Drinks infused with cannabis-derived cannabidiol (CBD) are in a prime position to bring disruption to the beverage sector.
The growing consumer interest in hemp-derived CBD as a health supplement along with the recent passing of the Farm Bill has spawned a growing interest in CBD-infused drinks. In addition, the ever-increasing global trend to legalizing cannabis is also creating demand for “harder” beverages derived from marijuana.
Big alcohol companies have taken a particular interest in investing in cannabis producers. The relationship is also working in an inverse direction, with CBD producers recruiting experienced beverage executives to help launch new products. Corporate interest in building a cannabis-infused beverage profile demonstrates the level of potential growth for such an industry, with key developments being made across multiple channels.
Beverages are among the most trend-driven of all food industry products with continuing innovations in packaging, flavors and formulations being made to drive consumer interest. Decades ago, store shelves consisted of a few cola and fruit-flavored drinks. Since then, there have been introductions of enhanced fruit juices, bottled iced teas and more recently energy drinks, which created an entirely new drink category. Consumer tastes have grown considerably as well, especially when considering the popularity of the fermented tea drink kombucha.
Now a fresh wave of innovation is on the cusp of altering the beverage industry. The growing interest in hemp-derived CBD as a health supplement along with the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use in several jurisdictions has led manufacturers to explore new products and expand their consumer base. This has led to the creation of a new product category—CBD-infused beverages.
Driving the growth of this new segment is the rocketing popularity of CBD as a health supplement. One of the many active ingredients in cannabis, CBD doesn’t produce a high in users, unlike cannabis’ more famous constituent, THC. While research into CBD is in its early stages, consumers are increasingly looking for products containing CBD to address a variety of health issues such as anxiety, pain, and immune health. This has been aided by the passing of the Farm Bill in December 2018 which legalized hemp—defined as a variety of the cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3 percent THC—and allows its production and sale in all 50 states. For companies that process the hemp plant into their products, this has provided them with a significantly large market to grow into.
Chances are that, within a decade, every store may have a CBD-infused drinks section. But currently, companies are entering new territory and strategizing the best steps that will lead to success.
The market for both CBD- and THC-based cannabis drinks has barely begun to take shape but given the dramatic growth in the popularity of cannabis, it could become a major disruptor for the beverage industry over the next few years.