CBD. It’s everywhere and it’s in everything – and if you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re looking for a way to capitalize on this rapidly growing 22-billion-dollar industry.

You’ve come to the right place.

Even as the world continues to grapple with the legality of CBD products and how they should be regulated, CBD drinks have proven to be a consumer favorite, popping up in places all around the world. It seems this green wave is here to stay.

During our almost 30 years as a leader in beverage development, Flavorman has seen dozens of ingredient trends come and go – and CBD is one that is going to last. If you’re thinking of launching your own CBD drink, ask yourself these 6 key questions before you get started.

 1. What type of CBD beverage do you want to create?

With the exception of alcohol, CBD can be used to formulate almost any beverage. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. CBD has been added to everything from coffee and tea to shooters, sports drinks, sparkling water, soda, mocktails, mixers and more. If you’re seeking to extend your existing product lines, CBD can help out there too.

Thanks to its health benefits and versatility as an ingredient, CBD can turn any drink into a functional beverage – think jitter-free energy drinks and coffees. CBD has been used in drinks as an anti-inflammatory, for recovery and pain management, and to support relaxation and sleep.

One quick note on this: be careful with making health and medical claims with your CBD product. You can choose to create a dietary supplement with CBD, but you’ll need to ensure that you’re compliant with the rules and regulations set by the FDA regarding the structure function claims. Ultimately, it may be better to avoid this route altogether, especially considering the current confusion surrounding CBD regulation. After all, there’s enough informational and anecdotal evidence out there that consumers should know the alleged health benefits of your product without an explicit statement.

Broadly there’s two categories of CBD projects:

  • First, there’s the beverage creators who want to blend CBD into an existing consumer-accepted profile; in other words, mask the flavor, but market the CBD.
  • On the other hand, there are others who wish to focus on the CBD completely. This often involves packing in as much CBD as possible and playing up its bitterness.

 

2. What kind of CBD do you want to use?

The type of CBD you use will be important for your desired functionality and for creating the flavor profile you envision. For beverage application, you can generally choose between a full-spectrum or an isolate. Of course, each will have implications for flavor and shelf-life that you’ll need to consider (but more on that later).

To provide a little context, cannabidiol or CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid found in hemp plants from which CBD is cultivated. Also found in hemp are terpenes, organic compounds responsible for specific aroma and flavor characteristics. Full-spectrum CBD contains cannabinoids other than CBD, like CBG and CBA, as well as terpenes such as myrcene and pinene. Returning once again to the question of the health benefits of CBD, the full-spectrum version is sometimes preferred because no one can really pinpoint which cannabinoid and terpene molecules are responsible for which specific health properties.

Another cannabinoid that sometimes comes with full-spectrum CBD is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is the chemical responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. It’s hard to get a full-spectrum CBD without some THC in it, so there are a few extra steps that your beverage development team will need to go through to ensure the amount falls below the legal limit.

For shipping the federal limit is 0.3%. Of course, the rules could change at any time and they are different across local, state, and country lines. These persisting inconsistencies in the rules and regulations regarding CBD products is exactly why some drink creators prefer to avoid THC altogether, requesting that it be removed completely from their finished product.

But keeping a little bit of the THC is important for some. This is due to the belief that the presence of THC enhances the CBD through a theory called “The Entourage Effect.” Some research suggests that a full-spectrum CBD with THC, along with other cannabinoids and terpene molecules, provides a more complete version of the ingredient that allows consumers to experience the full health benefits of the compound. This synergy is also why some consumers see full-spectrum CBD as a more natural, organic, and unadulterated version of of CBD.

Another option is a CBD isolate which, as the name suggests, simply contains the CBD molecule. There are no other cannabinoids present, including THC.

What does this mean for beverage development? Well, because full-spectrum CBD has additional terpenes in it, the predominating flavor can be more bitter and less readily water-soluble than the cleaner isolate. With a full-spectrum version, there may be more work to be done to mask unpalatable flavors and ensure an even distribution to prevent quality problems such as hotspots, clouding, or ring formation.

 

3. Where do you plan to source your CBD?

This is another key factor for creating a CBD drink, because the characteristics of your source material can pose added challenges to the development process, regardless of whether you choose a full-spectrum (without THC) or as an isolate version.

CBD is a hydrophobic substance, meaning it does not like water. Beverage application can be an issue if you are not using a solubilized CBD. Technically, any CBD source can be solubilized, but there are different methods for doing so, and not all processes are going to be applicable to all beverage types. For example, high heat processes may negatively effect CBD emulsions, which may result in quality issues such as uneven distributions, ringing, fallout, and hotspots.

So how do you know which supplier to choose?

