CBD alcohol dying fad despite ‘anti-anxiety’ benefits

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

A short high: CBD-infused alcohol unlikely to make a comeback said operators (Getty/ Sarah Pender)
A short high: CBD-infused alcohol unlikely to make a comeback said operators (Getty/ Sarah Pender)

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Cannabidiol (CBD)-infused alcohol is a dying craze unlikely to resurface due to the hesitation of larger companies and distrust of customers, said bar operators.

Products infused with CBD, an abundant chemical in the cannabis plant, soared in popularity over the past five years due to reported health benefits for anxiety, inflammation, and pain, with bars experimenting in mixing CBD and alcohol.

Co-founder of the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry Paul Birch in an April statement said: “The size of this cannabinoid sector is now impossible to ignore”, as the UK had become the world’s second largest consumer cannabinoids market after the US.

Owner of the Ladies and Gentleman bar in Highgate, North London, William Borrell compared CBD-infused alcohol’s effects to “when you step out of a sauna, and your core radiates warmth and you have a sense of wellbeing all over your body.”

Borrell, who created Dead Mans Fingers Rum which is now stocked across UK supermarkets, said while there was an initial “craze” about CBD as a “miracle product”, there was unlikely to be a growth in CBD alcohol production.

He said: “The people who have done it have done it in a way that means they own that space, but I don't think anybody else is going to do it.

“I don't think the bigger companies are going to be that brave or innovative to do it."

Dwindling customer confidence

The owner of Behind the Wall in Hackney, East London, Alex Harris said the industry “shot itself in the foot” with the large amount of “cowboy products” containing far less CBD content than advertised “damaging” the category.

According to Harris, the CBD-infused cocktails were “always the most popular thing” on the pre-Covid bar menu. He said: “We've always had the CBD content in our products that we profess to on the labels on the outside.

“Because it's not been a highly regulated industry, I think a lot of people saw it as a placebo drug, and something that didn't have very noticeable effects if you used it at very low doses.”

According to a 2019 YouGov poll, nearly half of all adults who had bought a CBD-based product were not confident that the products were labelled with correct information.

Furthermore, 48% of the population said they would be more likely to try CBD products if they could be certain they had been produced to tight regulatory standards.

For Harris, CBD-infused alcohol could only make a comeback in a future where all grades of marijuana were legalised. He said: “It’s the case of the government catching up with the market.”

A promising future?

Ben Hopkinson, the chief executive of Hop King, in the City of London, who launched a CBD Pale Ale in 2019 to unite “beer, skateboarding and the benefits of cannabis”, said: “We're not looking to revolutionise the industry, we’re just trying to create a product people enjoy.”

Hopkinson hoped the anxiety and inflammation reduction benefits of CBD would attract customers, and said “if everyone was drinking CBD pale ale up and down the country, I can rest assured there would be fewer fights on a Saturday night.”

Whilst Hopkinson was “cautiously optimistic” of a bright future for CBD beer, he said that “it’s always only going to be a niche beer”.

“It could be a gateway into opening up the field of CBD, and people can then go and find other ways to consume, whether it be vape, or tea, or oil,” said Hopkinson.

He added: “We're not trying to force it down people's throats, we're not trying to say everyone should be trying it.

“If you're open to learning a little bit more about CBD, then give it a go. If you don't want to, you don't have to.”

Jack Hibberd, the chief executive of Hop & Hemp which sells non-alcoholic CBD beers, said whilst there were “no real benefits” in mixing CBD and alcohol, the market for non-alcoholic CBD drinks would continue to expand as products such as CBD-gummies became more mainstream.

Hibberd said Hop & Hemp beers, launched in 2019, were popular and generated a “really strong repeat sale” from a core group who “come back and want to buy [the product] again and again because they use it every day.”

He said: “It’s a sector we see growing.”

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