What is CBD?
First the science. Cannabis plants are made up of more than 100 different chemical compounds that act on receptors in cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the human brain. These have different impacts on the body. The most well-known of the compounds are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is historically the most known compound as it’s psychoactive and gives a high when taken. CBD however, does not do this.
So what does CBD do and why do people use it?
CBD’s proponents claim an impressive array of medical uses including being able to treat inflammation, pain, acne, anxiety, insomnia, depression and even post-traumatic stress. For this reason CBD has soared in popularity in recent years. But, on top of its medical use, many advocate its use in the wider consumer-sphere – to relax you, destress you, to help you sleep and hey, even to spice up your sex life.
But wait, is CBD legal?
CBD is legal in the UK. CBD products have been commercially available for some time but they now appear to be gaining greater mainstream use and acceptance, as big name companies invest increasing amounts of money into developing products.
In the US it’s slightly more confusing. The 2018 Farm Bill passed at the end of last year has made CBD legal on a federal level BUT at the moment the FDA is not allowing it to be marketed nationally in food and drink, only on a state by state basis.
But this isn’t stopping big businesses getting prepared for what could be the biggest shake up for the consumer goods industry in decades.
So tell us about the CBD beverage market in particular. Why is it so exciting?
Big business is VERY excited about the CBD beverage industry. Brent Willis, CEO of New Age Beverages and former Coca Cola executive calls CBD ‘one of the biggest opportunities to hit the consumer goods industry in years.” But why?
CBD advocates will tell you that CBD drinks make you feel really REALLY good. They help you destress and relax and importantly, all without a hangover. This alone means big business as we already know that right across the board, but particularly Millenials and Gen-Z, are drinking less leading to a surge in the demand for alcohol-free products in the market. Those with the attributes of CBD could change social drinking entirely.
On top of this come all the health benefits – anxiety relief, joint pain relief and a general boost in well-being. One company, Endo Water, calls CBD “the new kale”. This wide array of benefits gives F&B companies endless options for product development and the opportunity to produce and market their products as part of a wellness lifestyle, not just as an alcohol alternative but as a breakfast shot, a post gym shake or an after work relaxant.
Who’s involved and how much is the market worth?
It is currently thought that the market for CBD beverages alone could achieve a value of $260 million in the United States by 2022. Here in the UK, whilst not quite up there with the US, the current CBD market (not just beverages) is estimated to be worth £50 million a year.
What’s so striking about the CBD market is the huge variety of companies getting involved. From Heineken to Coca Cola, rumours are rife about who will be the next big player to get involved. And this is all before it is even legal to sell F&B products nationally in the US.
Several multinational drinks companies have already made the leap with many more expected to enter the sphere this year. The biggest player to date is US company, Constellation Brands which has spent $4.2 billion on a 30% stake in Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth. The two companies now aim to develop a range of non-alcoholic, cannabis-based drinks. Others include The Alkaline Water Company, currently the fastest premium growing water brand in the U.S and Youngevity International Inc, an omni-direct branding company that manages a portfolio of wellness products.
Over here in the UK, the CBD beverage business is still relatively small in comparison but is starting to ramp up. Smaller, craft companies are first past the post. Botanic Lab are one of our biggest players at the moment. Launched last September, their CBD Botanical Tea drink combines sour cherry and hibiscus with botanical hemp CBD and is already proving a success. Another early adopter in the field is Green Monkey who launched what it claims is the UK’s first CBD-infused carbonated soft drink in October. The alcohol businesses are also looking on closely and in November 2018 Green Times Brewing launched High Flyer Session IPA, a craft beer infused with CBD.The market is bubbling and our appetite is growing.
With federal law now changed and an expected change in FDA rules in the US, 2019 is expected to be a big year in the CBD market and big business is poised to pounce. In the UK, mass marketing of products in the US and globally will no doubt have an impact on perceptions over here so it seems likely that we too will be seeing plenty more products on the shelves. What will be interesting will be to see which category we, the consumer, feel comfortable for CBD to sit in. Will we be drinking it after work instead of a beer (or indeed within it) or will we be clamouring for it from our machines; to help us through a tough day in the office or as a post-gym refresh. That we’re not sure of just yet but one thing we can be sure of is that we’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of it soon.