Navigating the emerging market of CBD-infused beverages
Image: Strava Coffee
On 25 July, San Francisco, California hosted the first cannabis drink expo bringing together drink producers, manufacturers, distributers and breweries to discuss both the potential and challenges with this emerging market.
Comparing it to the next gold rush, Joe Gagnon, CEO, Performance Tea, advised that the CBD (cannabidiol) industry is ripe with opportunity for companies that are willing to take a risk and break new ground. He challenged attendees at the World Tea Expo this past June to contemplate the future of beverages and the potential that CBD had for the industry.
Companies including Diamond CBD infused coffee pods, Mary Joe’s CBD infused cold brew, Joy Tea, Buddha’s Tea, One Love Tea, and Denver’s Strava Craft Coffee have already jumped on board, launching CBD-infused lines. Cafés like Denver, Colorado’s Blue Sparrow’s are inviting guests to try infused products in house. CBD is being proposed as the next “superfood” with supporters raving about its ability to reduce anxiety, promote restful sleep, alleviate inflammation and help with pain.
In fact, Zenith Global 2019 CBD Drink reports predict that CBD-infused beverages will grow to over 1.4 billion by 2024. However, CBD is far from your typical wellness ingredient. Early adopters will not only have to navigate through a legal minefield but also help build consumer education and trust. So, are the risks worth being one of the ground breakers in what is predicted to be a very successful emerging market?
It’s hard to say. The understanding surrounding CBD (derived from cannabis) infused beverages is still fairly limited. At face value, the short-term studies and results look extremely promising. However, there is still a lack of data and research surrounding CBD, particularly, safe daily consumption levels and potential long-term impacts.
There is no question that the passing of the Farm Bill on 17 December 2018 presented an opportunity for CBD to explode within the United States marketplace. However, the bill focused exclusively on CBD products that were produced from industrial hemp. CBD products that are derived from cannabis plants with more than 0.3 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are still federally illegal even though the end CBD product itself may have less than the 0.3 percent THC.
Major beverage players are paying close attention to this wellness ingredient with plans for their own beverage launches once the legal landscape becomes less murky. “The mainstream market isn’t interested in risk, they want to buy CBD products from a familiar brand,” said Gagnon. “We are in the early adopter phase with a new product that has cross-generational appeal.”
At the moment, the conversation regarding CBD is still in its infancy. The FDA public hearing on 31 May 2019, including over 4,000 comments, clearly demonstrates the profound interest, both positive and negative, of this controversial ingredient. Although, I’m uncertain if it will become the next superfood, it is definitely an ingredient that tea and coffee companies should be paying attention to.
Anne-Marie Hardie is a freelance writer, professor and speaker based in Barrie, Ontario. She may be reached at: [email protected].