THC molecules in a hydrophylic, or “water-friendly” coating. Because our bodies are over 60% water, the encapsulated molecules are absorbed efficiently in the mouth and soft tissues, avoiding the long “first pass metabolism” where traditional edibles are broken down by the liver.
On what’s next:
Our next innovation will be about how to deliver complete strain edibles with the same controllability. This will open up edibles to an infinite combination of cannabis and the desired effects that derive from one’s favorite strain. Our process is to help address the immediate issues in edibles, such as onset time, accuracy in dosing, shelf stability and ease of use, and then to create the future of edibles by creating the best toolbox for edibles creators.