- Cannabis snagged the top two spots in the National Restaurant Association’s 2019 What's Hot Culinary Survey, with drinks edging out CBD-infused foods by 1%. In its annual survey, 650 American Culinary Federation chefs ranked 140 items as hot, yesterday’s news or perennial favorite, and 77% chose CBD drinks as number one.
- Chefs see cannabis and CBD as a route to new flavors and uncharted experiential dining experiences, though the association urged restaurants to tread carefully due to complex regulations.
- Zero-waste cooking took the third spot with 70% — think broccoli stems to make broccoli tots and any manner of scraps in soups — while global flavors in breakfast dishes and kids' menus rounded out the top five. Plant-based meats and vegetable-focused cuisine also landed in the top 10 alongside fancier takeout packaging.
No longer on the sidelines, cannabis and CBD-infused food and drinks could be poised for a menu takeover in 2019. State regulations continue to expand beyond federal regulations, which haven’t caught up to current trends causing some confusion among restaurants and regulators. Some of that discrepancy lies between agencies. California's health department called out restaurants in July for serving CBD foods not yet approved by the state's food and agriculture department.
CBD derived from hemp could become far more common with production now legal in the U.S. again under the latest farm bill. Cannabidiol has already hit coffee, toast, donuts, enhanced waters and cocktails. Illegal Burger and El Senor Sol, owned by West Coast Ventures Company, started selling CBD water at their 11 Denver locations in December, and even grocery chains have caught the bug. The company also is testing CBD-infused foods. Fairway just launched a house line of CBD-infused lotions, balms and capsules, while Colorado-based Alfalfa's offers similar products alongside CBD cookies and coffee. The drink category seems to be the easiest place for CBD to slip in, as the NRA found in its survey.
Yet consumers might not be on the winning end, as research on the supplement's benefit remains scattered at best, especially in regards to how it's consumed. The alleged pain-relief benefits of CBD might get lost in translation. High Times, which covers cannabis news, called CBD coffee a contradiction citing that caffeine and CBD have opposite effects.
The NRA's senior research director Hudson Riehle told USA Today that the CBD trend hasn't matured enough to realize its potential, comparing it to the blip of mason jar meals and molecular gastronomy. Baristas and bartenders might have found easier paths to adding a few drops of CBD oil into cappuccinos and cocktails on demand, but chefs have only just begun experimenting with the extract.
CBD seems to have hit beverages the hardest, due in no small part to the perceived notions of kombucha, tea and sparkling water as healthy choices. Sparking CBD water called Recess popped up in October and weeks later already had 4,000 back-orders. Recess also is targeting millennials, which were the first to try CBD products soon after legalization in various states. Millennials will continue to drive demand for not just experimental CBD products, but also exotic flavors and sustainable foods.