The cannabis market continues to show its staying power in the United States. Reports show cannabis product sales will hit $42 billion in 2026, with edibles, including THC and CBD food and beverage-infused drinks, projected to hit $5.7 billion in sales by 2024. The market is buzzing with potential opportunities for these drinks due to their functionality, fast-acting properties and convenience for consumers.
Cannabis-infused beverages are an excellent option for consumers interested in non-alcoholic drink options or a smoke-free alternative to experience the benefits of CBD or THC. Keep reading to learn the types of CBD and THC beverages and the benefits of entering this growing market.
Types of CBD and THC Beverages
Cannabis-infused beverages typically fall into two groups — those with high amounts of THC, the psychoactive cannabis compound, and products with low THC and high CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. Unlike high-THC products that are largely restricted to licensed dispensaries in a legal jurisdiction, CBD beverages are available in many retail spots, like grocery stores and mass merchandisers, with several new and large beverage-maker companies taking advantage of the opportunity.
As more informed consumers seek new CBD formats, CBD-infused beverages are growing across categories and customer segments. According to Neilsen, the top five growing segments to watch within CBD beverage trends are sparkling water and seltzer water, soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy beverages and liquid tea.
Combining CBD and THC beverage ingredients with minor cannabinoids is also popular. These drinks tout benefits like pain relief, relaxation, reduced anxiety, sleep improvement, and general health and wellness.
The functionality of these cannabis-infused beverages helps new entrants stand out in the CBD marketplace. For instance, lavender and chamomile tea can be combined with CBD beverage ingredients to target those hoping for a relaxing experience. At the same time, other companies might pair electrolytes with CBD beverage ingredients for a post-workout recovery drink or coffee and CBD for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Companies Entering the CBD and THC Drink Market
With new technology allowing companies to mix CBD and THC into various beverages, drink makers are taking advantage of the opportunity to craft something for people who aren't interested in smoking cannabis or drinking alcohol due to health or social reasons. CBD and THC-infused beverages are popping up in more places, with major drink retailers already entering the market, such as:
- Pabst Blue Ribbon began distributing its non-alcoholic THC drinks in 2020, selling pineapple, strawberry, mango and lemon seltzers.
- Ocean Spray Cranberries launched a line of CBD-infused sparkling waters in 2020 — blueberry Relax with 20 milligrams of CBD and grapefruit Recover with 10 milligrams of CBD.
- Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of New York began distributing a hemp-infused seltzer to major grocery stores and natural food markets in the New York City area in 2020.
Why Are THC and CBD Beverage Ingredients in High Demand?
There are many reasons companies are investing in the CBD and THC drink market. THC and CBD beverage ingredients appeal to a broad consumer demographic with their fast-acting properties, portability, range of flavors and science-backed health benefits.
Some of the key advantages of entering the CBD and THC beverage market include the following:
1. Plenty of Drink Combination Opportunities
The CBD edible space has grown to include plant-derived functional ingredients in CBD beverages that appeal to specific consumer demographics and stand out among the competition. Instead of focusing on CBD-only drinks, the industry has shifted to combining it with plant-derived functional ingredients, such as:
- Mushroom extracts, such as reishi and lion's mane
Beverage makers have been turning to many categories to implement these ingredients' benefits, whether in tea, coffee or seltzer form.
2. Improving Taste Profiles
CBD-infused drinks often get a bad rap for their earthy taste and chalky texture, but formulation teams have made great strides in improving the taste and texture of CBD beverages.
THC drinks continue to have lower THC dosages to provide a more desirable flavor profile, with many people enjoying them like they would an alcoholic beverage. Selecting the appropriate CBD for the specific type of beverage is essential. Because CBD isolate is flavorless and odorless, it can be easily added to drinks without affecting the flavor.
Companies can also achieve a better taste profile with specific flavors, sweetener enhancers, bitter masking ingredients and other strategies to counteract the flavor challenges posed by working with CBD and THC's natural taste. Terpenes, found in hemp, can also be used to enhance flavor:
- Myrcene is a terpene often used in cannabis strains for its earthy, musky aroma. It's also used in CBD-infused beverages to improve taste and smell.
- Limonene is a citrusy terpene used in CBD-infused beverages to add a refreshing flavor.
- Pinene is a piney terpene used in CBD-infused beverages to add a woodsy flavor.
- Caryophyllene is a peppery terpene used in CBD-infused beverages to add a spicy flavor.
Companies have created CBD beverages that taste like ciders, teas and even cappuccinos. They've also been able to develop unflavored versions to appeal to all consumers.
3. Faster Onset Time Than Edibles
CBD and THC drinks have a faster onset time and higher bioavailability of ingredients, making them desirable among consumers and beverage-makers. New technology allows essential cannabis extracts to be converted into a soluble, fast-acting liquid, which is vital for beverages with specific functionalities.
The fast-acting qualities create a predictable and consistent experience for consumers. Rather than waiting 30 to 45 minutes for an edible to work, THC liquid products affect consumers within 10 to 15 minutes. They also create a shorter, milder high compared to other cannabis edibles, which can induce an extensive psychotropic experience.
The feelings from drinking CBD and THC beverages are experienced at a similar length to those from drinking beer, which can help appeal to broader demographics.
4. Functionality and Convenience
Since cannabis-infused beverages come in portable consumption forms, they're convenient and easy for consumers to purchase and take on the go. This convenience can significantly benefit many consumers, including those who don't want the smell associated with smoking cannabis or those hoping for a non-alcoholic drink option with pleasurable effects.
Consumers can also choose from several functional options, from mood enhancement to reduced anxiety. The functionality of these drinks can help them appeal to a broader audience, which is likely why CBD and THC beverage ingredients are growing increasingly popular for both new entrants and larger brands.
5. The Benefits Are Science-Backed
Another reason for the popularity of CBD and THC beverage ingredients is their science-backed benefits like mood enhancement, stress relief and sleep support. Consumers often turn to CBD oils for increased function, immune support, gut health and other physical and mental benefits. Today, popularity is shifting from CBD oils to other edible forms, like drinks and gummies.
While research is still growing, these studies point to several health benefits of CBD ingredients that make them increasingly popular among consumers.
Collaborate With BevSource on Your CBD Beverages
The market for THC and CBD beverage ingredients will only continue to expand in the coming years. When you're ready to take advantage of this expanding industry, collaborate with the drink formulation experts at BevSource.
Since 2002, both new and established brands have turned to us for sourcing, development and custom solutions. With our innovation, procurement and operational expertise, we'll help you turn your idea into a reality. We can take your product to market efficiently and profitably while you focus on building your brand.
To learn more, get in touch with a beverage development specialist today!