One of the most high profile ingredients in the wellness market in recent years has been the cannabis derivative cannabidiol (CBD). Studies show that cannabidiol possesses an array of therapeutic benefits, including antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. It is one of more than 100 cannabinoids identified in marijuana and hemp, and in addition to its potential health benefits and—unlike the more widely recognized tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—CBD is not psychoactive.

Although its legal status is still somewhat unclear in terms of ingredient use, consumers are becoming more familiar with CBD. This gives companies the potential to incorporate it into more food and beverage products—and in turn, it’s creating a key growth market that could eventually go mainstream. Its potential as a disruptor was highlighted by Innova Market Insights’ Top Ten Trends for 2020 report. In that report, Innova Market Insights examined CBD ingredient use and new product launches under the heading, “A Star is Born.”


Here’s the Wave

It’s clear that consumers already are increasingly aware of CBD’s wellness potential. In fact, in a 2019 Innova Consumer Survey, consumers cited pain relief, reducing anxiety/distress, and promoting relaxation as the top three benefits of cannabis/CBD ingredients. This is leading to a wide range of launches—not only in supplements, but also in food and drinks. Recent activity includes products such as mood-uplifting chocolate, relaxation tea, sleep aid gummies, and nootropic bars.

New product development was very modest and fairly stable until a growth spurt in 2018, closely followed by an even stronger rise in 2019. Totals are still relatively modest overall. However, the majority of these remain concentrated in Western Europe and North America, with the two regions accounting for a combined share of more than 90% of the total.

Charlotte's Web CBD Gummies
Form and Function: Popular CBD gummies address consumer needs. PHOTO COURTESY OF: CHARLOTTE’S WEB (WWW.CHARLOTTESWEB.COM)

Perhaps not surprisingly, supplements continue to dominate CBD launches, with more than half of the global total recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2019. Soft drinks took second place at a distant 17% pace but well ahead of confectionery, pet food and hot drinks. Sports nutrition also is an area seeing growing levels of interest. There has been some limited activity in other areas of the market, including snacks, cereals, sauces and seasonings, and even alcoholic beverages.

The US has led new product development, particularly since the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the Farm Bill), which declassified hemp with less than 0.3% THC concentration as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. The Farm Bill also legalized cultivation.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still takes the position that CBD cannot be sold as a food or a dietary supplement because it was studied and approved as a drug. However, FDA also is reported to be considering regulatory pathways that would otherwise allow the use of CBD in food and supplements, as permitted under the law. In addition, individual US states also have their own rules that can overlap, particularly as more states step into regulating hemp and CBD products (given the continued lack of clarity at the federal level.)

Despite an unclear regulatory situation, new product development continued with the US accounting for more than three-quarters of global launches featuring CBD ingredients in 2019.  Supplements accounted for 57% of those, ahead of the global figure, reflecting the existing strength of the supplements category in the US.

Despite rising awareness of the different potential health benefits of CBD, general health and wellness positionings remain most popular for new supplements in the US. This limits potential controversy over more specific claims. These general health and wellness claims were used for more than 80% of CBD new product launches in 2019, well ahead brain-mood health, which came in second with just under half of related claims in new products. Insomnia claims took third place at 28%; followed by immune health and energy-stamina.


Interestingly, the energy- stamina link also has been featured in the rising use of CBD for sports nutrition. There’s been a range of products launched during the past year or so, including EverX CBD Sports Water from Puration. Introduced in three flavors in mid-2019, it features 10mg of CBD oil, as well as antioxidants and electrolytes for an optimal alkaline pH level. It carries a performance positioning. Floyd’s of Leadville also was active in the sports nutrition market, launching Strawberry and Green Apple chewable gummy-style CBD On The Go Gems. They’re positioned for relaxation and recovery as well as Floyd’s CBD Chocolate Peanut Butter Recovery Bar.


Drink Up!

