Today’s cannabis industry is increasingly appealing to a wider range of consumer demographics seeking to enhance their lives through plant-based benefits. While medical cannabis consumers are authorized by their states to use infused foods and beverages to alleviate health concerns, others are turning to recreational cannabis-infused products for relief from pain, anxiety, and other issues on a less-formal basis.
Some consumers are using cannabis-infused products as part of lifestyle centered on balance and wellness. Though they require extra manufacturing considerations, infused beverages, particularly those made with fruit juices, botanicals, and other ingredients with “healthy” benefits, can easily fit into such a lifestyle.
Jonathan Eppers, founder and CEO, VYBES, Santa Monica, CA, says he believes beverages are the best format for getting cannabidiol (CBD) into the body.
“As a society, the way we live our lives, the distractions, the noise, and—at times—the feeling of being overwhelmed, really take a toll on the mind and body,” says Eppers. “I started VYBES to address what’s becoming a more-urgent health need for people: everyday stress and anxiety. Hemp CBD has the potential to help a lot of people.”
Launched in 2018, VYBES is a line of infused beverages made with hemp-derived CBD, fruit juices, herbs, and other botanicals. Each 14-oz. bottle contains 25 mg of CBD and 3–12 grams of sugar. Available varieties include Blackberry Hibiscus, Blueberry Mint, Honeycrisp Apple Basil, Peach Ginger, and Strawberry Lavender. VYBES also offers a Burning Mandarin variety, which includes tangerine juice, carrot juice, turmeric, green tea, and cayenne pepper.
“In thinking about beverages, it was very important to me that not only does VYBES address a health need, but an occasion need, meaning we want people to consume VYBES throughout the day,” Eppers says. “By making our beverages taste great, it can enhance the desire to consume one of our beverages while also gaining the functional benefits of CBD.”
Ian Colon, co-founder and chief marketing officer, Calexo, Los Angeles, notes that its consumers often seek the beverage brand, infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in order to relax, in addition to improving their overall wellness.
In addition to THC, Calexo formulates the infused beverages with fruit juices and botanical ingredients. The interesting flavors that these ingredients add to the beverage are alternatingly designed to complement the cannabis flavor of the drink, or diminish it.
“On top of having the physical effects to the body and mind that people expect with cannabis, it also has a distinct flavor,” says Colon. “While some of us love this taste, others don’t. We utilized the earthy flavor of cannabis with our fruit juices to enhance the overall flavor and produce a profile both original and captivating.”
Launched in March, Calexo is initially available in two varieties: Citrus Rose and Cucumber Citrón. Each 22-oz. bottle contains 10 mg of nanoemulsified THC.
“Our first two flavors were inspired by our love of both the taste and the simple and distinct visual style of the herbal liqueur-based cocktails popularized in early 1900s Europe,” Colon says. “With that motivation, we looked to celebrate the rich flavors of our home in California through its famous bright and crisp citrus.”
Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for greater acceptance of hemp, food and beverage manufacturers have begun adding hemp-based ingredients to their products, and not just for its association with CBD. Other portions of the hemp plant can contribute essential fatty acids and high protein content.
Evo Hemp, Boulder, CO, offers hemp protein bars, as well as hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, and hemp seed protein—all ingredients deemed generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. The company recently partnered with Honeydrop Lemonade to introduce a line of cold-pressed lemonades featuring hemp extract and other health-based ingredients.
“Hemp extract can be a great addition in food and beverage products, as it helps balance one’s endocannabinoid system,” says Jourdan Samel, co-founder, Evo Hemp.
The line features four varieties: Relax (Lemon and Hemp), Revive (Matcha and Hemp), Rehab (Turmeric, Pepper, and Hemp), and Reset (Charcoal, Cayenne, and Hemp). Each 10-oz. bottle includes 20 mg of hemp extract.
“We wanted to provide our customers with a number of options so they could feel comfortable drinking our products anytime throughout the day without having any negative side effects,” Samel says. “Ultimately, this has helped increase brand recognition for both Honeydrop and Evo Hemp. We’ve seen the Honeydrop beverages flying off the shelf and expect this growth to continue.”
Though consumers may turn to beverages as an easy and portable method to deliver CBD, THC, or hemp extract, incorporating fruit juices, botanicals and other healthy ingredients can help consumers pursue a wellness-based lifestyle. These cumulative benefits will likely help drive this popular category of cannabis products forward.