The CBD-infused Food Trend
According to the National Restaurant Association, the top two dining trends in 2019 are CDB-infused drinks and CDB-infused food. For those unfamiliar with the term, CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidoil, which is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis plants. I know what you’re thinking – “Wait, is he talking about MARIJUANA!?” Not exactly. While sourced from the same plant family, CBD and marijuana are not the same product (but their relationship certainly is part of the allure of this trendy ingredient).
When you see CBD on a menu, it probably means the restaurant is adding a few drops of CBD oil, an extract from cannabis plants. It adds very little flavor, if any, but taste is certainly not why people are getting excited about it. There’s an obvious buzz about this kind of thing because it feels edgy and exciting, but only because of CBD’s link to marijuana. Regardless of that connection, CBD will not get you high. The part of marijuana that effects perception is THC, which is not found to high degrees in CBD products. Companies that manufacture CBD oil insist on its health benefits, such as anxiety and migraine relief, but no strong evidence currently exists for medical applications.
In fact, the FDA has yet to approve any CBD product besides an epilepsy drug called Epidiolex. All the CBD oils being added to food and drinks are therefore unregulated and that means their contents are unconfirmed. Recent studies have found that some products contain less CBD than their labels claim, if any at all. Others have higher CBD levels than claimed. Until the FDA starts regulating CBD, it’s going to be very difficult to weed out the imposters. According to federal law, CBD derived from hemp plants (not marijuana plants) is legal in many states as long as it contains less than 0.3-percent THC. It also has to abide by state regulations and be produced in a licensed facility.
While CBD doesn’t have a strong natural flavor, several companies offer oils that taste like cotton candy, strawberry, peppermint, and the like. Those probably won’t make their way onto your pizza; they do get use in drinks and desserts. There are only two reasons I can see to offer CBD-infused pizzas. The perception that ingestion will result in a physical reaction is extremely appealing so I can see why a pizzeria might play off that. Every article I’ve seen about CBD-infused food makes ample use of marijuana puns, only adding to misperception. The only other benefit is high profit margin. Unflavored oil costs about 15 cents per milligram and a typical CBD upgrade adds $7 to $10 to the price of a pizza. That’s a pretty good profit margin for a few hits.
I’m actually surprised it’s such a highly anticipated trend because I’ve only seen it offered in college towns and other locations that trade on the marijuana connection. I think this is going to be a quick fad and will be a distant memory within the next few years as marijuana, the product that DOES have psychoactive effects, moves toward legalization.
Scott Wiener is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org.