A Problem Looming Over the Cannabis Edibles Market
The boom in legal cannabis has been absolutely historic.
According to ArcView Research, it’s already a multi-billion dollar industry – and by 2022, the legal market could be worth $32 billion globally.
As in any nascent industry, the early days of cannabis have been exciting and formative. As it begins to mature, it’ll become clearer what products will drive future growth.
In this context, cannabis edibles and beverages have taken center stage – and today’s infographic from Trait Biosciences outlines the magnitude of this opportunity, along with some of the challenges the market faces going forward.
The Rise of Edibles
From dark chocolate to CBD-infused beverages, the cannabis edibles market is one of the most diverse and exciting markets for both consumers and businesses.
Edibles and beverages have already more than doubled in their share of the overall cannabis market since 2011, and the market is expected to grow in size from $1 billion to $4.1 billion between the years 2017 and 2022.
This year, the Specialty Food Association even named cannabis edibles and beverages as a “Food Trend of the Year” – a nod to the fact that edibles are going mainstream, even within the scope of the much larger food and beverages industry.
Not surprisingly, as this category emerges, there are many big brands exploring options in the edibles market, including Constellation Brands, Molson Coors, Mondelez, Carl’s Jr, Anheuser Busch, Neal Brothers, and Coca-Cola. In particular, the beverages space seems to be hot: Constellation shelled out $4 billion for a stake in the largest cannabis company globally (Canopy Growth), and beer-maker Anheuser Busch partnered with Tilray to research THC and CBD drinks.
There are four major sources of risk that could impact future growth potential for companies in the fast-moving cannabis edibles market:
- Regulatory risks:
Regulators are becoming increasingly concerned about the dosage, packaging, and labeling of edibles products
- Stiff competition:
Mega brands are entering the edibles space at a blistering pace, and could dominate market share from newer entrants
Complex layers of taxation could decrease demand for edibles, such as in California, while also pushing consumers towards the black market
- Consumer concerns:
Unpredictable dosage amounts, taste, and even toxins have surfaced as issues with the media, as consumers voice their concerns with edible products
But above and beyond these known risks, there is another potential hindrance to the edibles and beverages market that flies under the radar: how cannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream when ingested.
The Journey Into the Bloodstream
Unlike substances like sugar or alcohol, cannabinoids are not soluble in water. Instead, they are soluble in fats.
A substance such as sugar can enter the bloodstream within 10-15 minutes of ingesting. On the other hand, fat soluble substances such as cannabinoids have to wait – which is why sometimes edibles take hours to kick in.
Ultimately, cannabinoids are absorbed through the body’s fat. This happens in the small intestines, which help distribute them to the rest of the body.
Implications for Edibles and Beverages
For some cannabis producers, fat-solubility just means slow onset times and a generally undesirable taste. For other products, like CBD beverages, it creates bigger problems. Water and oil simply don’t mix.
To get around this, producers are using special emulsion techniques to make oil particles smaller, so that they mix with water better, increase bioavailability, and speed up onset times.
Think of this as mixing oil and vinegar. It’s your common emulsion that will separate over time, since oil and water don’t mix
Stable but thermodynamically unstable. Uses surfactants to keep water/oil binded
Stable, but uses a higher concentration of surfactants (which lower the surface tension between two liquids)
While these techniques are seeing increased usage by producers of cannabis products, they do have their own set of limitations.
Oil and water solutions still unbind over time, and products may only have a limited shelflife. Reporting by WSJ has found that these beverages also have a questionable aftertaste for many consumers, and onset times of these products are still not as fast as smoking or vaping.
It’s also worth noting that various health regulators, scientific journals, and international organizations have raised concerns about using nano-sized particles in food and beverages.
For example, the Canadian government warns that there is a “causal relationship between nanoparticle exposure and adverse health effects”, while the respected scientific journal Nature warns that nanoparticles “may behave differently within the human body”, and that “safety of nanoparticles should be judged on a case-by-case basis”.
The cannabis edibles market is poised to be the next big thing – but when it comes to how these cannabinoids get absorbed by the body, there is still much work to be done.
How will the industry and consumers move forward to capitalize on growing opportunities in the edibles and beverages market?
The Big Pharma Takeover of Medical Cannabis
The Big Pharma industry is entering the cannabis space, by swapping patients for patents. But what are the impacts of such a takeover?
The Big Pharma Takeover of Medical Cannabis
As evidence of cannabis’ many benefits mounts, so does the interest from the global pharmaceutical industry, known as Big Pharma. The entrance of such behemoths will radically transform the cannabis industry—once heavily stigmatized, it is now a potentially game-changing source of growth for countless companies.
Today’s infographic comes to us from CB2 Insights, and explores how and why the notorious Big Pharma are interested in the nascent cannabis industry.
Who are “Big Pharma”?
The term refers to some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, considered especially influential as a group. To give a sense of their sheer size, the market cap of the top 10 Big Pharma companies is $1.7 trillion—Johnson & Johnson being the largest, with a market capitalization of $374 billion.
So far, Big Pharma has watched the cannabis industry from the sidelines, deterred by regulatory concerns. What we are seeing now is the sleeping giant’s takeover slowly intensifying as more patents, partnerships, and sponsored clinical trials come to fruition.
Could Cannabis be Sold Over the Counter?
The cannabis plant has been used in medicine for 6,000 years. However, there is still considerable debate around the role it plays in healthcare today. There are currently almost 400 active and completed clinical trials worldwide surrounding cannabidiol (CBD), a type of cannabinoid that makes up 40% of the cannabis plant’s extract.