In the US mainstream food and drinks market, soft drinks experienced the highest levels of activity after supplements and beverages accounted for 10.5% of 2019 US launches featuring CBD. These were heavily focused in the flavored water subcategory, particularly involving sparkling waters. There also was some interesting activity involving iced tea and carbonates.

New flavored waters with CBD were launched in both canned and bottled formats. Many also encompassed more exotic and unusual flavors. In early 2019, for example, GTS Living Foods, Beverly Hills, Calif., introduced Dream Catcher flavored sparkling bottled waters in two variations—one with hemp-based CBD and another complete line without CBD. Flavors in both lines are Ginger & Lemongrass, Orange & Elderflower, Blood Rose and Cucumber & Basil.

Sweet Reason Beverage Company, New York, N.Y., used glass bottles for its sparkling water line, which includes flavors such as included Strawberry & Lavender, Cucumber & Mint, and Grapefruit. A more unusual unflavored water launch came from CBD Living LLC, Corona, Calif. It says its CBD Living Water uses nanotechnology so it could infuse nano-sized CBD molecules and optimize bioavailability and absorption.

New canned CBD beverages included Copa CBD sparkling waters with fruit juice in Blue Beary (blueberry), Tropical, Lemon Cheri and Wildberry varieties. Daytrip Beverages introduced CBD infused sparkling waters in Cherry, Lemon & Lime, Tangerine and Coconut & Pineapple flavors. Weller also introduced W+ naturally flavored sparkling waters with CBD in Watermelon, Black Cherry and Tangerine styles with a “focused and chilled” positioning.

LifeAid CBD Recovery Beverage
Already known for fitness and recovery drinks, LIFEAID Beverage partnered with Ojai Energetics to create a new CBD recovery offering. PHOTO COURTESY OF: OJAI ENERGETICS (WWW.OJAIENERGETICS.COM)

There has also been some interesting activity in ready-to-drink teas containing CBD, although at a lower level. Iced tea, like sparkling water, has a naturally fairly healthy image, making it a suitable carrier for CBD and adding to its functional/wellness image. After already marketing hemp tea and coffee, Elev8 Hemp LLC, Longwood, Fla., last year extended its range with CBD-infused iced tea. In doing so, it grew from its original Lemon tea to additional varieties such as Raspberry, Peach and Hibiscus Green flavors. All offerings are marketed as premium functional beverages.

In early 2019, Sol-ti, San Diego, launched CBD Teas in Hibiscus & Lime, Lemon & Ginger, and Peach & Lemon flavors. It discussed the role of CBD in promoting homeostasis, as well as calming and relieving tension.


Going to the Dogs

With the humanization of our pets, it is perhaps not surprising that owners are interested in offering them the chance to benefit from CBD products—primarily in the form of treats and snacks. In 2019, pet foods challenged soft drinks for second place in terms of new products featuring CBD. For the record once again, both categories fell considerably behind supplements.

A vast majority of launches recorded by Innova Market Insights involve CBD products for dogs.  Anti-anxiety and anti-inflammation benefits are particularly popular for aging pets. However, most products are launched with a more general wellness positioning—sometimes talking about the benefits of CBD without being specific. This assumes increasing overall consumer/pet owner awareness.

For example, last year saw cbdMD launcha range of Paw CBD Baked Cheese flavor treats in formats for small, medium, and large dogs. They are marketed as veterinarian-formulated tasty treats “containing high-quality ingredients with all the wholesome applications of naturally-sourced CBD.” More recently, in early 2020, the company added more specific Hip & Joint Chews to the product line.

Other launches with more specific claims included Honest Paws’ Calming Aid Soft Chews with pure CBD extract, L-Theanine and tryptophan; and its Joint Support with pure CBD extract, glucosamine, chondroitin and boswellia, both introduced in mid-2019. This was just after the launch of Bona Vida’s Relaxation, Heart Support, and Muscle & Joint Soft Chews, both formulated with CBD.


Coda Signature, Denver, introduced THC-infused chocolate bars with expanded dosage options for medical patients. The new line features Coda Signature’s classic best-selling flavors: Coffee & Doughnuts, Cream & Crumble, Caramel & Corn, Snap & Spice and Maple & Pecan. It also introduced Snap & Spice bar in a 500mg THC and 500mg CBD combination.

