Infused Beverages on the Rise in Europe

By Calin Coman-Enescu, Regional Director, Europe, New Frontier Data

For the past few years, consumers have moved towards edibles and value-added products in North America and, now, in Europe. The segment includes more than gummies and food supplements; now CBD beverages are starting to represent a large part of the market demand.

CBD can be added to virtually any drink imaginable — including coffee, tea, wine, beer, soda and plain water, too. The catch is that cannabinoids are lipophilic molecules, meaning that they are oil/fat based and do not dissolve in water. Anyone who has seen water and cooking oil struggle to mix will understand the problematic dynamic.  Pharmaceutical and supplement companies have developed various methods to allow the bodily absorption of oil-based compounds. Some of these methods are well-known in the industry, including micro and macro emulsions, nano emulsions, and liposomes. Several companies have begun specializing in providing emulsions to facilitate this, with SoRSE Tech being one of the market leaders in the space to date as they expand their European presence.

The CBD trend is growing in tandem with the increased demand for healthy food and drinks, and though not medical by any means, CBD beverages are still considered wellness products which consumers are gravitating towards.

In the UK, though some larger food and drink companies have shown interest in providing CBD products, the domain is primarily dominated by startups in the sector. Much like nonalcoholic wines and nosecco, smaller players are leading the charge in the new space. In the UK, much like the rest of Europe, novel foods regulations remain a huge hurdle. Regardless, small players have been undeterred. The novel food regulations do allow for the use of cold-pressed, broad-spectrum cannabis oil extracts in products.

Green Monkey was the first on the scene with a carbonated CBD drink, and Marley Mellow has infused tea, while Humphrey’s offers infused fruit juices. Meanwhile, Love Hemp launched the first infused spring water in Europe, albeit providing a 2 mg, microdose per bottle. Botanic Lab’s Dutch Courage CBD drinks are now also in store at regular supermarkets such including Waitrose, Co-op and Whole Foods in the UK, squeezing past novel foods using the cold-pressed extract exception.

Across the Channel in the Netherlands, Tranz has seemingly found a way to bypass EU regulations on CBD-infused beverages. By making use of pharma-grade cannabis oil (the regulations for which are more nuanced and allow more freedom to explore product formulations), Tranz was able  to bring its product to market under the same rules as GW Pharmaceuticals’ introduction of Epidyolex. Few have followed suit as yet, but the loophole might be a game changer as the market continues to grow.

Similarly, the Swiss have their own regulatory twist, and subsequent home-grown startups in CBD drinks. Hempfy has a line of premium cannabis tonics. Though not including CBD, they contain a range of terpenes and phytocannabinoids with the aim of familiarizing the mainstream market with cannabis products.

All in all, though the market remains nascent and while some countries like Germany maintain bans on CBD products, others are seeing the market picking up pace, with companies flourishing in the early returns.