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Why CBD Is Not the Next Big Thing in Coffee

Updated: Jul 11, 2023



Coffee is now well-engrained in the Health and Wellness food and beverage segment. The connection is logical with the frequent addition of functional ingredients to coffee drinks and the cultural fit between coffee lovers and health-minded people. Coffee, after all, is still fuel in the minds of most consumers. It made its way into energy drinks and energy bars and was once colloquially referred to as 'high test", which is a direct reference to gasoline.


CBD, by contrast, is a derivative of cannabis and is often used to aid with ailments such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and pain. The various uses for CBD buy it a place in the functional category of health and wellness with a focus on mental health. The idea to put CBD in coffee is a natural progression as two powerful and popular ingredients with an overlapping customer base can't go wrong, or can they?


The friction between the pair is evidenced in the contention of their primary uses. Coffee is fuel for an active brain and body to become more clear, focused and productive. This is a big part of why it ends up in beverages aimed at athletes and overachievers looking to up their game. Meanwhile, CBD is for people looking to take a mental step off the merry-go-round and opt for a foggier, less defined day as they try to relax and potentially even sleep. If one of CBD's top uses is for helping with insomnia, then coffee will not be your preferred delivery method.


Companies like Strava CBD Coffee position their coffee as a sort of 'Blade'-of-coffee, showcasing the best attributes of both worlds. Blade, of course, is the half-human, half-vampire hybrid with all of the strengths of each species and none of their weaknesses. Most CBD coffee brands are playing the same tune. The only issue is that I have yet to find this true across the board. Caffeine and CBD affect everyone differently, and combining the two creatives is another factor that will elicit a different reaction depending on your body chemistry. The purpose of caffeine and CBD are in direct conflict with each other, and given the varying results and effects, it does not present as a 'home run' product.


The CBD industry has thrived since the 'Farm Bill' created a legal opening for non-psychoactive cannabis derivatives. The substance provides many significant benefits to those that need it; however, I find that they are different from the customer buying a can of cold brew or a protein latte. There is undoubtedly a market segment where coffee and CBD customers overlap; however, it is a niche rather than the untapped majority. Coffee and cannabis are both large enough industries that a niche can still employ a lot of people; it's just not going to dictate the direction of either sector.


Perhaps there is an undefined customer archetype that is the perfect fit for this product. Can we tap into that segment by devising just the right value proposition and application? Is the success of CBD coffee a matter of approach, or is it an intrinsic issue built into the dichotomy of the products?


 

Written by Jake Leonti, F+B Therapy

Mr. Leonti has worked in coffee for over twenty years with disciplines at every link of the value chain from barista to roasting, green grading and importing. Jake is the current Editor-in-Chief of Coffee Talk Magazine, columnist at Santé Magazine, member of the Roasters Guild and host of the Food and Beverage Therapy podcast

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