According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey, CBD foods and drinks are top-trending products for 2019. Of the 650+ professional chefs polled, 77% identified CBD drinks as 2019’s top trend, followed by CBD foods.
These cannabis-infused food and drinks don’t contain THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis that causes the characteristic “high.” Instead, CBD is the main ingredient which provides many of the same standard benefits without the psychoactive side effect. If a cannabis sativa plant contains more than 0.3% dry weight of THC, it is considered marijuana. But, when the plant contains less than 0.3% of THC by dry weight, it is classified as hemp, now legally grown in all 50 states.
CBD has been studied for its wide-ranging health benefits, particularly its ability to reduce pain, anxiety, and more. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t yet approved hemp CBD supplements, but it green-lighted the CBD-based pharmaceutical drug Epidiolex, used to treat rare cases of life-threatening epilepsy. The Brightfield Group anticipates formal FDA approval for CBD supplements, food, and cosmetics in 18-24 months.
Although the legal status of CBD is still a bit murky, industrial hemp growing became legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill, which was passed right before the government shutdown. Colorado-based Weller, a CBD snack brand, considers hemp legalization a game-changing step for the CBD movement. Weller snacks are sold in coffeehouses, grocery stores, and convenience stores, but legalization will allow expansion across the US.
CBD Drink Options
With the health benefits of CBD combined with palate-pleasing fine dining, snacks, and beverages, companies and consumers are jumping aboard the CBD bandwagon in increasing numbers. CBD is so mainstream, rumors swirled that even Coca-Cola planned to get in on the action with a CBD-infused soda. Even though that rumor didn’t pan out, CBD-infused water is available from Arizona-based The Alkaline Water Company. The company, whose Alkaline88 water found at Walmart, CVS, and well-known supermarket chains, sells sparkling CBD water in flavors including grapefruit, coconut, lemon-lime, and raspberry. The company “worked with a major flavor house and Infusion Biosciences” to mask the “hemp flavor profile,” according to CEO Ricky Wright.
At Los Angeles’s Otium, bartender Chris Amirault serves several CBD-infused drinks, including the Negroni-based “Pineapple Express” and the “Blue Dream,” a spiked Mai Tai. Amirault eschews the odorless, tasteless CBD powder, opting instead for CBD oil, which gives the drinks a distinctive “herbaceous” taste. Amirault says his customers are “all about the taste,” adding, “They’re extremely curious.”
CBD Consumption Options
Not everyone is “all about the taste,” though; many are on board for the health benefits. “I’m telling you, 75% of my clientele is doctors, nurses, and lawyers,” said Denver-area doughnut shop owner Josh Schwab, who sells about 30 CBD-frosted doughnuts topped with a candied hemp leaf per day. His customers appreciate the relaxing effect of the doughnuts. “You get all the relaxation without the head high,” Schwab explained. “It kind of just takes the edge off.”
Thirty-five-year-old Jonathan Eppers agrees that CBD has relaxing effects. “I was tired of living every day anxiously. I wanted to be more present and calm. That’s what CBD does for me,” said Eppers, whose CBD-infused Vybes drinks are now available in 19 states. The fledgling Los Angeles-based company sold more than 1.1 million bottles last year in flavors including blackberry lavender and blueberry mint.
Over on the East Coast, chef-owner John Vitale of Caffe Anello and Sogno Coffee in Westwood, NJ, uses CBD oil in lattes and teas. In the future, he plans to add CBD baked goods to his menu. He, too, has benefited from CBD oil. “I suffer from anxiety disorder and CBD is part of my daily regimen now. It helps tremendously,” Vitale said.
Vitale’s CBD-laced latte comes with a hefty $8.00 price tag. After all, good CBD oil isn’t cheap. However, consumers aren’t balking at the prices. Another New Jersey eatery, Zest, offers a drop of CBD oil in the shop’s juices, coffees, and bowls for an extra $2.00. Owner Luciana Gencarelli also sells CBD by the bottle. “In the beginning, we couldn’t keep the bottles on our shelves,” Gencarelli said.
CBD Restaurant Trends
Restaurants and bars are infusing CBD into just about any type of food, beverage, and snack imaginable. Here are a few more establishments with unique CBD twists:
The Adriaen Block cocktail bar and restaurant in Queens, NY, highlights CBD in its food and drink offerings. While it isn’t an exclusive CBD restaurant, it does offer CBD-infused cocktails including the Stoney Negroni and Rolled Fashioned. Mocktail drinkers can also partake, thanks to Adriean Block’s use of Seedlip, a high-end, non-alcoholic distilled spirit. And for edibles, diners can order a side of CBD sauce or a dollop of CBD-infused whipped cream to top off dessert.
Coalition Brewing in Portland, Oregon, offers a slightly different spin on CBD beverages. Its signature product, Two Flowers IPA—Oregon’s first commercially produced CBD-infused beer—showcases the connection between cannabis and hops with a fragrant, grassy flavor. The beer is so popular consumers can find it all over town.
The Green Goddess Café in Stowe, Vermont, a neighboring gathering spot known for its fresh-squeezed juices and breakfast entrees, was one of the first food and drink establishments in Vermont to embrace CBD. Owner Athena Scheidet put it on the menu after experiencing, first hand, the beneficial effects of CBD. One menu favorite is a smoothie, Jamaican Me Shake. It is created when CBD is infused with tropical fruit, spinach, avocado, organic apple juice, and whipped cream.
The Sweet Side of CBD
CBD also has a sweet side, as exemplified by craft chocolate company GrönCBD, a CBD restaurant specializing in sweet treats. The company’s chocolates use a CBD hemp alternative—evergreen tree bark combined with citrus peel – to achieve their classic flavor. At the front of the house is a café that features CBD-infused products including hot and iced chocolate drinks. They also provide sweet treats such as chocolate-filled croissants and truffles. Furthermore, they encourage visitors to ask questions and try the CBD caramel and chocolate sauces, bars, tinctures, and body products.
As CBD legalization proceeds, expect to see more CBD-infused food and drink at lower prices. Here’s to a 2019 of less pain and anxiety and more flavor and refreshment!