High, not drunk: Generation Z is into CBD

The beverage industry is preparing for an alcohol-free future. Investments are being made in cannabis. A GDI study describes how the herb sheds its image as a pothead drug and evolves into a high-tech drink.

This text is based on an excerpt from the latest "European Food Trends Report" of the GDI, which can be downloaded from our website.

Generation U35 does not want a hangover, it seeks physical well-being. For years, alcohol and tobacco consumption in this age group in Switzerland has been decreasing and concern about health and fitness increasing. This development is reflected in higher demand for non-alcoholic beverages – from flavoured mineral waters to non-alcoholic spirits. Major beverage manufacturers are responding to this shift by adapting their product ranges and attracting health-conscious customers with wellness-focused branding.

More is also being invested in drinkable cannabis-based products. In 2019, Constellation Brands, the company behind the Corona beer brand, invested around 4 billion US dollars in the leading North American cannabis producer, Canopy Growth Co. This step can be seen as a reaction to the changing consumer behaviour of the younger generation, in which beer consumption is declining and cannabis consumption is increasing. Cannabis costs less, has a relaxing effect, and users wake up without a headacheafter use.

The idea that cannabis – primarily the non-psychoactive CBD – could also be consumed as a drink is rather new. In the context of the general fitness and wellness trend, however, saying goodbye to inhalation makes sense for many people. Scientific findings on the long-term effects of CBD are still lacking, but this is unlikely to discourage consumers. A GDI analysis shows at least some of them are close to the so-called biohackers – and they like to toy around with their biology themselves and without scientific preliminary investigations.

Wine and beer drinkers are mostly found among the gourmets. For them, taste and enjoyment take centre stage, rather than the effect the drink has on their bodies. Coffee drinkers are a hybrid: they fall between the gourmets and biohackers. Coffee has always been consumed as a pick-me-up, which is related to the biohacker approach. But a new generation of coffee drinkers and baristas has emerged with the growing coffee cult for whom the focus falls on the variety of flavours and experimentation with different brewing methods, types of beans, roast expressions, dosages, fineness of grinding and water temperatures. Cannabis consumers are much closer to the biohackers than to the gourmets. As a result, the taste of cannabis drinks is less important than the effect of the cannabinoids.