Beverage brands still searching for the right solution to their drink problem

CBD beverages continue to be a popular niche sub-category for producers, with brands still experimenting and bringing out new variations. Some significant regulatory concerns remain for the mid/long-term.

Neither the US, UK or EU has explicitly permitted CBD to be used as an ingredient for a beverage or any other ingestible product. And there is growing concern that given the slow pace of approval for CBD’s novel food status in the UK and EU it may be quite some time before a beverage can fully legally be sold in either jurisdiction.

There is also a small but distinct possibility that CBD as a food/beverage ingredient never gains novel food status and instead is restricted solely to essentially “pure” formulations as a dietary supplement likely either in capsule or perhaps carrier oil format.

But for the short term at least there is, overall, no enforcement against CBD drinks in the US, little enforcement against CBD drinks on EU markets and essentially a logjam preventing enforcement from taking place in the UK market (plus a vague request not to take enforcement action against those working towards compliance, whenever it is clear who exactly is working towards compliance).

This has given some scope for companies to innovate in the sub-category. Recent launches have included Michelin-star chef-designed flavourings, DIY dry packet mixes and cult-favourite brand extensions into the market space.


The problem of flavour


The innovations demonstrate producer interest in working around some of the shortcomings of drinks as a method for ingesting CBD in order to utilise its appeal to consumers as a potentially fast, easy, convenient way to take CBD.

CBD has traditionally been a difficult item to flavour. Isolate can have bitter notes while spectrum products tend to lean heavily towards the “cannabis-y” terpene profile pines, citrus, grass/herbs. Working with this can be difficult, hence Isca Drinks working with a two Michelin star chef to design flavours.

Interestingly, though, the Isca end product chooses to emphasise form over function in some ways using clear glass bottles to highlight the clarity of the drinks (with turbidity often being another difficult CBD beverage issue) despite clear packaging contributing to the already difficult short-life of CBD products in general.

One way around that issue is keeping the CBD separate or doing away with the liquid portion of the beverage entirely as cbdmd has done with its new dissolvable drink mixes. But these solutions potentially lead to their own changes to the flavour profile, depending on what the consumer does with the customisable servings of the product.

In essence, then, the perfect CBD beverage solution has yet to be found and brands will likely continue experimenting with the sub-category as long as regulations allow with the hope that a positive turn in future rules will give clarity and full legitimacy to the niche.

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*Under CBD-Intel’s editorial discretion

Photo: Max Pixel

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