Is CBD leading the next food & beverage wave?

Consumers in the United States have embraced plant-based foods, compelling even the world’s fast food giants to rethink their menus. Just this week, Burger King announced that they are trialing a vegan burger and McDonald’s has slowly been rolling out their McVegan since 2017.

There is another emerging food trend that is also plant-derived, but this one is likely to raise a few eyebrows.

A number of food and beverage sources are predicting that the next big industry craze will be the use of Cannabidiol (CBD) – a chemical compound extracted from hemp – and that it will soon be found in everything from candy to Coca Cola across the US.

With 10 states legalizing marijuana and medical marijuana use over the past decade, CBD was declassified to a controlled substance by the federal government in the 2018 Farm Bill. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which produces the euphoric highs often associated with marijuana, CBD is a non-intoxicating compound and therefore more effective in alleviating pain, insomnia or anxiety.

As laws have been relaxed and marijuana use has become increasingly normalized across many states, consumers have demonstrated a keen interest in the recreational consumption of CBD. Food Drive reports that 41% of Americans are willing to try foods made with cannabis.

It is therefore no surprise that companies have started to experiment with CBD-infused foods. For instance, Jelly Belly launched a side project, Spectrum Confections, to sell jelly beans containing 10mg of CBD. This includes a range of 38 regular flavors, 38 sour flavors and even seven sugar-free options. The initial run proved very popular with customers and sold out.

Cannabinoids are expected to grow to $4.1 billion in sales by 2022, up from $1.5 billion in 2018 . But CBD, like any food additive, has to be tightly regulated. Despite the passing of the Farm Bill, there are still many uncertainties surrounding the regulation of hemp and CBD products.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains that the use of CBD in food and beverages is technically illegal. Outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told a US House subcommittee that the FDA would schedule a hearing in April 2019 to discuss regulating the substance, but Gottlieb resigned from his position in March 2019. The date of the public hearing has now been set for 31 May 2019.

Given the potential value of this market, companies in the food and beverage industry will be watching the upcoming FDA hearing with bated breath, hoping that food safety regulations will be brought into line with legislation.

So, in reality, we might not be far off from seeing a CBD-infused Whopper or Big Mac next to the plant-based options on our fast food menus.

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