Like many CBD-infused beverages, Dream Catcher – a sparkling water featuring 25mg of CBD via a broad spectrum hemp extract, caffeine from coffeeberry, raw apple cider vinegar, vitamins, and plant extracts – has suffered from the regulatory uncertainty surrounding ingestible CBD, which the FDA says it not a legal dietary ingredient as it was first investigated as a drug.
As a result, while several states have explicitly permitted the sale of CBD-infused foods and supplements, many top retailers are still waiting until there is clarity either from the FDA, or from Congress, as to the ingredient’s legal status at a federal level, GT told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Regulatory challenges certainly played a role in the decision to retire Dream Catcher, but it wasn’t the only one. In many ways it was a little bit ahead of its time, but every founder needs to learn from mistakes, and there have been a lot of lessons that I’ve learned.”
One lesson was that combining CBD, which is purported to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, with a stimulant such as caffeine in order to achieve “calm, clear, focused energy” didn’t necessarily make sense to consumers trying Dream Catcher, who associated the word ‘dream’ with winding down at the end of the day and getting ready to sleep, rather than feeling focused during the work day, he said.
“I overlooked the weight of the word ‘dream.' Consumers need explicit clarity about what products are, what the benefit is, and what the usage occasion might be. People were drinking it as a sleep aid and it was a kind of unclear proposition.”
- Further reading: Bipartisan Senate CBD bill introduced
Is CBD losing its luster, or could we see 'explosion' of interest in 2022?
In a session devoted to supply side issues surrounding hemp-derived CBD at the recent virtual NoCo Hemp Expo, Julie Lerner, founder and CEO of PanXchange, which provides commodity pricing info for hemp and other industries, told delegates that there has been too much supply chasing too little demand in the cannabinoid extraction space.
“We believe less than 3,000 harvested acres of hemp was needed to fulfill the entire US cannabinoid demand last year. We are asking people to please not plant hemp for cannabinoids this year unless you have already sold your crop,” she told the audience.
According to a new report from Brightfield Group, the US CBD market “was not immune to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. CBD brand strategy was upended by store closures, changes in consumer needs, and drops in the price of CBD. The industry has been rebounding ever since its fall in Q2 2020, but the landscape looks much different than before.
“E-commerce is the dominant channel, CBD discovery is stunted, and there is still no federally-supported regulatory structure for ingestible products.”
'Now is the time to build strong brands across industries'
However, Brightfield notes that major players such as Molson Coors (which has teamed up with HEXO Cannabis to launch CBD-infused sparkling waters under the VeryVell brand in Colorado via a JV called Truss CBD USA) clearly think there may still be mileage in CBD-infused beverages, and predicts that the industry is "poised for stronger growth" in 2022:
"With consumers returning to brick and mortar as the pandemic ends and disposable income going up, the CBD market is expected to see a lift through the end of the year for the brands that have survived the pandemic. With regulatory guidance expected towards the end of 2021 to early 2022, expect to see explosive growth through brick and mortar as ingestible products hit shelves of chain retailers around the country. Now is the time to build strong brands across industries to ensure success when competition increases."
Supplements still most popular format
According to Brightfield, which surveys 5,000 US CBD users quarterly, Millennials and Gen Xers account for 71% of CBD users with the most widely used formats remaining tinctures (45%) and gummies (45%) followed by capsules (24%) and drinks (14%).
When it comes to formulations, several brands have started combining CBD with other cannabinoids such as CBG or CBD, functional ingredients such as melatonin (in supplements), and adaptogens. Meanwhile, brands such as Recess – which has always combined CBD with other botanicals and positioned itself as about relaxation rather than CBD per se - have recently introduced new lines that don’t contain CBD at all (Recess' new ‘mood’ line contains magnesium l-threonate, lemon balm, American ginseng and l-theanine).