Bravura – a vegan brands specialist and vegan distributor in the UK ran by Lisa Gawthorne and Karl Morris – recently launched a CBD infused soft drink called the Leaf Life. It’s available in three flavours: Laidback Lemonade, Relaxing Raspberry and Mindful Mango & Passionfruit, each containing 15 mg of CBD to give drinkers a ‘natural calm’.
The brand has big plans for the CBD drink, explained Gawthorne. “We're at the early stages of getting this product listed all over the UK. We're listed with all the major health wholesalers in the UK so over the coming months it's going to be available in about 400 independent health food stores.” The RRP ranges from £1.99 -£2.49.
She is currently in talks with two major retailers. The challenge, however, is that the big players are scared to make the first move and stock CBD items.
The legal status of CBD as an ingredient is something of a grey area in the UK. It was listed on the EU Novel Food register last January, meaning the ingredient requires pre-market authorisation - a fact recently confirmed by the FSA. However, UK regulators have to date taken no enforcement action. Gawthorne claims that some CBD products, like hers, fall outside the novel foods act - meaning, she says, they are legally on the market.
"It’s not an isolate, it’s a distillate water soluble product and we have certification from the manufacturer that states they fully believe it to fall outside the novel foods act. Our ingredient has been used in various products for many many years well before 1997 thus suggesting it falls outside the novel foods act," she explained.
"Unfortunately for the CBD market right now,” clarified Gawthorne, “we've got so much innovation coming out but very little of it is getting to the market in the mainstream while we wait for one of the big guys to say, 'I'm going to take that risk'.”
She is optimistic that may be about to change, however, particularly in light of Holland and Barratt’s decision to stock Vita Coco’s new CBD range. “We're hoping that's going to open the doors for people to say, 'now is the time to look at this’. We're going to hopefully by March/April time see one or two of the majors finally taking the risk, as they would see it, and getting the confidence to list it in store."
Leaf Life’s conception
“We didn't want to create something that was too niche - we wanted mass market flavours from our flavour profiles,” noted the co-founder.
Leaf Life came about as Bravura was keen to capitalise on CBD’s growing ‘on trend’ status.
“Both myself and my business partner Karl Morris use CBD as do our friends and family,” recalled Gawthorne.
However, she noticed that people were complaining about a kind of ‘dirty ash tray aftertaste’ from their products. “So, we thought, ‘is there more of an easier vehicle to deliver this’?” She was also noticing that functional beverages such as kombucha, kafir and birch and maple waters were on the rise. “This made us look towards making a carbonated drink with CBD in it.”
The result is ‘something that feels just like a standard, everyday carbonated drink with a slight element of something else. “We have a lot of people who say it has a slightly refreshing backdrop or back note to it. But in essence it just tastes like an everyday carbonated soft drink and that was our key remit of what we're trying to do. We're trying to make CBD accessible to all and not to make people think 'god, I'll need a peg on my nose to drink this'.”
She stresses that CBD does not contain THC, so neither will it cause a high.
The miracle cure-all?
Gawthorne is a huge advocate of CBD’s many supposed health benefits, although she stresses that regulation requires that these claims can’t be made on pack. Although in its infancy, research to date has suggested CBD may help with a litany of ailments, from reducing anxiety and depression, improving sleep to soothing pain and inflammation. “It’s even being used now in creams for acne and as an anti-ageing products,” noted Gawthorne.
How much CBD do you need to feel the effect? “It's a bit of a suck and see type of thing," said Gawthorne. "I'm one of those people that is highly sensitive: when most people would take two paracetamol I can get away with taking one. Obviously, a lot of that comes down to the fact that I am quite slight, and I have quite a fast metabolism being a runner and a cyclist.”
Gawthorne also happens to be a Team GB Duathlete. CBD helps her alleviate any post-session muscle soreness. (CBD is permitted in competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency.)
While people are able to tolerate a daily dose of up to 1,500 mg, the Bravura team opted for a conservative 15mg dose in the Leaf Life.
“It’s enough to be able to say to someone 'you'll feel a difference when you’ve had a can’. It’s just 15 mg to give you that feeling of being in control and reducing anxiety levels, but we are obviously not allowed to claim that on pack."
The target market for the Leaf Life are early adopters and health-conscious consumers. "We are specifically talking to people who already shop functionally in some way. They may already use kombucha or kafir water or maple or birch,” said Gawthorne.
She is also reaching out to people who might be using CBD products already. They might be vaping CBD or taking it in a drop or oil format under the tongue. “The majority of the people are those that want to have a nice tasting drink but something they know is going to deliver a little bit above and beyond a normal non-functional beverage.”
‘Generation Z will grow up with CBD across a host of categories’
CBD, she proclaimed, is like the new kind of wine. “People turn to wine in the evenings to relax them and there’s this huge wave of research saying that younger generation are moving away from alcohol - I think this will fit into that perfectly because so many people want to wake up sharp; they don't want to feel a hangover. This compliments that lifestyle." What’s more, the drink contains few calories: between 19 and 24.
Looking ahead, Gawthorne sees big scope for CBD being used as an ingredient in edibles. "We've got some big plans for Leaf Life. We would like it to expand many different categories. You only have to look at what's been happening in the market in the likes of edible CBD popcorn and CBD chocolate. So, it's very much on trend. It’s an ingredient that I foresee Generation Z growing up with and becoming part of their everyday repertoire. You'll see more cross category innovation.”
Obviously, much will depend on those big retail listings. But Gawthorne is convinced CBD will continue to become more accessible. She compares it to kombucha. "We're going to see a lot more of it in pubs, bars and restaurant. Two years ago, no one knew what kombucha was but now I can get it in my local Pizza Express."
Lisa Gawthorne will be speaking at the CBD Global Summit in London, 16-17 March 2020
FoodNavigator is co-hosting a two-day CBD Global Summit in London, 16-17 March 2020. The event wants to bring together the science, business and regulation governing CBD to look at how businesses can unlock this important market opportunity. For more details, check out our advanced programmed, and view confirmed speakers, visit the CBD Global Summit website.