From snack foods and condiments to coffee, tea, and even mascara, here’s a look at the CBD product market today.
Cannabidiol (CBD) sales are in a strange place. While a newly inked U.S. Farm Bill removes industrial hemp and its derivatives from a list of federally controlled substances, CBD sold as a food or dietary ingredient is still prohibited under federal law. And yet, the market is flush with companies selling CBD foods and dietary products.
Why are companies selling CBD products when federal law prohibits it?
It’s a matter of selective enforcement, says Justin Prochnow, attorney at Greenberg Traurig LLC (Denver). “To date, the FDA has sent out approximately 20–25 warning letters and, in every instance, the FDA addressed unauthorized disease claims in addition to taking the position that CBD is a non-permissible ingredient,” Prochnow told Nutritional Outlook. For many CBD manufacturers, the potential financial gains are worth what seems like minimal risk, so long as products aren’t making disease claims.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb hinted at a potential legal path for CBD in a statement published on the same day as the Farm Bill’s passage. The situation looked even more promising in January when Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley wrote to Gottlieb and FDA urging the agency to change federal CBD regulations for foods, beverages, and supplements in order to “give U.S. producers more flexibility in the production, consumption, and sale of hemp products.”
For now, though, all industry can do is wait and hope for a new legal development or proceed with risk.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC), which represents dietary supplement product manufacturers across the U.S., has made legal opinions on CBD available to its members, but it’s not outright encouraging companies to get in the business of CBD. “We aren’t making recommendations to our members about what they should do,” CRN president Steve Mister told Nutritional Outlook. “They have to make their own business decisions as to how much tolerance for risk they have in the marketplace.”
Many CBD product manufacturers are taking the risk by entering the marketplace now. With that risk, they have a chance to build profits and brand following before there’s extra competition. Let’s look at some of the product platforms they’re using.
In the dietary supplement space, gummies are arguably the biggest rival to traditional tablets and capsules. They’re a fun way to consume ingredients like vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s. We expect gummies would be just as popular in a growing CBD marketplace.
CV Sciences recently unveiled PlusCBD Oil Gummies. This launch and the pioneering work in the area of CBD product safety was enough for Nutritional Outlook to name the company its best retail brand of 2018. One fruit slice–shaped gummy promises 5 mg of CBD, which also happens to be the suggested serving size. The gummies are currently available in cherry mango and citrus punch flavors, sugar-coated or uncoated.
CV Sciences CBD products also include balms, tinctures, and olive oil made with hemp-derived CBD.
CBD foods are rare right now, perhaps because it’s easier to fly low with products that more closely resemble dietary supplements. Nonetheless, Weller is taking a strong position as a CBD food company. Its flagship products are coconut bites that resemble granola clusters in texture.
Weller snacks are sold in original, dark chocolate, and caramel flavors, and their recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. A suggested serving size of 5 bites yields 25 mg of hemp extract or 5 mg of hemp extract per bite. The company chose to label guaranteed content of “hemp extract” rather than of CBD. In a responsible touch, Weller’s FAQ site encourages consumers to try out the suggested serving size and adjust accordingly.
Weller products are only available at the company’s online retail store. But who knows? We might one day see Weller snacks lining shelves at supermarkets and convenience stories.
Extreme portability is a feature of many on-the-go health products, including Alto, a startup brand of CBD-infused honey, salt, and olive oil packets that can be added to food.
Each box features 10 Alto packets containing 5 mg of active cannabinoids each. Are you seeing a trend here? A serving size of 5 mg appears to be the industry standard for CBD content (or at least hemp extract content) across the board.
Alto is focused on retail for now, but the company hopes to partner with hotels and restaurants in the future. The company’s founder says its packets will soon be available in single-packet format and that we can “expect to see these CBD-infused singles at some wonderful cafes, hotels, spas, social clubs, and restaurants.” Expect Alto to also launch an oil spritz and a pet supplement in 2019. Another player worth checking out in this very niche condiments category is Cured, with its CBD-infused spices.
In recent months, we’ve seen a notable uptick in CBD beverage launches. GT Living Foods, famous for its Synergy kombucha drinks, recently announced a line of CBD-infused sparkling waters. The startup company Recess is getting into the same sparkling water category, with the clean package design pictured. Ready-to-drink CBD teas and coffees (more on these ahead) have also been emerging in the CBD beverage space.
With all the water-based CBD drinks that are coming out, some wonder just how potent they all may be. After all, cannabinoids are traditionally understood as being oil-soluble, not water-soluble.
A Canadian company known as Sproutly Canada wants to capitalize on this matter. It says it has a patented process that provides “the only true water-soluble cannabis solution” available. According to Sproutly, its water-extracted cannabis solution can help beverage makers ensure product potency and retain subtle flavors that would otherwise be destroyed using harsher extraction processes.
Numerous CBD drink makers are already touting water-soluble solutions on their product websites.
Another company going the way of extreme portability is Buddha Teas. While CBD ready-to-drink beverages are plentiful in the marketplace, Buddha Teas stands out as a rare purveyor of single-use CBD tea bags.
A box of Buddha Tea features 18 tea bags containing 5 mg of CBD each. For now, the company is sticking to conventional tea flavors, including a chamomile blend, green matcha, peppermint, and turmeric and ginger.
In an effort to ensure the effectiveness of its CBD, Buddha Tea distinguishes its brand by using a water-soluble CBD solution in all of its products.
If you thought CBD spices were novel, Diamond CBD might get even more credit for its CBD-infused coffee pods that launched at the end of 2018. Made using a universal K-cup design, each coffee pod promises 25 mg of CBD at a cost of less than $5 per cup of brewed coffee.
Diamond CBD’s pods are available in coffee, decaf coffee, black tea, and green tea units. Combined with the introduction of CBD-infused roasted coffee beans by another company, called SteepFuze, it seems the future of coffee could be very much in cannabis.
Creams and Cosmetics
As consumers increasingly associate cannabinoids with pain relief, whether through personal experience or from shared anecdotes, a market for topical applications is sure to follow. A number of creams, balms, and other topical products now feature CBD and are actively sold in public health stores. Some refer to research on cannabis and pain relief while others are promoting hemp oil for its other potential nutritious or functional properties. One such company is Leading Edge Pharms. The company recently added a new pain relief ointment to its Cannavera line of topical pain-relief creams, sprays, and oils that features the company’s patent-pending Silvidiol liposomal technology. According to the company, this technology ensures penetration of the skin and targeted release of the active ingredients.
While scientists have warned that research on cannabinoids for topical use is lacking, that isn’t stopping numerous companies from launching related products. There’s perhaps no greater testament to the newfound marketability of hemp and CBD than its use in new Kush Mascara.