CBD is now in Wisconsin candy, peanut butter and cocktails. But is it worth the extra cost? – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The average grocery cart doesn’t carry a 16-ounce jar of peanut butter for $90. Or eight ounces of olive oil for $48.

But then, these aren’t ordinary products. Both contain the ever-more-trendy CBD oil, whose sale has proliferated ever since a six-month-old federal farm bill made it legal to grow industrial hemp. 

The label on these products is Budz Butter, a two-generation family business in Suamico whose commodities are spiked with cannabidiol, or CBD oil, which is extracted from hemp plant flowers.

Under development by the Brown County business are infused cookies — chocolate chip and brownie-style — to cost around $30 for a package of eight. The company works with retailers, restaurants, coffeeshops and consumers (via budzbutter.com).

Budz Butter isn’t the only Wisconsin company hooking up to the CBD train.

In Madison, a husband-wife team plans to introduce and sell CBD-infused candy by the end of June. Their pate de fruits is a French-style confection, similar to sugar-covered gummy candy, only softer and made with fruit and pectin instead of gelatin. In each 1.5-ounce square will be about 10 milligrams of CBD oil. 

The Modern Candy Company’s first four pâté de fruits flavors are mandarin orange, blood orange, pink grapefruit and Meyer lemon. A six-ounce four-pack will sell for $12 (or $4 without CBD oil) through retailers listed at moderncandy.co.

Culinary and mixology experiments with CBD oil are mushrooming elsewhere, too. Customers at Divino Gelato Café in downtown Waukesha pay $1 more for a CBD-infused flavor (such as Cherry Chill or Groovy Grape), and an infused macaron costs $2.50.

One square of caramel or dark chocolate with 20 milligrams of CBD sells for $6 at Chocolatarian Café in Middleton. The packaged candy is a business partnership between the café/bakery/candy maker and Driftless Dreams, whose hemp grows in the Ocooch Mountains of southwestern Wisconsin.

Adding a flavorless CBD tincture to the top layer of a cocktail costs an extra $4 at Jewels Caribbean Restaurant & Bar in Milwaukee, where they also add CBD oil (upon request) to food, from jerk chicken to macaroni pie.

Topping a 10-inch pizza with three spritzes of a CBD spray adds $1.50 to a pie at Za 51 in Altoona, which also can spritz the inside of a cocktail glass to add CBD for the same price.

All of this happens even though evidence of the value of CBD is more anecdotal than scientific. This chemical compound is purported to ease chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, seizures and a host of other medical conditions. The Food and Drug Administration shared more questions than answers about CBD products during a recent public hearing on the topic.

“We’re seeing it everywhere,” observed Susan Qualm, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, while moderating a panel discussion on CBD oil during the 2019 Midwest Foodservice Expo in Milwaukee. “There may not be a lot of proven health benefits, but there is consumer demand.”

Hazy limits

What are the limits on how CBD oil can be used by chefs, bartenders, baristas and home cooks?

“For now we are deferring to FDA standards and are in the process of developing state-based enforcement standards for licensed businesses,” emails Donna Gilson of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

A little easier to answer is how to work with CBD oil as an ingredient in a beverage or courses of a meal. One rule comes up over and over, regardless of who’s talking: The lower the temperature, the easier it is to maintain the integrity of the product.

So don’t substitute CBD-infused oil for oils that are heated in a skillet to sauté vegetables. Don’t use a CBD product in a marinade or batter that ends up in the oven, especially for an extended time.

Think of it more as the finishing touch to a dish — a drizzle or late-stage mix-in — and avoid direct heat.

“Some people like buttered noodles — using a butter with CBD oil is fine because the drained noodles are only about 110 degrees,” says Levi Budz, majority owner of Budz Butter. His limit for using CBD is 350 degrees for no more than a few minutes.

Best Budz

Rhonda Budz adds a teaspoon of CBD-infused coconut oil to her morning coffee and believes it keeps chronic pain at bay. The 54-year-old lives with the long-term consequences of a 1984 car accident and says chronic pain returns if she deviates from her coffee routine for a week.

As for dosage, it’s open to interpretation, say medical experts. Physician Daniel Clauw at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, whose expertise is chronic pain, suggests starting with a “low dose” of 5 to 10 mg twice daily. Budz Butter says the 16 mg in its Energy Balls is “a recommended daily dose.”

Rhonda and husband Doug Budz are lifelong entrepreneurs whose eclectic work history includes operation of a school bus company, a reclaimed wood company, Mexican restaurant and artisan bread franchise. He is a carpenter, too.

When son Levi decided to start his own business, the parents weren’t surprised — until they were told it would deal with marijuana in Colorado. “I saw dollar signs and an opportunity,” Levi explains, but he says the burgeoning industry was cutthroat and complicated, all about product potency.

Budz Butter, incorporated in 2017 with the intention of producing marijuana-infused butter, opened in July 2018 as a Denver producer of CBD-infused butter. Unlike marijuana, CBD has a very low level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces the high. No more than 0.3% THC is allowed in a CBD oil.

“With hemp, people work more as a collective and for the right reasons,” the founder explains. “There was a bigger reason to do this, besides the money,” alluding to CBD’s purported health benefits.

Why butter?

Levi’s first job in Denver, after graduating from St. Norbert College in 2015, was packaging and equipment purchase work that involved butter and other foods. He moved Budz Butter to Wisconsin shortly after the 2018 federal farm bill made it legal to grow industrial hemp. It was cheaper to buy 3 ½ acres (for growing four strains of hemp) here than in Colorado.

Now his parents, girlfriend Kayla O’Leary and brother Tanner Budz all work for the business and own a part of it. Cousins and others help meet weekly production demands, which just keep growing. 