Vetting sources is important, but much of this discovery is going to happen in the initial research and development process during formulation. When you work with a partner like Flavorman, you have multiple options: we can work directly with your CBD supplier to solubilize your source or we can provide you with our in-house solution, SoluCan BD. Our SoluCan BD product was designed specifically for beverage application. It is offered as a full-spectrum CBD or isolate that is water-soluble and completely customizable. We can adjust the CBD dose per your specifications and ensure it is uniformly dispersed in your drink. When clients choose to use SoluCan BD, our beverage developers can focus on refining other aspects of your beverage, leaving you free to concentrate on mapping out your route to market.

 

4. How much CBD will your drink have in 1 serving?

Standard ranges fall anywhere between 5mg to 25mg, although some products on the market have doses that can be much higher. When you have a high concentration of CBD in your drink, two things happen: you make it increasingly bitter and decrease its solubility. Not only can this compromise the consistency of your beverage, but it can also make it difficult for your consumer to enjoy.

For example, 25mg of CBD in a 2oz shooter is going to taste significantly more bitter than 25mg in an 8oz can. The more water, flavors, and other ingredients you can introduce to a single serving of your CBD drink, the better it will taste and the more shelf-stable it will be.

 

5. How do you plan to package your CBD?

Finished CBD shelf-life studies are sparse, and even less so for CBD drinks specifically. Flavorman has processes in place to try to stay one step ahead of that data so we can inform our clients as soon as possible of any potential risks that arise. One such risk, for example, involves packaging.

For example, we have seen reports of CBD adhering to certain packaging; however, most of the research available is also inconsistent and ultimately inconclusive. Essentially, no one has developed a universal method for testing these products.

When creating your CBD drink, be sure to consult with your beverage development partner to determine the best packaging solution for your unique product and process. Please note that whatever packaging solution you choose is going to have further implications for your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), co-packer selection, and more.

 6. What regulations will impact your business?

Yes, this is a loaded question: it’s no secret that there are very real concerns over confusion surrounding CBD regulations and how that impacts the beverage industry.

There are a range of production, distribution, and other regulatory challenges to consider, especially because many of the existing rules haven’t been established consistently across local, state, and country lines – and because they can change so quickly.

Across the board, the answers for CBD aren’t clear, so there is a lot of risk involved in entering this category; however, Flavorman is consistently monitoring updates.

We’ve compiled a few best practices below that will help you prepare for some of these challenges, but it will be important for you to do your own research and know your market if you choose to move forward with a CBD drink:

Tip #1: Remember that you’re creating a consumable product!

For a start, you should ensure that your CBD supplier complies with the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations because you are using an ingredient that will be put into what is considered a “conventional food product.” At minimum, if your supplier is not an FDA-licensed food manufacturer, that should be a big red flag for you.

Tip #2: It’s not safe to be a copycat.

Again, there’s no clear guidelines for how CBD drink products should be labeled and there’s no indication that what is on the market currently is correct or acceptable. Keep this in mind as you conduct your market research and begin to put your drink concept together.

Tip #3: Research your co-packing options.

Another limitation for CBD drink projects is that there are few co-packers that work with CBD nationwide. They can be expensive, and they may push for higher production volumes. Flavorman can assist you with finding the right co-packing partner for your product, but it is always a good idea to research your options.

Tip #4: Do not produce a finished CBD drink until you have established some sales and distribution points.

This is a general rule of thumb, but with CBD it can be more difficult. The conventional places that would sell or distribute your product may not be comfortable taking the added risks associated with CBD – expensive insurance, cash operations, and regulatory uncertainty, to name a few possibilities.

Tip #5: Find the right partners.

Flavorman is the expert in custom beverage development, so while we have been committed to remaining on the forefront of CBD in terms of formulating it for beverage application, we don’t pretend to know what the CBD regulations are going to be for your state, locality, or country.

With that being said, we are confident in our understanding of how CBD is going to behave in solution. We know what the flavor implications are, and we can guide you toward choosing the right ingredients for making a tasty, high-quality beverage. And we are confident we can connect you to resources (specialists, attorneys, etc.) that can help you in areas of the process that extend beyond our technical expertise.

Because Flavorman is committed to client success, we’ve made it our mission to educate them on the beverage development process in its entirety, so they are set up for success even after we’ve delivered their custom drink formulation. From start through finish®, that’s the Flavorman promise.

Tip #6: Where there are risks, there is also reward.

Yes, there are challenges ahead, but don’t be discouraged! CBD is an exciting landscape. Even as lawmakers scramble to establish regulatory guidelines, we’re already seeing a spike in CBD beverages of all kinds with no signs of slowing down. With the right partners, some market research, a tasty drink, and a little luck, it can be rewarding for you too.

When you’re ready to talk about your idea for a breakthrough CBD beverage, give us a call at (502) 383-9953 or get started with our web form, here.

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Written on February 26, 2020.