Starbucks Might be the First Major Chain to Launch CBD-Infused Drinks

American coffee company and coffeehouse chain Starbucks is poised to become the first fast-food chain to offer CBD-infused beverages, or at least that is what analysts from Cowen think. However, customers may have to wait a while before they can order CBD-laced frappes and lattes.

The firm released a 100-page analysis on the CBD market on Monday, Yahoo Finance reports. According to the team’s estimate, cannabis products, specifically CBD, will conservatively generate over $16 billion in retail sales by 2025.

Cowen’s senior research analyst Vivien Azier cited an increase in Google search trends and a four-fold increase of hemp product sales on Amazon over the past 6 years. In addition, based on the firm’s proprietary consumer survey last January, about 7% of respondents use CBD as a supplement.

“This strong consumer interest is validated by the growing number of brands and form factors that are now available through increasingly diverse retail channels, including Amazon, Sephora, and Neiman Marcus,” Azer added.

Although adding CBD to food and beverages has become a trend, it prompted regulators in several states to halt CBD as an additive. For instance, the local health department in New York ordered restaurants and bars to stop selling food and beverages with CBD. Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of FDA, said the agency is still finding ways to legalize the sale of FDA in food and beverages.

“Should the regulation of CBD oil as an additive to food/beverage change or craft/independent coffee shops find a way to comply with the existing regulation, we could envision Starbucks ultimately piloting the ingredient,” Andrew Charles, an analyst from Cowen, said.

So what does Starbucks has to say about this?

Speaking with a reporter from CNBC last month, Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson said: “right now, that’s not on the roadmap.” However, he clarified that the company is pretty much aware of all the trends in the CBD and TBH industries.

“We will always stay on top of consumer trends and new ideas,” Johnson said. “I think there are a lot of issues that we’d have to think through on that.”

Johnson admitted that in case the company decides to push through with the CBD-infused beverage, they have to conquer a number of hurdles. He noted the importance of better understanding the science behind the ingredient first. Starbucks also need to carry out a standard evaluation to determine supply chain availability and whether or not it can meet the chain’s high speed of service standards.

Forbes noted that Starbucks is known for offering a consistent menu in all its stores globally. Since CBD is still in its infancy, the chain would most likely face roadblocks like nationwide rollout. It would not only confuse consumers but also complicate things from Starbucks’ menu standpoint. 

In the survey mentioned earlier, 44% of the respondents used CBD as an injection through tinctures. Topicals came in second at 26%, capsules 22%, and beverages 19%.

Nevertheless, if you really want to infuse some CBD oil in your coffee, you still can. Tinctures are currently available on the market, and a lot of brands are offering it. You can simply pour the required drops to your cup-of-joe, and voila, you have yourself a CBD-infused coffee. Interestingly, CBD-infused coffee beans are also up for grabs. For instance, Willie’s Remedy Whole Bean Coffee offers 7mg of hemp-derived CBD for every 8-ounce cup of coffee.

Other than beverages, CBD comes in different forms these days. CBD oil is now infused in gummies, vape juices, dab wax, hand lotions, vape pens, to name a few. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is also found in the cannabis plant, CBD will not give you a high. Also, CBD has already been legalized.  

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