CBD Meets Food Service

You may have heard about the hottest food trend, CBD. Makes sense, given that CBD has made its debut in both the wellness and cosmetics industries, but now it’s creeping into any industry that will let it in. Knock-knock, food service!

This isn’t just talk though, it’s really happening. In March, two of the biggest pharmacy chains in the United States, CVS and Walgreens, announced their plans to begin selling CBD products. Even make-up store, Sephora, has begun promoting a CBD packed beauty routine.  Major stars have been endorsing it – professional golfer Bubba Watson recently announced his partnership with cbdMD, a company that produces products containing cannabidiol, and media personality Kim Kardashian West recently threw a CBD-themed baby shower . So, what’s it mean for those of us in the business of food?

It means, make room at the table for CBD, and keep an open mind.

Ben and Jerry’s sure is – the ice cream brand is getting in on the trend, as shown in a recent CBD related post on Instagram, hinting that they are ready to take their ice cream to a higher level, if you will. To be clear, they mention CBD infused ice cream, not THC infused ice cream.

Get this – according to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2019 Culinary Forecast, a solid barometer on current food trends, nearly 77 percent of the chefs ranked cannabis/CBD-infused drinks as the top food trend, while 76 percent of them named cannabis/CBD-infused food as the second most popular.

On CNBC‘s “Squawk on the Street”, Oreo-maker Mondelēz International’s CEO Dirk Van de Put predicted that CBD will hit the mainstream food market in the “not-so-far future.” You don’t say.  National fast food chain Carl’s Jr. recently offered their “Rocky Mountain High: CheeseBurger Delight,” topped with CBD-infused “Santa Fe Sauce” at a Denver location on April 20th, a nod to the unofficial cannabis holiday. And that’s the thing, were you thinking of Carl’s Jr. before that? No offense meant to the chain – but the point is this: An open mind on this food trend, might lead to less open tables at restaurants.

So if you’re ready and willing to add CBD to your menu, let’s cover the basics.

What exactly is CBD?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. While the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that CBD doesn’t cause the psychoactive effects that are characteristic of THC, CBD has been demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy in several clinical trials.  Some preliminary research even suggest that it can treat anything from pain to anxiety to inflammation.

Mostly, fans of CBD report a feeling of relaxation and well-being. We are in shock Taco Bell has not added a CBD taco to combat the other, well, “side effects” of its current offerings. A Consumer Reports survey of more than 4,000 Americans found that more than a quarter of people in the U.S. say they’ve tried CBD, and one out of 7 of those people said they use it every day.  CBD fans are everyone from millennials who use it to reduce stress and anxiety to baby boomers who more often report using it to help with joint pain.

It’s legal right?

Well… sort of. Currently, laws surrounding CBD are still developing.  While President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law in December, legalizing the production and marketing of CBD products made from hemp, current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations don’t allow CBD to be added to food or beverages.  CBD is an active ingredient in an FDA-approved drug and, under the FD&C Act, it’s illegal to introduce drug ingredients like these into the food supply, or to market them as dietary supplements.  Crackdowns from local health departments have occurred in major cities like New York City and Los Angeles. However, a public hearing at FDA headquarters on legalizing CBD in food and drinks is set to happen soon.

So while the FDA has yet to approve CBD for food consumption, it hasn’t stopped vendors from capitalizing on the craze. According to analysts at Brightfield Group, cannabis and CBD industries, the CBD market will be a $22 billion industry by 2022, it is clear that many believe the CBD hype.

Our take? Look, if you jump on every food trend you hear about, you’ll be selling fermented spicy CBD tacos from a truck made of compostable cardboard, and while that actually doesn’t sound so bad, it might be a good idea to consider your patrons, the kind you have, the kind you want to attract, and then, keep an eye on this trend and see if there is room on your menu for it.

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