Editor’s Note: What’s this? A product review? On AFN, the leading source of funding news for the foodtech and agtech startup industry? I know; we’re moving out of our comfort zone and spreading our wings – or rather our tastebuds. But as consumer preferences and demands increasingly dominate how our food and drinks are grown, manufactured and sold, it makes sense for us to sample the cutting edge of consumer food products. Right? These trends could impact the supply chain and the work of our dear entrepreneurs. Oh and yes, it’s also fun.
So without further ado, here’s the first in our new series “What the Fork?” – a review of two CBD-infused beverages.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve started to roll my eyes a bit when I hear about a new CBD or hemp product. Our AFN inboxes have been overwhelmed with new product announcements in the past year and I’m afraid to say we’ve largely ignored them until we started What the Fork? (sorry!) Don’t get me wrong; I definitely see the appeal. A magic potion to take away the stress of the day? I’ve absolutely munched a CBD gummy on an occasion or two when I thought things might get stressful (e.g. a long car journey with a screaming toddler and a vomiting dog – don’t ask!) I’m never 100% sure if it’s really had an impact but more than anything, I’m allergic to hype. So when the Farm Bill passed late last year — more on that in a bit, but basically it legalized one of the main sources of CBD — and we saw an influx of new CBD products hit shelves with eye-watering price tags, I soon put the category, perhaps unfairly, into bubble territory. (Unfair when you see how much demand there is.)
Fast forward a few months, and the over-excitement seems to have waned… a bit. We’re getting fewer emails but importantly, there are some serious people getting into the space — check out my interview with Tariq Farid on Forbes here as one example. I’m also increasingly hearing scare stories about how some groups are sourcing their hemp (watch-out for an upcoming feature on this later). This has put new meaning onto the launch of new CBD products for me and so it was perhaps fortuitous timing for Good Day and UbU to reach out with offers of samples.
Explainer: What is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It’s an extract from the cannabis family of plants. The cannabis family includes both hemp and marijuana.
CBD is a nonintoxicating compound that can be derived from hemp and marijuana. It is known for its relaxing properties and many may recognize that as the calming offset to marijuana’s psychoactive effects.
UbU (pronounced you-be-you) sells “Sparkling Functional Tonics” containing antioxidants, prebiotics and electrolytes to support immune and digestive health. “All this without sugar, sweeteners or caffeine!” the PR wrote me. I was sent two flavors, Yuzu & Lotus Flower hemp tonic, and Citrus & Ginger.
The key ingredients are:
- 25mg of full-spectrum hemp CBD,
- baobab, a root that UbU says has six times more vitamin C than oranges and twice the iron of spinach as well as “an extremely high antioxidant profile, including selenium, vitamin A and related carotenoids, vitamins C and E, plus various phytochemicals”
- agave inulin, a “super fiber” from the cactus that also works as a prebiotic
Why 25mg of CBD? UbU says: “The bioavailability of CBD varies depending on the method of ingestion. We found that 25mg is the best amount when getting your daily dose of CBD through a beverage.”
As a Coke Zero addict (I know, I know), I was excited to try these as an alternative for my mid-day fizzy drink craving, as well as an alcohol alternative for the evening. My first thought was you can definitely taste the hemp! There’s a recognizable taste to the drink (sorry Mum) which is comforting although the Citrus and Ginger flavor did not taste great overall.
The Yuzu & Lotus Flower was actually pretty yummy but I’ve just drunk one at 3pm and I can’t stop yawning (perhaps coincidentally!), so maybe it’s not one for the workday. Tucking into one at the end of the day instead of a glass of wine made much more sense and I did actually notice the calming impact. BevNet got it right when they said “In the end, all four of these flavors taste like something combines a sparkling water and an herbal tea. They are good, but not to the point where we’d drink them for flavor alone.” I’d probably agree with their comments about the weak branding too.
Am I likely to stock the fridge with these at $7 a pop? Probably not. But if I see it on a menu somewhere when I’m trying to avoid alcohol, I might just order the Yuzu & Lotus Flower with a ton of ice and pretend it’s a G&T.
A short history of CBD
Cannabis has been cultivated throughout human history as a source of fiber, oil and food, and for its medicinal and intoxicating properties.
Selective breeding has produced cannabis plants for specific uses, including high-potency marijuana strains and hemp cultivars for fiber and seed production.
• In 1839, Irish physician and medical researcher William B. O’Shaughnessy, published a controversial study about cannabis’s therapeutic effects.
• In 1940, Roger Adams, a chemist from Harvard, was the first person to successfully extract CBD from the Cannabis sativa plant.
• In 1946, Dr. Walter S. Loewe confirmed CBD did not cause an altered mental state after testing on animals
• In the 1960s, the British Pharmacopoeia released the first CBD oil for therapeutic uses
• Technically illegal in all 50 US states until recently, the 2018 Agricultural Act was a boon to the industry after legalizing hemp production at the federal level, although some state regulations remain murky.
