CBDs, Functional beverages, hemp, SOMM Journal, Water
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CBD waters take flavor cues from spas and trending spirits

From the host of functional beverages marketed toward the wellness minded
consumer, none are so closely associated with relaxation as spa water. Some believe that the word “spa” is an acronym for “salude per aqua,” a phrase meaning “health or healing through water” that was found on the marble walls of Roman baths known as thermae (though it’s unlikely that the Romans flavored their drinking water with slices of cucumber and citrus or fresh herbs like mint or lavender, as modern-day spas are known to do).

Thanks to those increasingly looking for ways to incorporate healthy choices into their lifestyle, sparkling water is one of the fastest-growing segments of the beverage market, and functionality continues to be a major trend within it. Sparkling waters containing water-soluble, broad-spectrum cannabidiol (CBD) represent the newest sector of a category that encompasses everything
from sports and energy drinks to ready-to-drink teas, plant milks, and neurotrophic “smart” drinks.

As companies experiment with new ways to improve water’s hydrating ability while incorporating additional health benefits, they’ve embraced the use of CBD derived from hemp. Its biphasic properties are similar to those of alcohol in that small doses are uplifting, while larger doses suppress mood and energy.

Water-soluble CBD has significant advantages over oils and extracts, as it ensures more accurate dosing. Of the three CBD-enhanced functional waters I
evaluated for flavor, all of which source their water-soluble CBD emulsions
from Seattle, Washington–based manufacturer SoRSE Technology, Aprch Mint + Cucumber with 30 milligrams of broad-spectrum hemp extract (10
milligrams of active CBD) could well be the standard for functional spa water.

It’s lightly sparkling, with a refreshing and pronounced cucumber flavor that’s
subtly laced with mint. With zero calories and zero sugar, it also includes L-theanine (amino acid), vitamin C, and organic, natural flavors. A four-pack of 12-ounce cans sells for $13.

CBD-enhanced functional beverages from makers Kleer Water, Aprch and Mad Tasty.

Flavorists at SoRSE have succeeded in using botanicals to mask CBD’s trademark bitterness in the current generation of functional beverages containing broad-spectrum CBD. “Our approach has been to mirror the active ingredients in broad-spectrum CBD with botanical flavors that work,” says expert flavorist Donna Wamsley, SoRSE’s director of research and analytics.

Kleer Water, a Woodinville, Washington-based manufacturer, has a botanical gin–inspired Cucumber Lime sparkling water with 25 milligrams of SoRSE
broad-spectrum CBD, 15 calories, and no sugar. Brimming with floral, terpenic aromas of fresh herbs like tarragon and cilantro, it offers a veritable farmers market of flavor and a slight bitterness on the finish. Kleer also offers Passion Orange Guava and Berry Blast flavors at $55 for a dozen 12-ounce cans.

Finally, Santa Monica, California-based beverage company Mad Tasty is the maker of Unicorn Tears, a sparkling water with zero sugar and 5 calories per 12-ounce serving; its ingredient list consists of purified water, 20 milligrams of CBD (labeled as hemp extract), natural flavors of passion fruit and citrus, and
citric acid.

“We consider the flavor profile of Unicorn Tears to be the baseline for what consumers like,” says Wamsley, noting its Sauvignon Blanc–like profile and almost IPA-like finish. In addition to Unicorn Tears, Mad Tasty also makes Grapefruit and Watermelon Kiwi expressions for $60 per six-pack.

SoRSE’s success in developing emulsions and flavor profiles that make it convenient for manufacturers to incorporate broad-spectrum CBD into their products is paving the way for more functional foods across a variety of categories. Specifically, says Michelle Sundquist, the company’s director
of product management and development, “We see more opportunity
in non-alcoholic beverages, confectionery, oral care, and the health
and beauty categories.”

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