Eastern Ontario chocolate factory gears up for cannabis-infused products
They're making chocolate again at the old Hershey factory in Smiths Falls, Ont., but this time, the sweet stuff is laced with cannabis.
While it's not yet legal to sell the THC-infused chocolate being produced at Canopy Growth's Tweed facility, research and development is well underway at 1 Hershey Dr. thanks to a partnership with Hummingbird Chocolate Maker from nearby Almonte, Ont.
The award-winning chocolate company has brought its "bean to bar" operation and has helped outfit Tweed with a brand new facility.
"We needed them to be the partners that taught us about how to make a really good chocolate bar," said Jordan Sinclair, vice president of communications for Canopy Growth.
"We bring the cannabis knowledge to that partnership. So we know how to infuse things. We know how to add a little bit of intellectual property on top of that."
Erica Gilmour, founder of Hummingbird, said that from a "geeky chocolate maker standpoint" it was an unexpected, exciting partnership.
"They're really cutting edge in the industry, and it's an exciting time," said Gilmour. "It's been fun to use different equipment and different processes, but we're still getting the same high-quality chocolate."
The federal government announced June 14 that cannabis edibles will be legal in Canada in mid-December, but there will be strict rules surrounding the kind of products that can be sold.
Health Canada officials said they'll be assessing the flavour, colour, shape, smell and branding of any edibles to determine if they could be enticing to children.
Items will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and it's not clear at this point where the lines will be drawn.
Gilmour said as far as she understands the rules, it doesn't look like there are any specific regulations against chocolate.
"The packaging requirements have to be child-proof and are quite plain in style," said Gilmour.
Chocolate capital of Ontario
For nearly half a century, Smiths Falls was known as the chocolate capital of Ontario and was home to the Hershey Company's first plant outside the United States.
"It felt full circle. I mean, this felt like an opportunity where we could we could tell a really cool story by bringing chocolate back into Smiths Falls — but just [also] add our own little touch on it," said Sinclair.
Mayor Shawn Pankow said he supports the return of chocolate manufacturing to the town, even with the updated ingredients.
He said cannabis-infused chocolate will likely prove popular, especially once the on-site visitors' centre at Tweed is permitted to sell the company's products.
Large windows also overlook the chocolate-making operation, which means those visitors will get a peek at the process.
"I think for consumers, especially as cannabis becomes more mainstream, [there are] a lot who would probably prefer to consume it through chocolate or through a beverage than smoke it," Pankow said.
"So it's a big step in the right direction."