Expo West 2019: Suja Exploring Launch of Hemp Extract Shot

Coke-backed beverage maker Suja is exploring launching a cannabidiol (CBD) product in the U.S.

The company shared samples of a 2 oz. organic juice shot that contains hemp extract at the Natural Products Expo West trade show held this week in Anaheim, Calif. The SKU, called Relax, is being deliberated as a potential new addition to Suja’s line of high pressure processed (HPP) cold-pressed juice shots introduced in July 2018. It contains chamomile, blue spirulina and 25 mg of hemp extract.

According to a spokesperson for the brand, the product is in an exploratory phase and not currently in production. Samples of Relax shared at Expo West may differ from the potential final release and contracts with suppliers have yet to be finalized, according to the spokesperson.

If authorized, however, the launch would represent the first major U.S. beverage company to enter the CBD-infused drink category.

Coke invested $90 million in Suja in 2015 at a reported $300 million valuation. The soda giant did not exercise an option to purchase the company last summer; Suja has been up for sale but has not yet found a buyer.

CBD has fast become one of the most talked about new functional ingredients in the food and beverage world since the passage of the latest Farm Bill, which legalized the cultivation and production of industrial hemp on a federal level. Industrial hemp is defined as any part of the hemp plant which contains less than 0.3 percent THC, which is the psychoactive component in cannabis.

Speaking with BevNET, Suja chief sales officer Nicole Vidaurreta said retail partners such as Costco encouraged the company to expand its shot offerings; the brand also shared another new flavor, Focus, which contains caffeine (60 mg) and L-theanine (120 mg) per 2 oz. serving.

While Suja and Coke haven’t yet crossed the breach into the hemp and CBD space, another widely distributed soda company, Reed’s Inc., introduced a CBD product at this year’s show: Reed’s Wellness Ginger Beer with Hemp Extract, available in Original and Zero Sugar varieties in 10 oz. slim cans. Multiple startups are also incorporating the ingredient.