Making deals

A booth at the spring Midwest Foodservice Expo, where products could be sampled, resulted in new private-label work for Budz Butter.

“We’ll make it for them, and they’ll sell it,” Levi says. One example: infusing an undisclosed company’s beverage with CBD oil.

Earlier this year, a one-time noshing for 50 at Urban Fuel in Fond du Lac featured Budz Butter products (infused butter, salad oil, peanut butter, CBD tinctures) in a lavender-flavored cocktail, blackberry vinaigrette salad dressing, lobster bisque and spinach-artichoke dip. For dessert: Hemp Peanut Butter Energy Balls (see recipe).

Urban Fuel owner Te Deanovich says diners varied in age from twentysomethings to 80.

“I’d do it again,” she says of hosting the event and making most of the food, “but it’s all a little too new for me” to consider using CBD-infused products in her business daily.

In Milwaukee, Natasha Jules of Jewels Caribbean says she and her mother did a lot of kitchen experiments with Budz Butter products and concluded “you can use it in pretty much anything, across the board, if you can add it at the end or bake it into something for just the last couple of minutes.”

Jewels Caribbean’s CBD-infused fare was intended as a one-time offering on April 20 — as in 420, a reference to marijuana smoking. Jules says customer feedback was so positive that CBD infusions are now available daily. She also stocks others’ hemp-infused beverages: vodka, beer, hard cider, an energy drink.

The restaurant uses a flavorless CBD tincture in cookies. CBD-infused olive oil is in a salad dressing and a sauce applied shortly before jerk chicken is served.

“We can add it to any food,” Jules says. “A lot of people won’t go to a CBD store but will experiment with it at a restaurant because it feels more casual.”

Timing, patience

Matt and Clare Stoner Fehsenfeld began candy recipe development in fall 2018 as an extension of their 10-year Madison business, Quince and Apple, which sells small-batch products including cocktail syrups and fruit preserves.

Before year’s end, the federal farm bill removed hemp as a controlled substance, “a good opportunity that gave us some additional momentum,” Matt says. CBD oil is added as the candy mixture cools, and Matt says the products’ potential contribution goes beyond the hope of easing customers’ aches or anxiety.

“The potential to bring a lot of economic benefit to local (hemp) farmers is great,” he says. “I’d like to help with that.”

Next up for Quince and Apple: development of a hard candy. Paying close attention to recipe temperature is important. So is deciding how much CBD oil to use. Using too much will produce a bitter aftertaste, the entrepreneur says.

And progress, he acknowledges, takes longer than development of a conventional candy line because of the additional hurdles — regulations, banking issues, product verifications — that accompany the use of CBD infusions.

None for me, thanks

The bandwagon to cook, bake, imbibe and ingest CBD-tinged products is turning the CBD market into a billion-dollar industry, but Ross Easton has decided to proceed cautiously. He is general manager of Good Harvest Market, Pewaukee, whose wellness department sells CBD products.

After listening to the Midwest Foodservice Expo panel discussion, “we decided that we would not add CBD to any of the products we make in our café,” he said. “We felt that we had no way of confirming how much to add to a smoothie and felt that we would not be able to honestly tell a customer there would be a benefit for them.”

Although he believes CBD oils are not a fad and “will be popular for a long time,” Easton believes that “many of the eatables and beverages will not have the same staying power.”

Sources of confusion

Hemp no longer is a controlled substance, but that federal declaration in December 2018 was made before the Food and Drug Administration had time to figure out how to regulate the CBD industry.

“The greatest confusion is over the legality of CBD,” says Donna Gilson of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “The FDA has not approved CBD as a food ingredient, a nutritional supplement or an animal feed ingredient.”

Is it legal in Wisconsin to sell food and beverages that contain CBD oil?

“Technically, no,” Gilson says, although “when Brad Schimel was attorney general, he issued a statement that said CBD produced from hemp grown legally in Wisconsin or under similar authorized programs in other states could be sold in Wisconsin. Josh Kaul has not made any further statement. … It is definitely a legal gray area.”

Compounding the issue: There is no definitive timeline for developing state-based CBD standards. State lawmakers are contemplating legislation about hemp products.

DATCP says it can take a few months to more than a couple of years to write standards, depending on what boundaries are created by legislation.

“While we have seen an explosion of interest in products containing CBD, there is still much that we don’t know,” said Norman Sharpless of the FDA, during the recent first public hearing on CBD.

Those who sell CBD products say independent, third-party lab testing is important and should be done routinely. That ensures that product content matches what is on the label.

A lack or low level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a part of what distinguishes the hemp plant from marijuana. No more than 0.3% THC is allowed in a CBD oil.

One quick hit

Treats made with Budz Butter products were available to sample at this year’s Midwest Foodservice Expo, an annual Wisconsin Restaurant Association event.

In the array was this no-bake recipe, made with ½ cup of the company’s CBD-infused peanut butter. The taste was slightly earthy.

Here is the recipe, which Kayla O’Leary of Budz Butter says is her adaptation of an online recipe. It provides about 16 milligrams of CBD per ball.

We used ordinary peanut butter, doubled the batch and ended up with five dozen energy balls. 

Don’t want chocolate chips? Nuts, shredded coconut and dried berries are among the possible substitutions. Other recipes using Budz Butter products are at budzbutter.com.

Hemp Peanut Butter Energy Balls

Recipe tested by Mary Bergin

Makes around 2 dozen

  • ½ cup Budz Butter CBD-infused peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup flax seeds
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter, honey and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add these to peanut butter mixture and stir together until thoroughly mixed. Cover and chill in refrigerator 30 minutes.

Roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Store in airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

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