The purported relaxation benefit of cannabidiol (CBD) aligns with a greater industry trend of new plant-based products and menu items geared toward relaxation, as Mintel identifies in its 2019 US Flavor and Ingredient Trend, “Botanicals and Adaptogens.”

There’s no denying the swift consumer interest in CBD food, beverage and foodservice items in the past year. Nearly one-third of consumers associate the attribute “relaxing” with CBD, and one-quarter associate the attribute “healthy” with CBD. Younger consumers seem to be redefining health and wellness to include certain ingredients and products that help the body and mind with specific, targeted functions, such as sleep.


Splash on Beverage Menus

Consumers tend to be the most open to trying new ingredients in beverages, so it makes sense that CBD and CBD oil have started appearing on beverage menus first. In addition, operators may have an easier time quickly formulating and launching a beverage item over a new food item on the menu. 

Mintel research reveals that top beverage types with CBD include cocktails, coffee, tea and mocktails. Smoothies are also a growing type to watch.


Younger Consumers Driving Trend

Younger consumers in particular drive interest in functional beverage ingredients, including CBD

  • 17% of consumers are interested in coffee with CBD, and this rises to 21% and 23% among Gen Z and Millennials, respectively.
  • About one in five Millennials and Gen Z consumers say they would try a mocktail or non-alcoholic cocktail if it had relaxation benefits like CBD.
  • 19% of Millennials would be motivated to try an unfamiliar ingredient or flavor at a restaurant if it had a functional benefit.


Other Applications

Beyond beverages, consumers are also expressing interest in other CBD-infused menu items, and operators are obliging.

Some of the most common ways Mintel sees CBD being used in food today are in sauces and condiments (both sweet and savory); in indulgent menu items prevalent in fast food, such as burgers or fries; in desserts and baked goods; and in comfort food items, such as meatballs and tater tots.

Approximately one-quarter of Gen Z consumers and one in five Younger Millennials (age 25-32 in 2019) want to see more food/beverages containing CBD at fast food restaurants.

Restaurants must also give ample consideration to CBD dosage in their menu items, and how they’re conveying these doses to consumers. Higher CBD concentrations can help reduce the flavor effects of the oil or CBD carrier itself, but when it comes to the actual recommended dosing, operators don’t have a rule book to follow.