There’s not a whole lot new that’s happened in coffee. Sure, Starbuck’s may debut a new kooky frappuccino flavor on the regular (s’mores?!). But in terms of actually changing coffee itself, not much new has come along since we all simultaneously discovered we loved cold brew.
Dave Briskie, President and CFO of wellness conglomerate Youngevity International (YGYI), thinks a new(ish) ingredient is promising to shake up the coffee game: CBD. Cannabidiol (CBD) is the non-hallucinogenic compound in cannabis which wellness influencers have been touting as the new miracle health supplement. It’s also been showing up in gummies, dog food, and a myriad of other food products.
Lately that a includes coffee, too. Maybe you’ve seen it as an add-on option in your local hipster coffee joint, or in a can of cold brew at a health store.
HempFX, a cannabidiol-focused subsidiary of YGYI, is about to release a cannabidiol-infused K-Cup. Each pod has 10mg of CBD isolate that’s water-soluble and, at least, according to Briskie, tasteless. Which is important since cannabidiol is naturally quite bitter. “At the end of the day it has to taste like coffee,” he told me. “I think we cracked the code on that.”
That’s a lot easier said than done. In fact, cannabidiol is notoriously tricky to add to beverages. In addition to its bitter taste, it’s also fat-soluble, so finding a way to add it to liquid is a challenge. That goes doubly when the CBD has to go from a sold (coffee grounds) to a liquid (brewed coffee). Even distribution is another hurdle. Companies want the CBD dosage to be as consistent and reliable as possible; ideally, your first sip of coffee has the exact same amount of cannabidiol as your last.
Briskie wouldn’t give away many details about their technology, but said that HempFX had found a way to make sure that all of CBD infused into the ground coffee ended up in the final cup of joe. This sort of transparency is especially important not only so the consumer knows exactly what they’re, well, consuming, but also for future FDA regulations.
As of now, CBD is not approved by the FDA as a food-safe additive, meaning it’s technically illegal to sell in food or beverage products. (Though the government body is having a hearing on the topic next month, so who knows?) HempFX is hoping to steer clear of any issues by avoiding the word CBD on any packaging. Instead, the company will go with the more FDA-friendly “hemp extract” when their coffee pods hit the market late in May. Hemp may still not be an FDA-approved food ingredient, but the term raises a lot fewer flags than straight-up “CBD.”
HempFX plans to initially sell online and then migrate into retailers. Briskie wouldn’t disclose exact pricing but told me it would be on the upper end of the coffee spectrum.
It may seem counter-intuitive to add CBD, a substance rumored to promote relaxation and anti-anxiety, with caffeine, which keeps us (or at least me) alert and running. But according to Briskie and others, CBD can temper the jittery, anxious effects of caffeine to leave you feeling focused and calm.
There isn’t any solid data to back this up, but that doesn’t mean the demand’s not there. Analysts at Canaccord Genuity project that the U.S. CBD beverage market will reach $260 million by 2022. At the same time, Americans are drinking more specialized coffee beverages (gourmet beans, cold brew, etc.) than ever before. It’s not a reach to predict that cannabinoid-infused specialty coffee will be a big trend, especially if CBD gains FDA approval and becomes fair game for Big Food companies like Coca-Cola and Starbuck’s.
HempFX is far from the only company adding CBD to their coffee beans or cold brew bottles. In addition to the ones listed here, there are several producers making CBD coffee pods, like Diamond CBD, Olala, and BrewBudz. Even Willie Nelson, the Red-Haired Stranger himself, has his own line of CBD coffee beans.
I haven’t tried cannabidiol in my coffee yet, but as someone who occasionally suffers from the jittery effects of over-caffeination, I’m definitely curious. Maybe eventually I’ll even be able to get CBD in my Starbuck’s S’mores Frappuccino.