Exploring the future for CBD in US dairy

July 14, 2021
5 min read

Despite the growing interest in CBD (Cannabidiol), the FDA’s current stance is that it is illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement. If officially allowed to innovate with CBD, brands need to be mindful of product positioning as many consumers will be looking to them for guidance. If federal regulations eventually relax, CBD can potentially offer various functional benefits in dairy. What do brands need to focus on in the meantime?

CBD has attracted a lot of interest

CBD is one of many cannabinoids (compounds) extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant. CBD, unlike THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), is non-psychoactive. It is believed to reduce anxiety and offer pain relief. In fact, in 2018, it was approved as a drug to treat two rare and severe forms of epilepsy in the US. These and other potential CBD properties have attracted a lot of attention in recent years, especially as consumers are increasingly adopting a more complex approach to health and wellbeing.

Consumers remain cautious regarding ingredients and product attributes

Mintel 2021 Food & Drink Trend, ‘Feed the Mind’ explores how consumers increasingly expect functional ingredients to be validated by scientific research.

Nearly two-thirds of US consumers claim that there is too much conflicting information about what constitutes a healthy diet. While two in five consumers agree that food and drinks with specific benefit claims usually deliver on what they promise, a similar number neither agree or disagree, showing the extent of uncertainty in this area. Only a quarter of US consumers think that food and drink products with CBD are safe, and only a fifth think they are trustworthy. This suggests that consumers will be eager to understand more about this ingredient’s safety, effectiveness and impact on overall health.

CBD’s path to application in food and drink is challenging

The overall usage of CBD in food and drink still faces a number of challenges, mainly from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In November 2019, the FDA issued a statement that CBD is not generally recognized as safe (GRAS). This means that CBD needs to go through a more formal approval in order to be added to food and drink products. At that time, the FDA also issued warning letters to 15 companies for selling various products containing CBD. In December 2020, five more warning letters were dispatched.

Currently, CBD is marked as an illegal ingredient in food and drink and cannot be labeled as a dietary supplement. One of the key reasons for CBD not being approved is the fact that it is used in a pharmaceutical drug for childhood epilepsy. So far, there have been no pharmaceutical-grade ingredients have been approved for food and drink application. This creates a real challenge for food and drink producers who might potentially consider using CBD in their products.

CBD-infused ice cream could be positioned as an evening snack

Ice cream is placed to be one of the first dairy categories to adopt CBD, as CBD-infused ice cream could be positioned as an evening snack with potential relaxation benefits. There have already been some small brands like Mellow Ice Cream (US), Heavenly Hash (US) and Space Cream (Canada) offering CBD-infused ice cream.

Mainstream brands have also looked to enter the market with CBD-infused products. In 2019, Ben & Jerry’s announced plans to launch CBD ice cream as soon as the FDA regulations allowing it is in place. However, currently, the FDA continues to stand by its decision that CBD is not a legal ingredient to be used in food and drink, in turn postponing the plans of key players to innovate in this area.

Milk is not an obvious starting point for CBD

Dairy milk in the US hasn’t seen any significant launches with CBD so far. It has been commented that dairy milk will not be the first in line to see new innovations containing CBD due to its intrinsic links with children’s nutrition and nurturing.

Moreover, Mintel’s research on wanted claims on milk shows that relaxation and other CBD-related attributes are not among the major ones consumers expect to see on their ideal milk.

CBD could further reinforce the health attributes of yogurt

During the pandemic, yogurt has gained more popularity in the US with two in five consumers saying they are eating more of it in comparison to the previous year, according to Mintel research on yogurt and yogurt drinks. Yogurt is well placed to meet consumer demands for healthy food. Over half of US consumers indicate that one of the main reasons to choose yogurt is that it ‘contains good stuff (eg calcium)’.

More than a quarter of US consumers who have used or are interested in trying hemp-derived CBD would be interested in yogurt with CBD, according to Mintel research on CBD in Food and Drink. Therefore, yogurt with CBD could potentially offer consumers a solution for the desire for healthy food with added benefits. However, even if the FDA approves the use of CBD, brands will still need to be cautious and remain strict with their claims concerning the ingredient’s attributes.

What we think

As consumers are increasingly exercising a more holistic approach to their health and wellbeing, ingredients such as CBD are gaining traction and interest. If the FDA were to approve the use of CBD in food and drink, there could be the opportunity to potentially offer consumers relaxation, pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties in dairy categories. However, brands would need to be transparent and provide consistent information and communication to win consumer trust. Moreover, the positioning of such products is key. CBD alone may not be enough to build a product that can cater to complex consumer needs. Pairing it with other known and established better-for-you ingredients can allow producers to create lifestyle brands.

Regina Maiseviciute
Regina Maiseviciute

Regina is a Global Food & Drink Analyst. As part of the analyst team she provides insights on product innovation, trends and packaging and market developments globally.

More from Mintel
  • Mintel Store
    Mintel Store
    Get smart fast with our exclusive market research reports, delivering the latest data, innovation, trends and strategic recommendations....
    View reports
  • Mintel Leap
    Mintel Leap is a revolutionary new AI-powered platform that will transform your research process....
    Book a demo
Subscribe to Mintel Spotlight
Related articles
May 21, 2024
Innovations in texture were a break-out trend from the Sweets & Snacks Expo 2024 hosted May 14-16 in Indianapolis, Indiana. From freeze-dried candy to melty baked goods, texture was a…
May 13, 2024
Who wants ice cream? Well, if we look at global ice cream consumption, the answer is: almost everyone! According to Mintel’s consumer research, nine in ten UK consumers enjoyed an…
May 10, 2024
As Indian consumers become increasingly health-conscious, the salty snacks market is undergoing a significant transformation. The traditional reliance on palm oil as a key ingredient in snacks is being questioned.

Download the Latest Market Intelligence