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Better blending for oil-based products

20 January 2020

High shear mixing is a must for companies looking to introduce CBD oil-based products, or other products which require highly viscous oils to be mixed with lower viscosity liquids. 

Cannabis-derived products are a fast-growing trend thanks to its claimed health benefits such as reducing inflammation, pain relief and reducing anxiety. The food and beverage industry has therefore been inundated with new products containing CBD oil, an oil also known as Cannabidiol which is derived from cannabis. It is approved for use in products for human consumption in the United Kingdom, provided it comes from an EU approved hemp strain, which contains none of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

A variety of different products including beverages, gummies, snacks, chewing gum, and baked foods containing CBD oil are now available and high shear mixing equipment is increasingly being used for R&D and small scale production in this emerging market.

Unfortunately, mixing CBD oil can be problematic. As is common when producing any emulsion, when using conventional agitators and stirrers it can take a long time to get the desired result, with process times differing widely between batches. 

CBD oil can be a highly viscous liquid which can be difficult to blend with water or low viscosity oils such as vegetable oil or coconut oil. With conventional agitators ‘stratification’ can occur, where the two liquids form layers of globules rather than blending together. Long mixing times may be required to achieve uniformity and manufacturing products in this way can cause shelf life and potency to vary significantly from batch to batch.

To efficiently incorporate CBD oil into a product the droplet size needs to be reduced down as much as possible. If the mixing equipment fails to reduce it sufficiently this can cause problems with the emulsion being unstable and separating. It is also a problem when producing CBD oil based beverages and gummies which can appear cloudy rather than clear if the droplet size is not reduced sufficiently. 

Conventional agitators and stirrers do not have the high shear necessary to achieve this any many also struggle with powdered functional ingredients as any agglomerates which are formed cannot easily be broken down, again leading to longer processing times and inconsistencies between batches.

Although some agitators and stirrers may be able to form an emulsion, many models cannot be easily scaled up, so even if the product can be produced at laboratory scale it often cannot be replicated in large scale production. 

For those considering the production of CBD oil-based products it is important to have the correct mixing equipment to ensure the oil is completely dispersed and solubilised and a stable emulsion is formed. The product also needs to be consistent between batches as CBD products must be potency tested so repeatability is important to prevent batches from being rejected if potency does not conform to the standard.

Using a high shear mixer with a rotor/stator workhead helps ensure all the ingredients are subjected to intense high shear and any agglomerates in the mix are broken down. With each successive pass through the workhead the particle size is progressively reduced producing an almost instantaneous, stable emulsion and batch-to-batch consistency is guaranteed.

High shear mixers are able to reduce droplet size down to 2 - 5 microns. The fine dispersion ensures that a stable emulsion is formed and research has found that smaller droplet sizes absorb faster during digestion, leading to the effects of the active cannabis ingredient in the product being felt more immediately.

High shear mixing solutions from Silverson, for example, can be scaled up from laboratory to production scale to keep up with customer demand. This can be achieved becaue each mixer in the range is engineered to the same fine tolerances. As well as ultra-hygienic models which meet food processing requirements Silverson can offer laboratory mixers and in-tank ultramix and batch mixers suitable for CBD oil applications. 

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