Cannabis relies on CBD’s therapeutic properties, and recent studies suggest it may be useful in combating a variety of health conditions, such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cancer side effects
As of 2019, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use. Its potential for pain management has led some experts to recommend it as an alternative to addictive painkillers, with one study of 13 states showing opiate-related deaths decreasing by over 33% in the six years since medical cannabis was legalized.
As the industry evolves, data is becoming increasingly important in understanding the potential of cannabis—both as a viable medical treatment, and as a recreational product. The shift away from anecdotal evidence towards big data will inform future policies, and give rise to a new era of consumer education.
Big Pharma’s Foray into Cannabis
Further legalization of cannabis will challenge Big Pharma’s bottom line, and poach more than $4 billion from pharma sales annually. In fact, medical cannabis sales are projected to reach $5.9 billion in 2019, from an estimated 24 million patients.
Seven of Canada’s top 10 cannabis patent holders are major multinational pharmaceutical companies, a trend that is not unique to Canada.
|Company Rank||🇨🇦 Canadian Patents||Company Rank||🇺🇸 U.S. Patents|
|1. Novartis||21||1. Abbvie||59|
|2. Pfizer||14||2. Sanofie||39|
|3. GW Pharmaceuticals||13||3. Merck||35|
|4. Ericsson||13||4. Bristol-Myers Squibb||34|
|5. Merck||11||5. GW Pharmaceuticals||28|
|6. Solvay Pharmaceuticals||7||6. Pfizer||25|
|7. Kao Corporation||7||7. Hebrew University of Jerusalem||19|
|8. Ogeda SA||7||8. Roche||17|
|9. Sanofi||6||9. University of Connecticut||16|
|10. University of Connecticut||6||10. U.S. Health and Human Services||13|
It comes as no surprise that many pharmaceutical giants have already formed strong partnerships with cannabis companies, such as Novartis and Tilray, who will develop and distribute medical cannabis together in legal jurisdictions around the world.
Data is the Missing Link
While the body of knowledge about the many uses of cannabis continue to grow, clinical evidence is key for widespread adoption.
Products backed by data will be a defining criteria for major companies to come into the market en masse. And ultimately, Big Pharma’s entry could accelerate public understanding and confidence in cannabis as a viable option for a range of ailments, and mark the next major milestone for the industry.
Visualizing the Boom in the CBD Beverage Market
CBD-infused beverages are considered to be the fastest growing segment in the overall cannabis market. How did this partnership of brews and bud come to be?
Visualizing the Boom in the CBD Beverage Market
It’s safe to say that the cascade of cannabis legislation has sent the world into a constant state of flux. We are witnessing a seismic shift in culture, as cannabis steps out of the black market and into unexpected industries—from big pharma, to beauty, and now to beverages.
According to Zenith Global, the U.S. CBD-infused drinks market will reach an estimated $1.4 billion by 2023, making it one of the fastest-growing segments in the overall industry.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Trait Biosciences, and outlines the magnitude of the CBD-infused beverage segment, along with some of the subsequent challenges and opportunities that will shape the future of cannabis.
CBD and its Benefits
CBD is an abbreviated term for cannabidiol, a type of cannabinoid that makes up 40% of a cannabis plant’s extract. It has become increasingly popular for relieving pain, promoting relaxation, and lifting mood without the psychoactive properties that come with THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the other major cannabinoid.
Recent studies suggest that CBD’s properties may be useful in combating a variety of health conditions such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, migraines, arthritis, and even side effects of cancer.
The New Wave of Beverages
CBD-infused beverages will open the floodgates to new audiences who want to consume cannabis in different formats. They have many benefits, that will rival other methods of ingestion:
- Easy to Administer
Beverages are seen as the healthier way to consume CBD, especially compared to smoking.
- More Accessible
They are becoming more easily available in restaurants, bars, supermarkets, and online sites.
There is some evidence to suggest that CBD in caffeinated products can curtail the feeling of being on “edge”.
- Higher Precision
Dosage is controlled and, much like alcohol, consumers will be able to determine how much CBD content they want.
Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic product categories are currently being explored, resulting in some unexpected partnerships, such as Molson Coors—the world’s seventh largest brewer—and Hexo Corp, a Canadian cannabis product company.
Trends Shaping the Future of CBD Beverages
The CBD product landscape is constantly evolving. Demand for CBD-infused beverages will be fueled by three key trends.
- Changing Consumer Preferences: The decline of alcohol sales globally is evidence of changing consumer tastes. Sales are expected to fall further as more people exchange alcohol for cannabis products.
- Product Innovation: Sustainable packaging, transparency around ingredients, more convenient ready-to-drink solutions, and personalized strains are driving the furious pace of product innovation.
- Big Players and Influencers: Growing knowledge and increasing brand/celebrity endorsements are creating an established CBD industry in mainstream culture. Already, singer Willie Nelson and former NFL star Terrell Davis have put their names to two seperate lines of CBD-infused beverages.
As these trends evolve, consumers will benefit from more education around CBD, which could lead to more CBD products, like beverages, entering the mainstream across numerous industries.
What’s Next for the CBD-infused Beverage Market?
CBD purity is a primary focus area of current scientific studies. For consumers, more transparency is needed around ingredients, dosage levels, and product labeling. For example, the state of Indiana now mandates that manufacturers must label CBD products with QR codes that can be scanned to show whether they contain acceptable levels of THC, CBD, pesticides, and other compounds.
Most notably, new methods of CBD infusion will transform the beverages market. Many industry players have used nano-emulsion to infuse CBD. However, these fat-based nanoparticles have been known to accumulate in organs, causing health concerns. That’s why creating water-soluble CBD has been an emerging industry priority.
CBD-infused beverages are poised to become the next big thing and create massive economic growth—despite strict industry regulations. Scientific advancements and changing laws will unlock the potential of the CBD market, potentially disrupting the entire beverage industry.
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