Cannabis/CBD-infused beverages remain on the rise

Image: NRA What’s Hot Culinary Forecast 2019

In last week’s blog, I discussed the preliminary results of the National Restaurant Association’s 2019 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast (aka What’s Hot Survey), which reflects contemporary consumer cravings concurrent with emerging societal dining trends. Among the preliminary results for top restaurant trends forecasted by chefs in the non-alcoholic beverage category was craft/house-roasted coffee. This astounded me as I assumed it would be cold brew/nitro coffee. It turns out I jumped the gun a bit as cold brew/nitro coffee did make the list. The top five non-alcoholic beverage trends in the NRA’s 2019 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, in order, are:

  1. Cannabis/CBD-infused drinks
  2. Gazoz (non-alcoholic spritzer from Israel)
  3. Craft/house-roasted coffee
  4. Nitrogen/cold brew coffee
  5. House-made soda

So, nitro/cold brew coffee is on the list, just below craft/house-roasted coffee. I still believe the likelihood of “restaurant-roasted coffee” coffee becoming a trend is low – see my reasons why in last week’s blog. However, cannabis/ CBD-infused food and beverages included among the top trends for 2019 is believable, with nearly 77 percent of the chefs ranking cannabis/CBD-infused drinks as the leading trend (and 76 percent of them tapped cannabis/CBD-infused food as the second most popular). In fact, this was already trending last year as reported by GlobalData, a data and analytics company, which ranked cannabis-infused drinks among its five defining beverage trends in 2018, noting, “functional beverages continue to play an important role in the beverages market with the perceived health benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) driving a surge of interest amongst young consumers in 2018.”

I’m not shocked by the inclusion of CBD (cannabidiol) and cannabis-infused beverages on the list considering in the last two quarters of 2018, I was receiving weekly emails from various companies touting the “health benefits” of CBD. I received one such email about SteepFuze, a small-batch infused coffee and tea company that partners with specialty local coffee roasters and tea importers to craft whole bean coffees and loose-leaf teas infused with full-spectrum CBD extract derived from certified organic hemp grown outdoors in Colorado, but I digress…

Returning to the What’s Hot Survey, zero-waste cooking, which transforms food scraps, damaged produce and leftovers into culinary delights, ranks third on the list of overall trends for 2019 and second in the culinary concepts category. Chefs are taking a second look at items they discarded in the past, such as coffee grinds, and using them to flavour homemade ice cream. I find chefs using coffee grinds to flavour desserts or other foods also more likely than “craft/house-roasted coffee” as there is no additional equipment, training, space or people required — restaurants already own coffee machines and the grinds are simply a by-product and easily accessible, and using the coffee grinds in another capacity rather than trashing them is also sustainable and eco-friendly.

I am astonished that there is no mention of tea (aside from being infused with CBD or cannabis) anywhere on the What’s Hot list, given its global popularity and perceived health benefits. A 2018 BUZZ Report from Datassential found that iced tea is consumed at a similar rate to milk and juice, with one in four consumers drinking it daily, and 60% of consumers note that when they did drink iced tea away from home, it was with food. The report also revealed that one of the fastest-growing functional beverages is kombucha (fermented tea). While found on just 2 percent of restaurant menus, kombucha has grown more than 200 percent over the past four years, and with only 18 percent of consumers having tried it, there are strong growth opportunities. If not hot or iced tea, maybe we’ll see kombucha in the NRA’s What’s Hot forecast in 2020.

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One response to “Cannabis/CBD-infused beverages remain on the rise”

  1. I wonder how the drinks will taste like say, a coffee, I’d surely check that one out as I’m a coffee lover! 🙂

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