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CBD in packaged food and beverages.jpg

CBD in packaged food and beverages

Sales of CBD products in packaged food is expected to double over the next two years as consumer awareness and demand grows.

Alcoholic drinks are by far the most embedded industry in the cannabis sector. At least three leading corporate players have a stake in cannabis producers, the most notable being U.S.-based Constellation Brands and its 38 percent share in leading Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth. With the spirits and beer categories already headed in a low- or non-alcoholic direction, a future where tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) replaces alcohol is on the horizon. Cannabis beverages, with specific THC dosing and controlled onset-of-effects, will become more common in places that have legalized recreational use, ultimately providing the equivalent effect of a glass of wine or beer. These would be calorie-free, non-alcoholic or alcoholic recreational beverages with an intoxicating buzz.

Health and wellness trends are driving the global soft drinks industry, fueled by sugar reduction. The functional health and wellness trend is thus a natural bedfellow for cannabidiol (CBD)-infused products. In soft drinks, CBD launches have become prevalent over the last two to three years, particularly in bottled water, juices, ready-to-drink (RTD) tea, RTD coffee and energy drinks, as well as THC inclusions where recreational use of cannabis is legal.

Tea is currently the most popular application for CBD products in hot drinks, particularly green tea and herbal tea, related as they are to health and wellness. As low- and non-alcoholic beverages grow in popularity, and sugary soft drinks continue to decline, a consumer trend confluence occurs between alcoholic drinks and soft drinks. These blurring lines are creating a fertile ground for adult recreational soft drinks, where cannabis (more specifically THC in the long term) fits in as a social lubricant with a health and wellness halo.

Within packaged food, Euromonitor International expects sales of CBD products to double over the next two years, as consumer awareness grows. CBD and THC are the superpower holistic food ingredients of the future—think turmeric (anti-inflammatory) crossed with coconut oil (essential fatty acids). CBD/THC falls within the naturally functional and mindful consumption trends, tapping into the vegan, plant-based and free-from movements. Given hemp is grown sustainably, it is also spurred by the ethical living megatrend and back-to-basics move. THC-combined CBD products are chiefly prevalent in sweet categories, such as confectionery (chocolate and sugar), protein bars and ice cream, with potential for savory snacks, pasta and soups, among others.

As CBD and THC become more mainstream, and manufacturers recognize their potential, the market will be dominated by outcome-based products: a specific dose, in a specific combination, carried in a specific format to address a specific condition, potentially in microdoses, blurring the boundaries between food and consumer health. This outcome-based future for cannabis products means by 2030, most people will use a product containing cannabis, and the current $10 billion global market for legal cannabis will have easily multiplied several times over by then. 

Learn more about the future of CBD delivery in INSIDER’s CBD Digital Magazine.

Zora Milenkovic is head of drinks and tobacco at Euromonitor International. Milenkovic is responsible for the company’s global data and analysis on soft drinks, hot drinks, alcoholic drinks and tobacco, specializing in future trends impacting these industries, from cannabis to water scarcity, and linking them to the wider consumer space.

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