As hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) continues to infuse itself within the beverage industry, the ingredient is becoming a source of inspiration for entrepreneurs looking to breakout.
In recent months companies including New Age Beverages, The Alkaline Water Company, Cuvée Coffee, Buddha Teas, Pervida, and Sprig have all announced CBD-based line extensions. New York-based functional beverage brand Dirty Lemon briefly dabbled in the space with its +cbd variety, but discontinued the line this month due to regulatory hurdles the ingredient faces.
But with talks of an upcoming Farm Bill in the U.S. potentially clearing a path for opening the market for CBD products, BevNET caught up with several new brands that have emerged who offer their own unique takes on the trend.
Founder George Yu will laughingly admit his brand’s mascot — a calm, smiling sloth — doesn’t quite match with the name of his functional beverage, Joybird Wellness.
The name, he said, is intended to invoke a “bright and uplifting feeling,” but while designing the logo none of the bird-related designs clicked. The sloth, he said, came about at first as a joke by his graphic designer, but later came to represent a welcoming character with a laid back lifestyle — a contrast to CBD products that utilize a more clinical aesthetic.
“He’s a chilled out sloth that was enjoying himself, he gets a lot of sleep, he likes to hangout, and that’s the overall feeling of CBD,” Yu said. “When we were sampling it to people they would say ‘I felt so chilled out, just hanging out and having a good time.’ And that was best communicated through a friendly sloth.”
According to Yu, he was determined to use high quality, full spectrum CBD sourced directly from the hemp plant to preserve the benefits of the plant itself. Joybird, available in Apple Cranberry, Mixed Berries, and Orange Tangerine varieties, retails for $7.95 per 12 oz. bottle.
To establish Joybird’s identity as a lifestyle brand, the month-old company has partnered with yoga instructors and artist collectives to build awareness. The company is currently focused on selling in health and wellness stores, Yu said.
“We’ve definitely found a lot of overlap between people who do yoga and CBD, the two lifestyles seem to overlap quite well,” Yu said. “But if you look at some of the adjacent active lifestyles out there we see CBD hitting a note with that audience as well.”
As the founder of Recess, Benjamin Witte is hoping to build on the dual momentum of sparkling water and CBD. The brand, which launched last month through ecommerce and in independent accounts in New York City, has quickly gathered media buzz and is making a play to go mainstream.
The brand, which promotes itself as an “antidote to modern times,” features a mix of adaptogens including full spectrum hemp extract, ginseng, l-theanine, and schisandra. The line features Blackberry Chai, Peach Ginger, and Pom Hibiscus varieties and retails for $4.49 per 12 oz. can. However, the brand is careful to not explicitly market itself as a CBD beverage, only citing hemp extract, in order to comply with federal regulations.
“I think CBD has been on the rise and has a bright future ahead because one of the macro issues of our time is people being stressed out, overstimulated, and searching for solutions to feel balanced,” Witte told BevNET. “Whether it’s the rise of medication apps, the rise of yoga, the rise of cannabis, the rise of Xanax, or the rise of people disconnecting from technology– these are all indicators that people are searching for daily practices and solutions to incorporate into their lives and take back control.”
Witte, whose background is in the tech industry previously serving as Head of Mobile at Adroll, said Recess is seeking to orient the brand around the use occasion of midday relaxation. The company is initially targeting offices, co-working spaces, fast casual restaurants, cafes, and natural grocery and bodegas in New York in order to reach an overworked demographic seeking relief and balance. Witte added that once the U.S. Farm Bill passes the brand will explore nationwide expansion.
While Witte sees the sparkling water boom as a ways for Recess to connect with consumers, the brand is also exploring additional products made with hemp extract, including powders.
“Consumers hire a brand to do a job,” Witte said. “I believe in marketing a solution and not the ingredient. Instead of being ingredient forward we’re brand forward and solution forward. What Recess is offering is a feeling, we call it being calm, cool, and collected. Balance and clarity, not tired not wired. It’s a state of mind that allows you to be productive and creative and your best self.”
Lumen Hemp Elixirs
While many startups are focused on getting in on the ground floor of CBD, Lumen Hemp Elixirs is looking to go “Beyond CBD.”
According to CEO Jacob Freepons, the pre-launch brand is producing juice shots made from cold-pressed organic hemp rather than a CBD extract and isolate. The 2 oz. shots include added adaptogens and Ayurvedic herbs to create a functional wellness brand which currently includes two varieties — Immune, made with turmeric, and Restore, made with ashwagandha.
“We’re highlighting the adaptogenic properties of hemp in its purest form,” Freepons told BevNET. “It’s a unique processing and a purity of the product that really ties us to the ethos that food is medicine. We believe that hemp is a superfood and we’re trying to push the narrative in that direction.”
Freepons, a cannabis industry veteran, said Lumen is not a CBD brand because the company doesn’t isolate the compound and extract into an oil but instead cold-presses the entire hemp plant/lead to capture found in the plant. The company partners directly with regenerative hemp farms. He also cited research arguing that “full spectrum plant extracts” are more efficacious than hemp oil or CBD itself. The line does not include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Lumen is currently available online via an IndieGoGo campaign, but Freepons said the company is very quickly looking to launch in specialty retailers in California in Q1 of 2019.
Colorado-based DRAM Apothecary launched in 2010 as a maker of cocktail bitters and syrups, and later of sparkling water and drinking vinegar. But now, working in the state that has been the birthplace for the American cannabis market, the company has added CBD to its expanding portfolio.
DRAM co-founder Shae Whitney told BevNET the company released CBD drops earlier this year, but this fall has added a CBD-infused sparkling water line as well. Similar to Recess, the flavors include added adaptogens, but with different ingredient profiles depending on the variety. The zero-calorie line includes a Lemongrass flavor made with eleuthero root and schisandra berry, and a Sweetgrass flavor made with ashwagandha, oatstraw, and skullcap. Each flavor contains 20 mg of CBD and retails for $3.99 per 12 oz. can.
Drawing on the brand’s experience in developing flavors for its other products, Whitney said DRAM is crafting flavor extracts in-house for the sparkling line, which she believes will set the line apart from other sparkling waters in the market.
“We weren’t sure if it was going to sell or if the market was ready for it, but it’s been pretty explosive for our business,” Whitney said. “I think that THC-based products have been around for so long now in Colorado, and of course CBD is kind of the new buzz word. But we’re seeing that people definitely feel more comfortable now with CBD-only products. For example, my entire family is Mormon and they’re buying and drinking our products, so I think the stigma around the cannabis plant has really changed.”
The line is currently available through ecommerce and at retailers in Colorado, but Whitney said he plans to take the line nationwide within the next six months.
“We’re seeing a lot of products coming onto the market that are just CBD extract and natural flavoring in sparkling water, and we really wanted to stay away from that,” she said. “It’s a drink that we’re really proud to be making.”