CBD Beverages Seeing Mixed Success

Beverages in this space are making inroads in markets where they’re allowed, but clarity is still needed at the national level
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Hemp Hydrate’s CBD-infused water is an alternative to Smart Water or Vitaminwater.

CBD beverages are meeting with mixed success. While some major regional chains and independents offer such products, CBD isn’t legal at the federal level, dissuading national retailers and large suppliers. 

“Most chains are still a little reluctant to get into the category,” says Greg Billmeyer, COO of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia-based Hemp Hydrate. Retailers that do become involved are doing well, however. This is particularly true of those that position the products as alcohol alternatives, such as New Seasons Market, which operates only in Oregon.

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“We’re leaning on the nonalcoholic space more than others,” notes Ryan White, program category manager at Portland-based New Seasons. 

One product offered by several regionals is Noble Brands Inc.’s Plift. It contains 4 milligrams of Delta 9 THC. Sweetened with stevia, products come in Tart Lime, Crisp Ginger and Juicy Grapefruit flavors.

“There’s a utility to CBD beverages that supplements don’t have,” explains Todd Harris, CEO/co-founder of Chicago-based Plift. “They have cachet in the nonalcoholic movement. We can speak to a cannabis connoisseur or a nonalcoholic connoisseur and not change our tone. It’s a way to unwind that doesn’t involve alcohol and has just 50 calories per can.”

Another brand of CBD wellness/recovery beverages is from Chicago-based Mynd Drinks. Mynd is designed to help people recover from everyday stress. The hemp-infused, plant-based products contain no added sugar and come in elderberry, lemon ginger and orange mango flavors. Available at Wrigley Field, they are being promoted through an alliance with the Chicago Cubs. 

Hemp Hydrate’s CBD-infused water is an alternative to Smart Water or Vitaminwater; it’s not marketed as an alcohol alternative. The product contains vitamin C, electrolytes and 10 milligrams of CBD per liter. “We talk about products in terms of hydration, recovery and replenishment,” says Billmeyer. Hemp Hydrate recently added a line of stick powders in multiple flavors that contain higher doses of CBD and are convenient for on-the-go consumers. 

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Despite some successes, lack of FDA guidelines has made some CBD beverage suppliers refocus. New York-based Recess started its business with CBD beverages, but then morphed into other products. The CBD segment now comprises just 10% of sales, according to Benjamin Witte, founder/CEO, who adds, “Large national chains are waiting for clarity at the federal level.”

By 2033, however, Yahoo Finance predicts that THC beverages will be an $8.7 billion category. “The horse is out of the barn, and the category is starting to gain speed,” asserts Plift’s Harris.

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