MCTC Holdings, Inc., Los Angeles, introduced a Hemp You Can Feel CBD and hemp extract coffee line in single-serving pods. It also said it completed the research and development phase for its Hemp You Can Feel line of sweeteners and coffee creamers. The line will feature two low-calorie sweeteners, two organic natural sweeteners and three powdered non-dairy creamers.

BlosumCBD, a Newport Beach, Calif., online CBD store, introduced its CBD oil in two new products: Broad-Spectrum CBD Vegan and Full-Spectrum Multivitamin Gummies. These new products are designed to give customers a less-intimidating method to incorporate infused organic CBD as a part of their health and wellness routines.

DouleuRx D-REX CBD Chill Shots

DouleuRx, Chicago, expanded its D-REX portfolio of CBD chill shots with new variety: Lemon Green Tea. D-Rex CBD chill shots use a proprietary powdered water-soluble micellar technology to combine nano-micellar CBD with other natural ingredients to boost bioavailability, officials say. One 2oz D-REX shot delivers 10mg nano-micellar CBD, Zero calories, zero carbohydrates and zero sugar.

Calexo, Los Angeles, introduced two sparkling cannabis-infused beverages as alcohol alternatives. Made with all-natural juices, botanicals, and nano-emulsified THC (10mg per 22oz bottle), Calexo beverages are designed for sharing, and precisely dosed for an easy-to-control, uplifting experience, officials say. Two initial flavors are Citrus Rose and Cucumber Citrón.


Sweet Treats, Hot Drinks

There also has been ongoing interest in confectionery involving CBD ingredients. There’s been a particular focus on gummies, which have some traditional overlap with chewable dietary supplements.  As with chewable supplements, gummies offer a convenient, portable and snack-style format for on-the-go lifestyles. They also tend to offer a range of upmarket flavors and promote a natural image. Sour varieties also are popular, reflecting interest in that type of flavor in the market as a whole.

Instant Matcha Coffee with CBD
Success with loose leaf teas led CBD Living, Corona, Calif., to add three instant coffees: Original, Golden Milk and Matcha. PHOTO COURTESY OF: CBD LIVING (WWW.CBDLIVING.COM)

There has also been some limited activity in chocolate products, as exemplified by Pure Hemp’s range of dark, milk, and white chocolate with CBD. Pure Hemp already sold CBD gummies and lollipops, but added the chocolate to its range in early 2019. In this application, the company claimed that the product supported pain relief, stress reduction, and relaxation. Officials also claimed that by combining chocolate and cannabis—the effects of both substances were stronger and lasted longer.

The next category in terms of launches featuring CBD is hot drinks, with all the launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2019 focusing on tea. Numbers were relatively limited overall, however, and there was a strong focus (unlike the overall tea market), on loose leaf products rather than tea bags. New product development here covered a wide range of tea types, including black, white, green, matcha, herbal, fruit and spiced, plus blends of these—all also featuring CBD.

CBD Living’s Loose Leaf Tea range in glass jars, for example, includes Coconut Herbal, Chai Turmeric, Mango Herbal, Passion Green and Berry Black varieties, as well as an Instant Matcha option. All are infused with high-quality hemp-based nano CBD, which is claimed to give greater bioavailability.

Despite a somewhat confusing and unresolved regulatory situation, activity in the use of CBD ingredients is seeing strong growth. This is aided by advancing cannabinoid science and rising consumer familiarity. All signs indicate that the CBD market will continue to thrive as its medical benefits become better known and regulatory questions are addressed. This will continue to fuel innovation in food and drinks though 2020 and well beyond.

Furthermore, CBD has been the most prevalent cannabinoid to be used in foods, beverages, and supplements to date. However, there are more than 100 other chemical compounds identified in the species Cannabis Sativa L., potentially with therapeutic benefits that we may see being feature in the future.