The market for CBD-infused beverages is on the brink of explosion in the US as the drug fights for legalization state by state. Cannabis drinks have built a niche following through dispensaries in recreational states like Nevada and Colorado, but could be headed for expansion.
The recent introduction of the Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops sparkling water hints at an impending mainstream audience, and Stillwater Ingredients, a branch of Colorado-based Stillwater Foods, is working to make that easier for manufacturers. They first brought THC tea to market in a low dosage for those looking for the functional benefits of the drug, rather than just looking for a high.
CEO Justin Singer spoke to BeverageDaily about debuting standardized, water-soluble cannabinoids as an ingredient in the business-to-business manufactured foods marketplace.
“From a standpoint of where you can really go with the industry, I think functional foods and beverages built on non-psychoactives like CBD is the most interesting place where this can grow,” Singer said.
Stillwater Brands, a different branch of Stillwater Foods, has released THC products that it may bring over to the CBD-infused Ingredients side of the company. Ripple Dissolvable THC is its best-selling THC product found in 225 dispensaries in Colorado.
The Stillwater Ingredients CBD liquid concentrate form is primed for ready-to-drink beverage applications, the powdered format can work for either baking or drink mixes and the spray adhesion can be applied directly to ingredients like tea leaves.
All formats of the cannabinoids are water-soluble, which the body absorbs faster. According to Singer, the initial onset of Stillwater Ingredients products is 15 minutes after consumption with the max absorption after 45-60 minutes.
The solubility removes the guesswork that comes with traditional cannabis-infused edibles, like brownies and cookies. They typically rely on your digestion and can have unpredictable results based on the contents of your stomach.
Singer says the company is already working with big brands who are eager to be a part of this next big thing, but aren’t fully committed to the whole cannabis space.
“It needs to be in a product format that doesn’t require the consumer to self-identify as a drug user … When we launched our first product on the branded goods side it was a tea. It was beautiful because people already drink tea for functional reasons, and nobody thinks of drinking tea as an illicit activity. They were able to consume it and not change their identities to do so,” he said.
Because the drug isn’t fully legalized across the US, consumers have some reservations about the industry. Singer predicts these attitudes could shift dramatically in the next few years if the US nationally legalizes CBD.
“We actually believe that cannabinoids should live and have the potential to become a new category of functional ingredients alongside probiotics, electrolytes, etc. It’s sort of a natural fit there,” he said.