Sources: CBD Origin, various media
I think Good Day might have a new superfan. They sent me seven CBD-infused cold brews, beautifully packaged with awesome branding, and it’s exactly what I wanted for a workday boost in lieu of a Coke Zero or plain coffee. I discovered coffee later in life (thanks to my son!) and for that reason, it still makes me quite jittery. In fact, if I time it wrong, it can make me feel plain queasy. I’m also so over Coke; I know it’s bad for me and my teeth.
I was instructed by the PR to take it as I would a normal coffee — almond milk and agave syrup, yup I’m that person — and it was yummy. But more importantly, I felt super alert but not jittery! Good Day talks about having energy and mental clarity and that feels pretty accurate to what I experienced. The Daily Beast also summed it up well: “It’s the perfect drink to help you perk up but also take the edge off.” (Does this make anyone else think of Karen from Will & Grace with her uppers and downers?!)
So what’s in it? Just coffee, water and hemp extract, according to the can. There’s also mention of a plant-based emulsifier on the website, which makes the drink cloudy in appearance.
Good Day has two other products that I didn’t sample that are aimed for other parts of the day. Naturally, cold brew is their morning choice, although I had mine at various times of the day – rebel I know! The citrus sparkling water (similar to UbU maybe?) is the daytime beverage followed by a chamomile herbal tea that’s for unwinding at night.
“The three products emphasize CBD’s versatility; under the general umbrella of stress relief, the coffee, sparkling water and tea provide energy, refreshment and relaxation, respectively,” wrote BevNet.
So, will I be spending the $6-a-can price for more Good Day? I really wish it was $4 or least on par with the coffee from the cafe downstairs ($5). I added 2x 7-packs to the trolley online but stalled on actually parting with the $91.46 including tax that would incur. (Postage is included, which definitely helps). I emailed the PR to find out if they will be offering larger portions for a lower per ml price. And while I haven’t hit “Complete Order” yet, it’s likely I’ll get halfway through next week and just fork out the dough for a Good Day.
Update: The PR responded to say “you can subscribe to save 15% and get the 7-pack for $35.70/a month ($5.10 a can).” Done deal!
How does CBD work?
Good Day offers a nice short description for how CBD has the calming effects it’s toted to have on its FAQ page.
“Let’s start by first understanding homeostasis, which is your body’s effort to keep all of your internal systems running at optimal levels, no matter what’s happening around you. When one of those systems, such as mood or stress levels, isn’t working at peak performance, your body turns to the ECS to bring it back to the optimal level. CBD reacts with the ECS by stimulating endocannabinoid receptors, promoting homeostasis, and assisting in the restoration of your body’s natural balance.”
UbU offers a slightly more complete explanation:
“The ECS is a system comprising your body’s own cannabinoids, the receptors to which they bind, and the enzymes that metabolize them and break them down after their job is done. Yes, you read that right: Your body produces its own cannabinoids, similar to those found in cannabis. The job of the endocannabinoid system, as scientists currently understand it, is to help your body maintain homeostasis—that is, to maintain a consistent internal cellular environment regardless of changing conditions. It does this by releasing endocannabinoids in response to a wide range of stimuli, including pain, inflammation, hunger, and stress.”
“Bradley Alger, Ph.D., whose research has focused on endocannabinoids for the past two decades, refers to the ECS as “the bridge between body and mind.” He notes that ECS receptors are found in the brain, immune cells, connective tissues, and nearly all organs—virtually throughout the entire body. The fact that the endocannabinoid system interacts with so many different systems in your body may hold the key to understanding why cannabis, and particularly CBD, seems to be helpful in so many different disorders.”
Full-spectrum extract, not isolate
Both UBU and Good Day use the full hemp/CBD extract as opposed to an isolate – that’s what’s meant by “full spectrum.” UbU says it’s because “more and more evidence is showing that it’s the combined action of all these different components, also called “the entourage effect,” that provides the most benefits.”
UbU sources its CBD from Vitalibis.com that provides them with “a water-soluble full-spectrum CBD powder made from USDA certified organic, Colorado-grown hemp. Every batch is tested by a third-party lab before and after bottling to ensure no potency is lost and that they remain under 0.3% THC.”
(Sources tell me these tests are not commonplace and products can often have dramatically less CBD than they claim, so always worth checking to ensure you get the full effect.)
The Last Word(s)
All in all, I’m into it. With a fairly crazy work schedule and definitely a crazy toddler, I need all the help I can get. These were the first CBD products I’d tried that had a noticeable impact on how I felt and getting to know the brands a little I can see why. This won’t be my last CBD-drink rodeo.